Managing your stress effectively can sometimes seem like an impossible task. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep, we are attacked by stress-inducing elements non-stop. Just think about your day for a moment. Sometimes just that thought can cause stress. Your endless to-do list, dealing with traffic, getting the kids to school and after school activities, managing your emails, preparing for a big presentation, work meetings, news, social media, and the list goes on.
This type of chronic stress, if not managed and reduced, will cause and contribute to chronic illness over time. So, it’s imperative, for the sake of your health, to take steps to reduce your daily stress. I’ve recognized in my life that my stress level strongly dictates how I feel physically. I know that I have to make an effort every day to reduce my stress, and sometimes it’s really hard not to feel stressed out.
So, I’m so thankful to have Mukesh from OutofStress.com contribute his expert advice to reducing stress. Below, he offers 11 things you can do if you’re constantly stressed out. Implementing these tips on a regular basis will significantly reduce your stress, help you feel more relaxed, and promote better health.
Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are – Chinese proverb
A relaxed state is your natural state of being. In this state the parasympathetic nervous system is active which enhances well-being.
Stress on the other hand is a state of heightened mental activity when the sympathetic nervous system takes over. This system releases hormones that put the body in hyper mode. Even though this is definitely helpful in certain situations it really should not become the norm.
Being in a constant state of stress can take a major toll on your body. Your healing processes go down, your digestive system no longer functions at an optimal level, the body feels drained, and you could give way to a host of autoimmune conditions and other chronic diseases.
An over-active mind is the number one cause of stress in the body. Having been there myself, I would like to share the following tips that have helped me deal with stress and become a much calmer person.
1. Get into the Habit of Making Lists
In the absence of a proper structure, it is easy to procrastinate. Before long, unfinished tasks begin to pile up. The result – an increase in stress levels.
Writing things down can actually help you avoid this dilemma.
When you write out your tasks, you no longer need to remember them. So the recurring thoughts in your mind regarding these tasks are reduced. Secondly, you can prioritize tasks in order of importance and allocate time to complete each task. This means you will be able to focus on doing one task at a time without being overly distracted.
I personally like to follow the Ivy lee method of listing tasks.
As per this method, you write down five to six important tasks that you need to get done the next day and prioritize them in order of importance. Beginning of the following day, focus completely on the first task on the list and get it done before moving on to the second task. Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
2. Do Abdominal Breathing Early in the Morning
The morning air is fresh and relatively free of dust and other pollutants. This is why early mornings are the best time to do deep breathing exercises.
Of all the breathing exercises, the one I find highly beneficial is the ‘abdominal breathing exercise’. The object of this exercise is to breathe through your nose ensuring that your diaphragm inflates and not your chest. To ensure that you are doing this right, place one hand on the chest and the other on your belly. When you breathe in, make sure that your belly rises.
Inhale deeply through your nose, hold your breath for a few seconds and then exhale out slowly. As you exhale, think of all your stress leaving your body.
For optimal benefit, try doing 6 to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute for around 5 minutes each day.
3. Consider Sun Gazing
Sun gazing is a practice that involves staring at the sun.
It is said that sun gazing boosts production of serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that acts as a mood stabilizer. Serotonin deficiency has been known to be a cause of stress, depression, and anxiety.
The best time to sun gaze is between the 6 a.m to 7 a.m bracket when the ultraviolet radiation is at its lowest. If you are a beginner, do not stare more than 10 to 15 seconds at the sun. You can increase the duration to around 30 seconds to a minute as you advance. Some people are known to stare at the sun for an hour or more, but let’s leave that to the experts.
I have personally found sun gazing to be extremely relaxing. I usually stare at the sun for around 20 seconds and then repeat this two or three times after a two minute break.
4. Soak in the Morning Sun
Vitamin D is known to relax the blood vessels and enhance circulation. The most natural way to get vitamin D is to soak in the morning sun.
Some studies suggest that the best time to soak in the sun is between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. as this is the time when the UVB (ultraviolet B) rays are at their highest. UVB rays are essential for the skin to make Vitamin D.
Expose your skin to sun light for around 5 to 10 minutes each day without any sunscreen to get the maximum benefits.
5. Consider Keeping Indoor Plants
From a color psychology perspective, green is the color that generates a sense of balance. This color has the power to renew and restore depleted energy.
What better way to bring some green into your presence than by introducing house plants. I keep a snake plant on my work table and looking at it brings a deep sense of relaxation and grounding.
Some plants that you can consider keeping in your house are English Ivy, Snake Plant, Bamboo Palm, Spider Plant, Golden Pothos and Aloe Vera. These plants are also known to clean the air of toxins.
6. Practise Simple Yoga Exercises
I am not a yoga expert but I still do a few easy yoga poses whenever I feel stressed out. My go to yoga pose is Balasana or the Child Pose. It does not involve any complex movements and hence is super easy to do and is highly relaxing.
Another easy and relaxing pose is the ‘Legs Up the Wall‘ or Viparita Karani.
Makarasana or the ‘Crocodile pose’ is great for relaxing the body too.
Find out which pose relaxes you the most and do it once or twice a day for about 5 minutes.
The mind is like a wild horse and meditation is the technique that can help you tame it.
Meditation to me is a life saver. It has helped me gain better control over my thoughts and also helped me develop better concentration.
Here’s a simple way to start meditating:
Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, close your eyes and focus your attention on your breath. Feel the cool air hitting the tip of your nostrils as your inhale and the hot air escape as your exhale. If your attention drifts back into your thoughts, do not worry; gently bring the attention back to your breathing.
Do this for around 5 minutes every day and increase the duration as you become comfortable with holding your attention.
8. Quit being a people pleaser
Being a people pleaser can be extremely stressful because of the fact that no matter how hard you try, you cannot please everyone.
The best way to stop this behavior is to become conscious of it. Ask yourself if you are doing something just to please others or if you are genuinely interested in it.
Learn to say ‘No’. You will be amazed to see a large chuck of your stress dissolve the moment you learn to say no to things that don’t matter to you and yes to things that you are genuinely interested in doing.
Yes, there are compromises to be made in life, but there is also a balance that is to be maintained. Remember, that you always come first.
9. Move Your Body
When water is not in flow state, it stagnates. The same is the case with our bodies. A sedentary lifestyle causes stagnation and increases stress within the body.
So whenever you have the time – move your body. Put some music on and dance to the rhythm. Or even better, practice some ‘Shaking Qigong’ exercise.
Shaking Qigong is an exercise designed to reduce stress by helping the body release negative energy.
Stand in an at-ease position and start by shaking your fingers. Allow this movement to move up into your wrists, elbows and shoulders. Slowly start bouncing with your legs firmly planted on the floor. Do this for around 5 to 10 minutes. Allow yourself to come to rest feeling the sensations in your body.
It is said that 20 minutes of such shaking is as good as doing an hour of yoga.
10. Avoid Watching or Reading Negative Stuff
The TV and newspapers are over-saturated with negative news. If you are a sensitive person you might want to stay away from engaging too much into this kind of content.
As per studies, negative, panic inducing stories increase the release of cortisol in the blood stream increasing your stress levels. Instead of watching or reading the news, you can use the free time to be mindful or do some breathing exercises to relax your mind and body.
11. Practice Letting Go
According to Rumi, life is a balance between holding on and letting go.
There is a time to hold on and then there is a time to let go and embrace change. If you feel that something is out of your control, just let go and let life take its course. Flow with life and let it take you where it wants to take you.
There is a lot of power in letting go. Let go of resentment, let go of jealousy, let go of self blame, let go of all the negative emotions holding you captive and feel how much this frees you up both mentally and physically.
Hopefully, you found these tips useful. If you have a practice that has helped you effectively deal with stress, please let us know in the comments below.
About the Author:
Mukesh is the lead editor of OutofStress.com. Having suffered and successfully recovering from social anxiety and depression, Mukesh is particularly passionate about topics involving meditation, mindfulness, body awareness, growing in consciousness, introversion, conscious and subconscious, power of the internet, and exploring the truth about the universe.