Stress. Even the word makes my blood pressure rise a little bit. There are all kinds of stress in life – both good stress and bad stress (eustress and distress) – but the kind I’m talking about is the sinking in quicksand, thought-flooding, pulse-pounding, breath-stealing, overwhelming, crippling kind of stress. In other words, the place where frustration meets anxiety.
I think we’ve all experienced it to a certain extent. I know I have. It’s made worse by too much time with the television, the computer, or sitting in traffic. It’s exacerbated by patience-testing interactions with other human beings. It’s a common daily occurrence for many, many people – and maybe you’re one of them.
So we’re stressed. What are we going to do about it? There have been countless books written on the subject, way more than could be said here, but the five main tips I have come straight from experience. These are my personal 5 tips for stress reduction, that I use on the daily. Check it out:
1. Move your body.
Stress is compounded and exacerbated by negative thoughts and feelings – when we’re stressed, we create anxious or depressing internal monologues, feed into them, and become MORE stressed or depressed. What’s the most effective anti-depressant? Exercise. This doesn’t have to be an hour in the gym. Take a brisk 15 minute walk, knock out a 5 minute full body circuit, or take ten minutes to move through a short yoga flow. You’ll oxygenate your blood, clear your head, and calm your nervous system. If you get your heart rate up enough, you’ll flood your nervous system with some happy drugs – endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine.
We don’t need to get too heavy into the science, because you can be your own experiment on this one – next time you’re stressed, work out. Just get up and try it. Exercising for stress relief will bring new meaning to “move it or lose it.”
2. Require quiet time.
We are constantly being bombarded with information, media, and the demands of daily life. With such a wealth of information available, we are now able to choose from thousands of options for everything from what job to pursue to what kind of laundry detergent is best. Moment to moment, we are constantly making decisions, which is taxing and ultimately overwhelming. Shut it down. Switch your phone to airplane mode, close your eyes, and breathe. Bonus points if you can do it outside. Take 5-10 minutes (or even 3 if that’s all you have) and pray, meditate, or simply sit with your breath and observe the quiet.
How to be quiet? Avoid talking, even if you’re praying – let it be instead a prayer of listening. Focus on your internal sensations. Notice the way your breath feels as it moves in and out of the body. Observe, with as much detachment as possible, how your muscles feel, your heart rate, how your emotions contribute to bodily sensation. Become the witness. If this feels hard at first, that’s okay. It’s normal. Practice taking intentional quiet time daily – twice a day if possible, and giving yourself permission to have only one responsibility – just breathe.
3. Be selfish.
Learn to say no. This is especially challenging for women in today’s culture, which tells us that we should be able to “have it all” and “do it all.” Forget that. Triage your obligations, and find your voice. Learning to politely decline invitations, release responsibilities, and be comfortable with your decision is one of the greatest tools to reducing stress in your life. Your “yes” will feel more authentic and meaningful when it’s give to only those tasks that you truly want to undertake.
When I first started Stoked Yogi, I had a really hard time saying no. I wanted to make the most out of every opportunity, and frankly, I had a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out). I was worried that if I said no to anything, that chance might not come my way again. The result of trying to do everything was doing everything at about 70% of my potential for awesomeness. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a C- at life. Over the years, I’ve started to value my personal time more, to be selective about commitments – not just in business, but in life in general. I realized I don’t need to accept every invite for a binge drinking party, nor attend every wedding. It’s okay (and healthy) to carve out space to be mellow and do your own thing.
4. Do it now.
Procrastination is an energy suck. Try to abide by a one minute rule: if you can do it in less than a minute, do it now. Conquering little tasks immediately, like hanging up a towel, opening the mail, washing your bowl and plate, will reduce the clutter in your life from the little stressors that pile up daily.
My teacher from the Sivananda lineage of yoga, Swami Sita, has a little song that she sings in her adorable Vietnamese accent. It’s pretty simple, it goes “do it now, do it now, do it now, do it now.” Hmm, I guess you really have to hear the melody to make sense of that one. If you ever get a chance to hit up the yoga farm, ask Swamiji to sing you the song.
Anyway, the message here is whatever “it” is, do it now. You’ll thank yourself later.
5. Practice surrender.
We can only do what we can do. In hindsight, it’s usually clear why things had to happen the way they did, but in the moment, we feel out of control and lost. Find a way to surrender to the flow of life, recognizing that we cannot control what happens – we can only be responsible for how we respond to it. Treat every situation as though you chose it intentionally, and you’ll find that your positive attitude opens doors where there were only walls.
For me, practicing surrender means starting and ending my day with prayer – it doesn’t have to be long, or out loud, but simply starting the day with the request for guidance, and ended the day with gratitude helps me feel connected to something bigger than myself.
I was actually really stressed out when I started writing this post. I’d gotten into a (heated) discussion about a long standing issue with a family member – and let me tell you, hot-button issues don’t mix well with pregnancy hormones, especially after sitting in hours of traffic. After taking the time to write this out, I feel better. And I’m going to go take some of my own advice, starting with a nice walk outside, then sitting quietly with no phone for a little while. Maybe I’ll cap it off with a prayer, and surrender to the flow of life.
I’d love to know, what works for you? How do you cope with the stress of daily life? Leave me a comment or come connect via social media on Facebook or Instagram.
Tags: calming, chill out, how to destress, relaxation techniques, self-help, stress reduction, zen