When life changes and you find yourself adapting to new circumstances or strong emotions, your body will react as if it is in danger, releasing adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) which will impact your health. Finding healthy ways to manage stress helps you balance the difficult times so you can cope.
Breathe – Your rate of breathing lets you know when you are stressed. If you are breathing quickly and shallowly, chances are you are under stress. Take a moment to lie on the floor or your bed. This gives your diaphragm the chance to rest whilst your torso is stretched out. Pay close attention to your breathing concentrating on slowing your breaths in and out. Your heart and lungs work together, so as you slow your breath, you will also slow your heart rate. Keep focused on your breathing for 5-10 minutes and you will feel much calmer.
Meditate – Meditation works best when sitting in a comfortable chair where you feel safe. Slow your breathing and really concentrate on the feeling of your breath as it tickles the spot just beneath your nose. Focusing on this one spot keeps your mind in your control whilst you work to slow your breath and heart rate. Once you are feeling calm repeat some positive statements which feel powerful for you. You could say “I am completely safe in this moment and nothing can harm me” or I am surrounded by love”. Find something ahead of time that feels good for you and repeat your statements until you feel reenergised.
Be Present – Most stress occurs when we focus on the past or project into the future. Focus your mind on one activity at a time. If you are eating, just focus on the food and the act of chewing. If you are walking, focus on your feet as they hit the ground. Bringing things back to the most simple of activities allows you to be completely present in the moment.
Reach Out – Your friends and family can provide a fantastic support for you when you are struggling. Let people know what is going on for you face to face, if possible, or at least over the phone. Sometimes you get stuck in your head; speaking with someone else helps you gain a new perspective and creates connection.
Tune In To Your Body – Pay attention to your body. We all have natural rhythms which ebb and flow throughout the day. Your body will let you know when it is out of sync so pay attention to your eating and sleeping habits as well as your digestion as these are alerts that something is different.
Decompress – Place a warm heat wrap around your neck and shoulders for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and relax your face, neck, upper chest and back muscles. Remove the wrap and use a tennis ball to massage away any tension. Do this by placing the ball between you and a wall and rolling slightly up and down with a pressure which feels comfortable to you.
Laugh Out Loud – Laughter is a great way to relieve stress. Even if the last thing you feel like doing is laughing, you can force yourself to smile in the mirror or act as would if you were laughing for real. Join a laughing yoga class or watch funny movies. Laughter will benefit your body chemistry as well as relax your mind
Music – Put on your favourite sounds and feel the music as you go about your day. Relaxing music is good for stress release but if you have dance tunes these shift your energy to a higher plane and make you smile. Dance as if nobody is watching and you will feel relaxed and revitalised.
Get Moving – Physical movement gets the blood flowing through your body giving you energy and releasing stress releasing hormones which help our brain think more clearly. You do not need to do anything vigorous, but walking, yoga or simply taking the stairs will help. If you cannot get out or are unable to exercise then some simple stretching exercises will give you the same benefit. Try to be active for at least 15 – 20 minutes each day and you will help to balance the negative effects of stress.
Be Grateful – Each day take a moment before you go to bed to write at least one positive thing you experienced during the day. It could be a smile from a stranger, a hand on your arm from someone who cares, a bird in the garden or a phone call from a friend. Paying attention to the simple interactions you have each day and noting them in your diary shifts your focus to a more positive place.
Practice these skills and you will find your overall stress levels reduce adding to your sense of happiness and joy.