Stressful, uncertain times call for drastic measures to alleviate that stress response. This past year has repeatedly shown many of us the full gamut of nearly everything possibly that could turn upside down or go awry. And since we are at a crucial turning point in our present time and future possibility and ongoing stress (& excess cortisol) is never good for the body, this is the perfect time to dive straight into stress reduction practices.
Here are 5 tips that you can do to feel better within minutes.
1. Just Breathe. There is a stress busting, health promoting method called Box Breathing or Four Square Breathing that can not only increase oxygen to the brain and entire body, it can help to lower cortisol, the stress hormone that spikes during those fight or flight moments. Here’s how it works: Inhale for a slow count of 4 seconds; hold for a slow count of 4 seconds; Then exhale for a slow count of 4 seconds; hold your lungs nearly empty for a slow count of 4 seconds. Repeat for a few minutes until you feel a sweet, stable sense of calm. I’ve done this method of breathing countless times throughout my life and it works every time to help me feel relaxed so I can stay focused and productive.
2. Visit Mother Nature. Our human bodies were designed to be surrounded by nature. Not in front of a computer, phone or TV. My favorite nature experience is walking on a forested hiking trail amidst really tall trees. A lake, a river, a stream, a waterfall along the trail or at the end of the hike is always a refreshing bonus but not essential. Lake Tahoe is a coveted local gem but when I don’t have the time to drive up there, local bike or dirt trails in my community fit the bill just fine for reducing stress. Maybe for you, it’s looking up at a clear sky full of billions of stars before bedtime, savoring a gorgeous sunset or sunrise, harvesting food from your garden or sitting/walking along an ocean beach with the soothing, melodic sound of crashing waves. Whatever you love outdoors, do this often.
3. Time for Tea. I am huge lover of coffee and that bold flavor, heavenly aroma and energized, productive feeling it gives me is the perfect ritual to begin my morning. However, I can’t drink it all day long. And neither should you for a plethora of adverse health reasons. 🙂 So, what do I turn to when I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious? I make a cup of caffeine free herbal tea filled with adaptogenic herbs to moderate cortisol within the body. My favorites are Tulsi Tea or Holy Basil Tea by Organic India, Honey Lavender Stress relief tea by Yogi Tea or sometimes I’ll drink a digestive tea like Happy Tummy Tea by Allegro Tea – a blend of peppermint, spearmint, cinnamon, ginger and dandelion. When we are stressed, our digestive system tightens up due to the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system response. Sipping on warm herbal tea (especially on a cool fall day or evening) is nourishing to the cortisol producing adrenal glands, the entire body, the GI tract, the brain and has the ability to relieve mental distress as well.
4. Laugh! The simple act of even smiling can physically and emotionally make you feel less stressed and a bit on the happier side. Add in genuine laughter, and all temporary worry has to step aside. Social Media websites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are often saturated with political rants, animosity, self-righteousness, criticism, judgements, verbal attacks and much more. Reading those just escalates the stress response and serves very little benefit. Instead watch your favorite comedy movie or check out funny videos on YouTube that lighten your mood. Yesterday, I was driving with my 9 month old German Shepherd puppy, Penelope, in the back seat. An ambulance drove past us with sirens on. My dog immediately started howling as dogs often do with that sound. So, I started howling too and she stopped to look at me with this quizzical, head tilted expression. And then she immediately chimed in again and we had this dog/human howling duet serenade. That lasted only a few seconds for me as I couldn’t stop laughing! It was a hilarious moment I won’t forget and will likely repeat again when I want to laugh. 🙂
5. Prayer for Peace. Growing research shows that prayer has the magnificent power to not only diminish the stress response in the body, it can also heal the body in a way that preserves life. How such verbally or internally stated pleas for support (or gratitude) actually work scientifically and physiologically, no one truly knows 100%. But somehow and someway, these hope and faith based statements and questions can pave the way for miracles to transpire. Whatever your religious or spiritual (or neither) beliefs happen to be, when you are feeling stressed, fearful or insecure about life’s unpredictable chaos, prayer is a simple, to the point and free act that can immediately pacify any worries and shift that fear to love. This world can sure use a lot more love.
Keep Calm and Carry On.