Proven Strategies For Reducing Stress


We live in a world where stress often seems inevitable, and up to a point, that’s okay. Sometimes it’s helpful – our stress response is designed to protect us in times of need and can also give us focus and motivation when we need it.

But not all stress is good for us. In fact, the majority of the stress we experience as we go through life is the kind that can be physically, mentally and emotionally damaging if we don’t keep it in check.

As we move through life, we will undoubtedly face obstacles and challenges that lead to stress. The trick is to learn how to relax and let go of tension when it is not serving us.

In the same way we have a stress response, we also have a relaxation response. According to the NIH’s National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, when our relaxation response engages our breathing slows, blood pressure decreases and we use less oxygen.

More info on that here:

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress/relaxation.htm

How do you learn to trigger your relaxation response?

There’s a ton of great options you can try. To help you find which methods work for you, we’ve collated some of our favourite articles on stress reduction. The bulk of them list techniques you can try to reduce stress, i.e. induce your relaxation response.

Happy relaxing!

Paul Blackburn, founder of Beyond Success and personal development expert, wrote a fantastic article on what he does to get rid of stress. He covers a lot of ground and makes some excellent suggestions.

 

How To Get Rid Of Stress

Learning to handle stress well is one of the most important life skills to master. If we can stay true to the best version of ourselves during difficult or stressful periods, then success will come a lot easier.

Until sitting down to make this list I hadn’t thought about how many challenging times I’ve lived through.

So far I’ve managed to survive…

Forty amazing and challenging years with my beautiful wife Mary. If you’re married – you’ll know what I mean.

Living in a caravan with no running water and no electricity for 18 months.

A bushfire that ravaged the 50 square kilometres of native forest our wooden house was built in the middle of. Mary and I ended up on the roof of the house listening to the deafening roar of the wall of flames rushing at us.

A terminal illness. In 2003, I was diagnosed with cancer and given three years to live. I’m cancer free and delighted to be 12 years down the track.

31 years in the same business, doing what I love, despite often being close to the edge of the cliff.

The death of my little sister.

I imagine that list isn’t so different than the average person’s. Perhaps it just feels big because it’s mine.

Of course, those are just the ‘big’ events. Daily life can be pretty stressful when you’re flying all over the country, speaking to hundreds of people at a time, running a business and juggling a family life.

So – what do I do to keep myself stress free?

Here’s the five things that work for me, without fail. Try them out and see how you go.

Get Still IMG - Tai Chi

“When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself.  When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.”  Eckhart Tolle

There is nothing like ‘just being’. It’s a fantastic way to centre and relax yourself and can be particularly great during busy, stressful times because you only need fifteen minutes. It often brings with it desperately needed perspective.

Here’s an excerpt on stillness from my book, Beyond Success.

“Stillness is close relative of mindfulness, though we don’t have to focus consciously on the moment – it’s a method of just being. Silence is often a critical aspect of any practice involving stillness. This almost simultaneously defies definitive description and is stunningly simple.

For example, many people visit our home and express how beautiful it is. Yet when pressed they are unable to answer exactly what it is that has struck them.

Of course it’s not the house itself – it’s the 250 acres of native Australian bush surrounding it that hits them. Standing in the middle of a paddock that appears to be endless, timeless and serenely, silently, still can have a profound effect on someone used to traffic noise, streetlights and the frenetic need to do something, whatever that might be. The impact is even greater on those who visit on a clear night and see the Milky Way in the sky.

We can lose our connection to our spirit by being away from nature too long, but even people that are lucky enough to live in magical environments can let them become familiar and fail to notice them at all. Strange as it may sound, this trap is one I have fallen into more times than I care to mention, so now I grow veggies in a patch out the back. Tending the garden drags me out there when I think I don’t have time and causes me to slow down and connect with what I call the Great Spirit. Watering, weeding and wondering can’t be rushed. Sometimes I think growing the veggies does me more good than eating them.

I have two other favourite ways to practice stillness.

The first is that every now and then I take the dog up into the top paddock (15-minute walk), light a fire, boil the billy, make and drink a cup of tea. The time required to gather the firewood, get it cranked up and then boil the water is enough to slow me down and lower the pressures of the day to the correct level. Drinking the tea without burning my mouth can’t be rushed either.

This kind of contemplative time revives, refreshes and renews. I take the dog because it can’t talk and loves me just as I am. It’s happy and eager to go wherever I decide, and coming back home is as big an adventure as leaving. This kind of companionship might be ruined with words.

The second is that I keep a Zen (kind of) calendar on the bedside table. One of my children usually gives me one for Christmas. It is designed to display one day at a time, and I rip yesterday’s off each morning to look at today’s. Each page has a short piece of wisdom written on it, in addition to the date.

On arising from bed, I like to grab the top one, read it, and then contemplate the message of the day for a few moments before heading off to the shower. It usually takes less than a couple of minutes, but it sets up the entire bathroom-thinking time to run along a sequence inspired by that original insight. It’s much better than dwelling on how many jobs there are on today’s schedule and winding up on the day before it has even started. Not only is it a better way to start the day – because I travel inwards instead of into the future – but it also means I turn up for breakfast in less of a rush and much more at peace.

I should add that these two little routines have provided me with tremendous insight because my most inspired thoughts turn up during this still time.”

What does that look like for you?

Only you can really answer that. Suffice it to say you need to find at least three ways you can practice stillness that really do it for you.

Remember – stillness does not necessarily mean being physically stationary. Stillness happens when you are experiencing harmony with yourself and the world around you. It can be discovered any time there is total, uninhibited participation in the current moment.

Here’s a few ideas:

Find a spot in nature you can just sit and enjoy the view

Get a ‘zen garden’ to play with (one of the tabletop sand and stone setups you can play with)

Take ten minutes at least two times per day to just sit and breathe deeply

Find a place where you can have quiet time (i.e. actually seek out a lack of sound)

Disconnect from your technology and devices for an evening

Try Yoga

Give Tai Chi or Qi Gong a go

Spend uncluttered time being totally present with a pet

Meditate IMG - Meditate Sunrise

The (many) benefits of meditation have been scientifically proven over and over again. From improved brain function and a better mood to better physical health and everything in between, meditation is the king of personal effectiveness tools.

There’s little new I can add other than this: find a version of meditation that works for you and get it into your daily routine.

My personal experience is that meditation consistently delivers calmness even when there is a storm raging around me.

There are plenty of free meditations available on the internet. You can even just play some peaceful music while you close your eyes and breathe deeply. The key is to find a quiet place, sit comfortably, focus on your breathing (it needs to be slow and deep) and stay in the moment. If your mind wanders, just gently bring it back. Don’t judge.

Create Paints and brushes

Creativity is an excellent way to tap into the part of your brain that doesn’t ‘wind up’ with stress. It forces a step away from the pressures of the daily grind and brings you into the moment. Creativity is also an excellent way to get in touch with yourself.

Try whatever works for you – painting, drawing, writing, designing houses, DIY, playing music or dancing. If it’s something creative you can get lost in, it’s perfect.

I spent a few years in oil painting classes, but my lack of talent halted any genuine desire to stick with it. Creative writing has become special for me and I’ve been lucky enough to find an avenue to make some money with it via my books. That said, the process satisfies the part of me that yearns to contribute far more than the money ever will.

Here’s a few ideas:

Get into DIY projects

Try learning an instrument

Draw

Paint

Write

Go to a dance class

Garden IMG - Dirt Garden

There’s something about getting your hands in the dirt and being a part of nurturing growth that defies description. Gardening gets you connected in a way that is difficult to replicate with other activities.

I absolutely love to grow tomatoes. I’m quite content buying everything else at the Farmers Market. My entire garden is planted with tomatoes because when there’s too many for me to eat, I find great joy in making tomato sauce to give to my friends. I couldn’t pay enough for the look on their faces when they get a bottle of sauce. The cost per bottle on that sauce is ridiculous if you consider my time, but that’s part of the fun.

So find a way to get your hands in the dirt! If you’ve got the room, start a garden. If not, find a local plot you can use, or try gardening in pots. You might even find someone who doesn’t have time to garden but will let you use their yard for a share of the crops.

Find Excitement, Adventure & Joy
IMG - SkydiveI cannot tell you how important this is. Find something that makes your heart swell and your face split with a smile so big it hurts. Then do it as regularly as you can.

This is a fantastic stress reduction technique, because it’s hard to be stressed when you’re having so much fun. Sure, the things that were putting the pressure on are still there, but you’ll handle them much better when you’ve balanced them out with some fun.

I own a stupidly powerful, absolutely gorgeous, unreasonably loud Harley that sits in our back yard constantly begging to be ridden. For me, there’s nothing like cranking that bike over into a bend and scraping the pegs while it bellows and scrabbles for traction on the limit.

Obviously that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it makes my heart sing. When I’ve been for a ride, I feel refreshed, reinvigorated and absolutely liberated.

Find whatever makes you feel like that and do it often!

It’s hard to write a list of helpful ideas on this subject because it’s such an individual thing. Just keep trying new things until you find the right feeling, then stick with it.

Good luck!

Remember – just because the world around you is in chaos, doesn’t mean you always need to join in.

You can find the original article here:.. http://www.beyondsuccess.com.au/how-to-get-rid-of-stress/

Matthew Pollard, writing for Entrepreneur magazine, also published a great short list of stress management techniques. It’s concise, but makes a few excellent points.

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5 Tips for Staving Off Stress – at Work and in Life

Do you find yourself thriving in stressful situations? Buzzing with energy and feeding off moments of high anxiety? 

Stress can be like a performance-enhancement drug. It heightens our senses to ensure we function at our best. The body’s stress response has evolved over thousands of years to react to dangers such as a wooly mammoth stampede or happening upon an angry bear. It’s designed to, as described by Dr. Michael Roizen in his book, You Staying Young, “heighten all of our biological systems” to ensure we can do things like RUN!

Sounds like a great thing, right? Who wouldn’t want to operate at optimum efficiency all the time? And because stress is a completely natural response, what’s the harm?

Unfortunately, your body isn’t designed to experience stress 24/7. It’s akin to leaving the oven running — eventually, it’s going to burn the house down.

Paul J. Rosch, M.D., president of the American Institute of Stress suggests that “stress increases productivity up to a point, after which things rapidly deteriorate.” People’s bodies can tolerate different levels of stress, just as some people can lift heavier weights at the gym while others cannot. However, stress is cumulative. Eventually, everyone reaches their limit.

Over the past 10 years as a speaker, coach and consultant, I’ve had the opportunity to see how stress affects thousands of business owners and their employees. When you experience too much anxiety over a long period of time, even a small occurrence can drastically increase the strain you feel.

Here are five strategies to reduce your own stress levels in the workplace:

1. Focus on the what and the why

Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks you have to complete or feeling stressed about a specific task, knowing what you’re trying to achieve and why it’s important to you will serve as a great stress reliever.

2. Plan the work, and work the plan

Strategize what you need to accomplish the night before, plan your day in such a way that allows extra time to accomplish each task, and stick to that plan as closely as possible.

Giving yourself extra time to complete tasks will ensure your entire day isn’t thrown off course by unforeseen occurrences or “fires” that can crop up. Planning the night before will also ensure you don’t fall victim to forgetting an early meeting, allow you to feel 100 percent on top of things, and enable your brain to unconsciously begin working on tomorrow’s tasks and problem-solving.

While we still have a lot to learn about the unconscious mind, I find that when I schedule time to fix a problem in my daily plan, by the next day I seem to already have the answer. When I fail to do so, though, I could spend a day on a tough problem and get nowhere.

3. Take brief breaks

If you’re experiencing a great deal of pressure or starting to feel burned out, a brief break will give your mind and body a short period of rest so you can jump back to the task refreshed — and without getting too off-track.

Taking a short break and getting some fresh air is sometimes all it takes for a total reset. Simply breathing deeply gives your brain the oxygen it needs to kick a mental roadblock out of the way and progress with work.

4. Flexibility

Always schedule one or two non-urgent tasks when planning your day. That way, if an unexpected occurrence transpires, you can feel comfortable concentrating on that and rescheduling these tasks to a later date.

Trying to pack all of your urgent work into a single day leaves you no room to shift anything and it greatly increases stress. Prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed by planning smarter.

5. Share the load

Debriefing with your manager, team leader or fellow business owners can alleviate the stress you feel. Tell them what’s happening in your career or what’s occurring throughout the day that makes you feel so overwhelmed. Chances are that getting it off your chest will lessen some of the anxiety you feel.

There have been times I’ve shared a few stories about customers that have driven me crazy and found that the simple act of telling someone turned the taxing situation into an entertaining story and allowed the stress to melt away.

In addition to these strategies, you can also give your body a head start. Some people can lift more weights at the gym because they’ve spent time preparing their body to do so. You can also prep your body to better tolerate stress.

Incorporate 30 minutes of exercise into your everyday routine, drink plenty of water, eat a healthy diet and get enough rest. These seemingly basic activities greatly improve productivity and critical thinking as well as the mitigation of stress.

Preparing my body for stress also allows me to get more achieved in less time, which in turn also reduces the likelihood of more stress. You’ll be a calmer and more productive presence at work — and in your life. 

You can find the article here:

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/244141

Samantha Lim wrote a great short article on using Micro-Meditation to your advantage. She explains the concept and shares several easy to complete exercises. Give one a go!

 

How to De-Stress in 30 Seconds or Less With Micro-Meditation

IMG - Meditation

The common problem of being an overworked, over-stressed young professional is that you seemingly never have enough time to just be. Sure, we know that taking some time to relax can do wonders for our health, but it’s not easy to find openings in our busy schedules to actually do it. Well, that’s where micro-meditation comes to play, a new trend that’s getting some serious buzz.

Essentially, micro-meditations are small bursts of meditation that we can use to tackle negative, difficult, or unpleasant situations. They help us be more mindful, gain energy, and re-engage with our day, leading to a much happier state of mind. The best part: They can be done at your desk in 30 seconds or less. Below, check out these 3 simple micro-meditation exercises to help you relax, decompress, and tackle your day.

The Standing Body Scan
Body scans are a mindful meditation practice that normally consist of 3-5 minutes of laying on the ground.  Since we can’t all spread out on the office floor, micro meditation provides a standing version that can be done in under a minute if that’s all the time you have.  (You could sneak into an empty conference room or even in a bathroom stall if that’s the only place you have!)  Doing a quick body scan is a great way to relax your mind, relieve tension or soothe a frustrating situation.

Stand with your feet flat on the ground, feeling them relax and loosen.  Then, work your way up and focus on relaxing and loosening isolated parts of your body.  Start with your shins and calves, move to your thighs, move to your butt, your belly, and your chest.  Continue on and focus on relaxing your shoulders, your arms and hands, your neck.  Finally, focus on your face and relax and loosen your lips, nose, eyelids, and forehead.  Take one sweeping breath throughout your entire body, and visualize the energy going from your nostrils all the way to your pinky toe. In total, this should take you about a minute, or longer if you need more time focusing on each body part, and will instantly reenergize you.

Metta Bhavana (or “Loving Kindness”)

This micro meditation is great for calming anger and negativity, and is a great exercise when you are having issues with another person in a negative way.  It also has additional benefits of better sleep, better concentration, and a boost in your overall mood.  The term “metta bhavana” means the “cultivation of loving-kindness” and unlike its pronunciation, it is extremely easy to do.

Have a seat and take a few deep breaths, loosening up with every exhale. With every inhale, think about feelings of love, confidence, and kindness.  Then, think of someone who you love, and picture all of their good qualities and why they make you happy and absorb that energy and happiness. Now, while still breathing deeply, picture a person you are struggling with negatively. Try to think of them with neutral, not negative feelings.  Quietly whisper, “may they be loved, may they be well, may they be happy.” Finally, think of all the people together with waves of love and kindness flowing around you.  Relax out of the meditation and open your eyes.

Now this might take a little open-mindedness, but just give it a try and we guarantee you’ll feel a little more relaxed almost instantly.

Belly Breathing

This exercise is amazing for dealing with negative energy and emotions.

When you’re feeling upset, rest one hand on your chest and one on your stomach.  Breathe slowly, and focus on your chest staying still and your tummy doing the rising and falling with every breath. When you inhale, think about breathing in positive energy, and when you exhale think about releasing any tension or negative thoughts.  It could take as few as 5 breaths to feel instantly better!

You can find the article here:

http://stylecaster.com/micro-meditation/#ixzz3dUHkrbB2

While we’re on the subject of micro-meditation, here’s another great article from Maria Gonzalez writing for the Harvard Business Review.

 

Mindfulness For People Who Are Too Busy To Meditate

IMG - Zen Sand

Mindfulness has become almost a buzz-word. But what is it, really? Mindfulness is, quite simply, the skill of being present and aware, moment by moment, regardless of circumstances.

For instance, researchers have found that mindfulness can reprogram the brain to be more rational and less emotional. When faced with a decision, meditators showed increased activity in the posterior insula of the brain, which has been linked to rational decision making. This allowed them to make decisions based more on fact than emotion. This is good news since other research has found that reasoning is actually suffused with emotion. Not only are the two inseparable, but our positive and negative feelings about people, things, and ideas arise much more rapidly than our conscious thoughts, in a matter of milliseconds. We push threatening information away and hold friendly information close. We apply fight-or-flight reflexes not only to predators but to data itself.

In order to reap the benefits of mindfulness, there are specific techniques that you can practice to improve your skills. You may have heard about a mindfulness-enhancing technique where you sit in stillness and practice meditating for a period of time before going about the rest of your day. This is definitely valuable. But I have a bias for being able to practice mindfulness all day, in every circumstance. In essence, you start living all of life mindfully and over time there is no distinction between your formal practice and making a presentation, negotiating a deal, driving your car, working out, or playing a round of golf.

Try a technique I call “micro meditations.” These are meditations that can be done several times a day for 1-3 minutes at a time. Periodically throughout the day, become aware of your breath. It could be when you feel yourself beginning to become stressed or overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time, or perhaps when you feel yourself becoming increasingly distracted and agitated.

In becoming aware of the breath, notice how you are breathing. Is it shallow or deep? Are you holding your breath and in so doing perhaps also holding your stomach? Or hunching your shoulders?

The next step is to start breathing so that you are bringing the breath into the belly. Do not strain. If it feels too unnatural to breathe into the belly, then perhaps bring the breath down to the lower chest. If the mind wanders, gently come back to the breath — without judging yourself for momentarily losing focus.

You will notice that by regularly practicing this micro-meditation you will become more aware and more calm. By practicing this regularly you will train yourself to be more and more mindful, and increasingly calm and focused. You can create reminders for yourself to practice these meditations two-to-four times a day; every hour or so; or before you go to a meeting — whatever is feasible.

You can also use them on an ad-hoc basis to prepare for a meeting or a presentation, when you are stressed, or when multi-tasking is eroding your concentration.  Micro-meditations can put you back on track, an help you develop your mindfulness muscle.

A second technique I use is “mindfulness in action.” Instead of adding a new routine to your day, you just experience your day a little differently by paying attention in a particular way, for seconds at a time.

For instance, if you have ever found yourself in a meeting and suddenly noticed that you missed what was just said or that you were “somewhere else” for the last few minutes, chances are you stopped listening. You could have been thinking about your next meeting or everything on your to do list, or perhaps you just zoned out or were focused on an incoming text message. This is incredibly common. Unfortunately, it is the cause of huge misunderstandings, missed opportunities and wasted time.

When in a meeting, try, to the best of your ability, to only listen for seconds at a time. This is harder than it sounds, but with practice you will be able to do listen  continuously, without a break in concentration. Whenever you notice that your mind has wandered, come right back to listening to the voice that is speaking. You may have to come back dozens of times in a single meeting. That is extremely common; we don’t actually realize how often the mind wanders. Always bring yourself back gently and with patience. All you are doing is training the mind to be right here, right now.

These techniques quite literally train the mind and rewire the brain. And as a result, three critical things happen. First, your ability to concentrate increases. Second, you see things with increasing clarity, which improves your judgment. And third, you develop equanimity. Equanimity enables you to reduce your physiological and emotional stress and enhances the chances that you may find a creative solution.

Practicing mindfulness – and reaping its benefits – doesn’t need to be a large time commitment or require special training. You can start right now – this moment.

You can find the article here:

https://hbr.org/2014/03/mindfulness-for-people-who-are-too-busy-to-meditate/

Kate Morin, writing for Greatist, published a handy list of the top 23 scientifically backed ways to reduce stress. It’s a quick, easy read, but they’ve included links to the studies that support the suggested methods so you know what you’re getting is a proven technique.

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23 Science-Backed Ways to Reduce Stress Right Now

Whether it’s related to an issue at work, a fight with a friend, or problems with family, everyone feels stressed sometimes. In fact, 54 percent of Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their daily lives. And while therapy can help (come on, everyone’s thought about laying on that infamous doctor’s couch at some point), most solutions (think talk therapy or medication) are dealt with in the long-term.

So what can be done in the next five minutes to reduce—and prevent—stress? Here’s our list of the Greatist ways to decrease stress right now.

1. Try progressive relaxation. All the way from fingers to toes—tense and then release each muscle group in the body (lower arm, upper arm, chest, back and abdominals, etc.). Once the body is relaxed, the mind will be soon to follow!

IMG - Yoga Icon2. Try some light yoga. The combination of deep breathing techniques and poses makes this activity work to reduce stress, too.

3. Meditate. The “mental silence” that goes along with meditation may have positive effects on stress (especially work-related stress).

4. Breathe deep. Taking a deep breath has been shown to lower cortisol levels, which can help reduce stress and anxiety . Studies suggest deep breathing can also cause a temporary drop in blood pressure.

5. Spark some scents. Studies suggest aromatherapy can be a good way to relieve stress . Certain aromas (like lavender) have been consistently shown to reduce stress levels.

6. Listen to music. Research points to multiple ways in which music can help relieve stress, from triggering biochemical stress reducers to assisting in treating stress associated with medical procedures.

7. Laugh it off. Laughter can reduce the physical effects of stress (like fatigue) on the body.

8. Drink tea. One study found that drinking black tea leads to lower post-stress cortisol levels and greater feelings of relaxation.

9. Exercise. That post-exercise endorphin rush is one way to sharply cut stress.

10. Try guided visualization. Visualizing a calm or peaceful scene may help reduce stress and ease anxiety.

11. Join a religious community. Surveys have shown a major underlying reason people practice religion is for stress relief. One study even found that college students who practiced a religion were less stressed than their non-religious counterparts. And other research suggests religious people are less likely to experience stress-related mental illness.

12. Chew gum. Studies suggest the act of chewing gum can reduce cortisol levels, helping to alleviate stress.

IMG - Massage13. Get a massage. Getting a good ol’ rub down may do more than alleviate physical pain. Studies suggest massage may also be beneficial for fighting stress . It may also help improve body image.

14. Try self-hypnosis. Research suggests hypnosis can help reduce anxiety. Plus, it’s a great self-mediated technique for stress-relief.

15. Talk about sex, Baby. Studies have shown sex can actually decrease the physical symptoms of stress, like lowering blood pressure.

16. Take a nap. Napping has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, which aids in stress relief.

IMG - Hugging17. Hug it out. Hugging may actually reduce blood pressure and stress levels in adults.

17. Hang with your pet. Or, as we’ve put it before, just get a dog. Dog owners have been shown to be less stressed out—most likely thanks to having a buddy to cuddle.

19. Do an art project. Art therapy can potentially reduce stress-related behavior and symptoms.

20. Write it out. Keeping a journal may be one way to effectively relieve stress-related symptoms due to its meditative and reflective effects . A gratitude journal can really help us put things in perspective, so pick a time every day to write down a few things that make you happy.

21. Take a walk. A quiet, meditative stroll can do wonders for stress relief, especially when we step outdoors. Try not to rush, and take whatever pace feels most natural.

IMG - Kiss Lips22. Kiss someone! Research suggests kissing releases chemicals that ease hormones associated with stress, like cortisol. Forming positive relationships is also a key way to help reduce stress and anxiety.

23. Don’t write a list of the top 23 ways to reduce stress!

You can find the article, with all of the links, here:

http://greatist.com/happiness/23-scientifically-backed-ways-reduce-stress-right-now

Kammie, writing for the Sensual Appeal blog wrote a great short article on her favourite low cost ways to reduce stress. Here’s what she suggests…

 

My Favorite Stress Relief Techniques That Don’t Cost a Fortune

Is stress weighing you down but you don’t want to dish out extra money? These are some of my favorite stress relief techniques I use on a frequent basis that do not cost a fortune. Make the time investment in yourself – treat your body and mind well. 

Living in times where being busy is glorified can really take a toll on our emotional well-being. That’s why today I’m sharing with you some of my favorite stress relief techniques that are enjoyable and fun.

Do you sometimes feel stressed out? Do you feel like you could definitely use some time for yourself but you are out of money (or ideas) for a massage (great option with wonderful benefits but unfortunately it can get pricy) or a professional mani pedi (typical girl activity but costs money as well). Today, you will learn my favorite stress relief techniques that don’t require you to buy anything special that you don’t already have at home. Why spend money on unnecessary products when we have all that we need right here?

Hot steamy showers

IMG - Shower Icon

Once upon a time, I was pretty stressed out and decided to take a long hot shower. It was so darn relaxing I almost dedicated a whole post to my gratitude for being able to have the luxury of taking showers of the sort. Haha, almost. Then I thought the post would be kind of strange so it’s sitting in the depths of my drafts. Maybe someday it will see the light of day. Or maybe I’ll edit it into something else. Who knows.

Anyway, hot steamy showers are one of my favorite stress relief tips. They relax the body’s muscles from the hot water hitting your back. It feels glorious. I bet it would feel even more amazing if you have some fancy shower head. Mine is pretty normal and it still feels fabulous.

I like to use nicely scented and foamy body wash to aid in the experience. Going along with the goal of stress relief and relaxation, subtle scents such as lavender are perfect. I also really like homey and comfy scents (think Thanksgiving and Christmas scents) simply because they bring me back home and therefore make me feel automatically more relaxed.

Drink hot tea

IMG - Tea-CoffeeSo I may be biased, but tea is great. I am a self-proclaimed tea-holic and I am proud. I love tea and drink it daily. Sometimes multiple times per day. There are so many types of tea and each variety has its own wonderful set of health benefits. I’m a big fan of white tea and green tea, but rooibos tea is nice too.

Whenever I feel stressed, I ask myself “what would make me feel better?” and choose the tea that corresponds to the desired feeling:

Am I seeking comfort? (something smooth with spiced flavors)

Do I simply want to quiet my mind and find peace? (chamomile and lavender)

Or is my stress more physical, like digestive issues? (mint or ginger)

As you can see, there are many different herbal teas that you can use in addition or instead of the main players such as the ones I mentioned in the beginning. Each tea has its own benefits and can provide you with a different set of feelings that accompany it.

Additionally, I find that drinking a hot beverage, such as tea, really relaxes your body from the inside out – making the warm feelings spread out through your whole body. It feels lovely and it certainly does have the capacity to relax a person nicely.

Reading a novel

IMG - Books

I am an avid book reader. I tend to read books all the time, however most of the books I read are either work-related (marketing and social media), or personal development (spirituality, self-help, psychology, etc). While I absolutely LOVE both topics, I’ve found that reading books that are more of an educational nature does not help me relax as much as I could otherwise.

Reading an educational book stimulates your creativity and inspiration and therefore our body remains energized. Even if it’s an inspirational self-help book about something calming, I find that it still does not necessarily relieve stress the way I’d hope for it to.

So what do I do when I feel stressed and need an escape? I reach for a good fiction novel!

Being able to get lost in a new world of a novel provides me with that escape I need. It gives me escape from my current problems and issues that might be nagging me from the back of my head. Reading a great fiction book gives me the opportunity to get completely lost and feel a connection to the characters in the plot in the book rather than the situation in my own life. I’ve found that fiction books are a lot more successful as stress relief goes – at least in terms of the actual act of reading.

Here are some great fiction books that I read recently that really immersed me in the plot:

Adults by Alison Espach

Family Pictures by Jane Green

Losing It by Cora Carmack

150 Pounds by Kate Rockland

The Start of Everything by Emily Winslow

The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

But also, if you read non-fiction books that are written in a story format – like biographies, for example – this works the same way too. I am just not a huge fan of biographies for some reason. Maybe I just haven’t really found any good ones that really captivated me the way a good fiction novel does… who knows?

Meditation… in the right setting 

IMG - Meditation Icon

We all know that meditation is amazing for the body and the mind, right? There have been countless studies done that show the wonderful benefits of meditation so I don’t even get into those in this article. I’ve been meditating a lot more lately and I’ve seen it enhance the quality of my life considerably.

I wanted to share my favorite way to meditate though. While I like to do a quickie in the mornings, 10 minutes or so. But I do like to set myself for a “date” of sorts at night sometimes. I’ll actually be excited whenever I plan one of those “me” time relaxing dates.

What do I do for a solo meditation date? Well it’s simple, I get the setting right. This includes:

Lighting candles in my room – I use two candles, one is lavender (calms the mind) and another is a spiced “autumn” candle which stimulates my senses and makes me feel a bit sultry (it’s also red, which I find stimulating by itself). The combination makes me feel perfectly balanced. I like to feel a mix of excitement and comfort from the spice but also a whiff of relaxation and peace from the lavender’s light purple hue.

I also have Christmas lights in my room that are mostly red and I put them on so they illuminate my room a little bit more (I have quite a big love for Christmas lights, regardless of the season).

I make sure my bed is made and everything in my line of sight is tidy – messes may tend to contribute to your feeling of stress. Clean up your space and you might feel a lot better right away!

Put some relaxing music on and just let go. I put together a nice list of relaxing songs that are perfect for “me” time that you can check out for some inspiration. My favorite resource for quick yet deep meditation sounds is OmHarmonics.

Centering the mind and consciousness is a wonderful euphoric feeling. I sometimes use guided meditation but sometimes I just listen to music and do my own meditation practice for a couple of minutes. I’m not an experienced ‘meditator’ (is that a word?) yet although I am learning to control my mind more and more each day with the Silva Method, but I find that even just 10-15 minutes are enough.

Moving your body like it wants to be moved

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I think we all know the benefits that exercise has on our body and mind. It has the power to dissipate our worries in a matter of minutes. It’s definitely one of the best stress relief techniques I know of.

However, many people think of exercise as a chore and something they ought to do. This is usually because you simply haven’t found the exercise that is right for you. If you have negative connotations around exercise and that you’re supposed to do it.. well, you won’t ever like exercise with that type of attitude! It’s the same kind of thing you think about cleaning the house or doing the dishes. You know you’re supposed to do it.. and it’s such a drag. But it’s the right thing to do. This kind of attitude can make exercising seem daunting and you might conveniently forget the great positive effects you feel after a good workout.

To combat this, I encourage you to find a way of exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise! Any type of movement can be considered exercise – just move your body the way it wants to be moved. There is a tremendous amount of information you can learn from your body just by listening to what it likes and dislikes.

When I went to Inspiration & Perspiration workshop in November, I was in the exact mindset I just described to you. I was introduced to the Shrink Session workout created by Erin Stutland. I fell in love with the session and purchased her online package right on the spot – it’s a one of its kind experience – not only was it a good workout, it was also filled with positivity and encouragement. I felt like a better person after, inside AND out. And that’s because the workout did more than just move my body – it moved it the way it wanted to move and added positivity and affirmations to make the stress disappear and make me more inspired, motivated, and happy in general.

Another way I like to move my body the way it wants to be moved is by dancing. In my room. Yep. I do this. I get really into it sometimes too. I talk about this more in depth in my free course 14-Days Into Sensual Joy. But it is a truly liberating and ecstatic feeling. Not only do you get to move your body, but it also caresses your soul with positive emotions throughout. It’s like meditation for the body. I love it.

Other ways to exercise for free is with YouTube fitness channels! There are a ton of great YouTube channels out there that put out great workouts on a consistent basis – they are fun and get the job done. Some of my favorite YouTubers include Blogilates, FitKnitchick, and The Sweaty Betties, among many others.

You can find her article here:

http://www.sensualappealblog.com/my-favorite-stress-relief-techniques/

We’ve also happened upon a great interview Suza Scalora did with Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Here’s how that went…

 

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: An Interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn

IMG - John Kabat Zinn

It was during a meditation retreat thirty-five years ago that Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn had a vision that shaped his life’s work. This meditative insight, a mere ten seconds long, led to the creation of an entire clinical program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center which came to be known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, also known as MBSR. This powerful program takes the form of an eight-week course, which utilizes the ancient practices of yoga and meditation in order to improve the quality of one’s life and health.

How did you develop the modality of MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction)?

I had spent about ten years during and after I got my PhD at MIT meditating on the question: What is my real job on the planet, with a capital ‘J’? By real job, I meant something I loved so much I would pay to do it. On a meditation retreat —in a five to ten second period of time — I had a vision of what I later called MBSR. It was clear to me that trusting that vision, which included researching its effects on medical patients in an outpatient setting, was worthy work to pursue.

What was the process of introducing MBSR into the mainstream?

I was already at the medical school doing research on muscle development and teaching gross anatomy as a postdoctoral fellow, but I knew that was not my life’s work. I had the thought, why not bring the meditation that I have been practising on my own and in Buddhist retreat centers since the mid-Sixties into the hospital itself in a language and framework that regular people could understand? I talked to various doctors and they said, “I can think of dozens of patients I’d send to you immediately because they’re not getting better with what we’re doing.” The whole idea was to see whether we could use these meditative practices, including mindful hatha yoga, to help medical patients to mobilize their own interior resources for learning, growing, healing, and transformation, starting from wherever they were at, and the medical conditions they were dealing with, as a complement to whatever treatments they might be receiving.

What was the response?

As soon as we started, it was pretty obvious that it was going to be helpful to them. At first, most were chronic pain patients who were struggling because the usual drug treatments and even surgeries in some cases weren’t working. We invited them, paradoxically, to put the welcome mat our for whatever sensations they were experiencing, just to see if they could attend to them moment by moment and “befriend” the actuality of their experience, even briefly. Part of the practice also involved noticing how they were using the word “pain” to describe their experience, even in their thought processes, to themselves.

After a week or two of practising the body scan, some people reported that their pain had changed in some interesting and sometimes surprising ways, and in some cases, depending on their condition, had even disappeared for stretches of time. They were also reporting deep insights that they could be in a wiser relationship with the sensations they were experiencing, even the strongly unpleasant ones, without having to have them go away, or in other words to be using meditation to get rid of the pain rather than to investigate it directly and become more intimate with it. When we posed the question at the end of the eight weeks of the program, “What is the most important thing you learned during this time?” they said two things: one is “the breathing” (meaning awareness of their breathing) and the other, that “I am not my thoughts.”

The realization that we are not our thoughts is a huge shift.

Sometimes the participants in the MBSR program would say things like, “Oh, my god, where have I been for the past 40 years? I’ve been missing my life. I’ve been thinking that it was supposed to be all about this or all about that.” It is like a new beginning, a new way of being in relationship with your own life, all of it, the pleasant, the unpleasant, and the neutral, what I call, after Zorba, the full catastrophe of the human condition. The discovery is that it is workable if we are willing to do a certain kind of work on ourselves, the work of mindfulness and self-compassion.

People discover that if there is any “magic,” it is not in the meditation instructions per se; the real magic is in them, and in every one of us. When we intentionally cultivate moment-to-moment non-judgemental awareness, that magic comes out. It is an invitation to listen to and get to know and trust our own biology, our own DNA, our own heart, our own mind.

MBSR started decades before we knew about neuroplasticity. Now, the biological evidence shows that the entire organism is plastic, the brain, the DNA, the chromosomes and the cellular structures. Everything is continually renewing itself on the basis of how you conduct your life; what you eat, what you think about, how angry you are, whether you spend time in silence, inhabiting the domain of being rather than running around multitasking, everything.

You mentioned silence and inhabiting the domain of being. What does that mean for you?

For me, both in my own personal practice and in the work that I do with other people, if I have to put it all into one word, it’s awareness. Awareness is a capacity you already have within you, but usually people feel like they’re missing something. What we’re saying is there’s something larger than your self-constructed universe of thoughts and emotions. This awareness is an intrinsic dimension of your being by virtue of being human. It is always available, but we rarely pay any attention to it or learn to inhabit it. And if we do, it is profoundly healing and transforming.

As you know, Eckhart’s teachings speak about stillness. Can you talk about stillness?

Stillness for me is an embodied resting in being that is not disturbed by sound or movement. It is a synonym for silence, for wakefulness, for awareness. The experience of stillness and silence can be found inside sound, underneath sound, in-between sounds, and equally in-between and underneath thoughts and emotions.

For Americans, we tend to be looking for things to get better, to be continually improving. With meditation, if you practice, on the conventional, instrumental side, of course you will get better at stabilizing the mind and perceiving with greater clarity. Things do deepen with ongoing practice. But if you are only practicing to experience some special state, or to get to a so-called better place, you are missing the absolutely critical non-instrumental aspect of meditation, which is that in this very moment, there is actually no place to go, nothing to do, and nothing to attain. Wakefulness is already here. It only needs to be recognized and inhabited — even if it is for the briefest of moments. It is your true nature. No need to improve on it; nor is improving on it possible.

So, in a sense, the quality of our lives depends on our ability access the present moment as opposed to the constant need for improvement. 

In more ways than you think. I’ve tried over the years to develop a way to bring a language to this domain of being, of non-doing, of wakefulness itself that speaks to the heart of the matter in a fashion that most people can intuitively understand, because we are all under stress, we are all suffering in one way or another, and we all have the capacity to be more awake and aware right in this moment. Since it is really about the present moment, the approach has to be spontaneous rather than thought out in advance. It has to be embodied. I just trust that, in a sense, my whole life has been a certain kind of preparation for this moment we call now, and that whatever emerges will be good enough. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It will be good enough for that moment. I have never found that that was not true.

You immerse yourself in the present moment and just trust.

Over the years, it’s more like the meditation practice winds up doing you rather than you doing the meditation practice.

So, you allow it to happen rather than trying to control it to get a certain result or reach a certain goal.

Exactly. At the same time, in regard to teaching, I certainly have a framework. I have an intention, but it’s very spacious. It’s to ignite the passion in others for mindfulness and heartfulness, for awareness itself and help them develop a lifelong commitment to living life fully and wisely.

The trust and the space has clearly allowed that to manifest. Being in the present moment truly allows for transformative results. It’s so simple.

I love that Eckhart’s message is so straightforward and clear in terms of the power of being present, the power of now. It’s that wonderful metaphor of the sun. The sun is always shining. It’s the clouds that obscure the sun.

You can find the article here:

http://communicate.eckharttolle.com/news/2014/11/10/mindfulness-based-stress-reduction-an-interview-with-jon-kabat-zinn/

On the flip side of the coin, we’ve found a great article on how to stay stressed! Obviously the idea here (just in case you’re not certain!) is to stop doing the things listed.

This one comes from The Huffington Post, written by Lindsay Holmes. It’s full of great links and Holmes definitely has some interesting things to say.

 

How To Be The Most Stressed Out Person You Know

Let’s face it: at this point in our wired, always-working culture, finding someone who isn’t regularly stressed out is a rarity.

If you’ve ever been wound up and totally on the edge, chances are you’ve tried a few tricks in order to banish those anxious emotions. Meditation and even therapy are ways to release yourself from the chains of anxiety — but no matter how many go-to tricks you employ, they won’t make a difference if you continue to practice common stress-inducing habits. Below, find 10 things not to do if you want to reduce those uneasy feelings; your well-being will be much better for it.

Stay plugged in 24/7

Want to be on the fast-track to stressful emotions? Spend the majority of your day with your devices — they have been scientifically proven to stress you out. According to a report released by the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, by 2015 the average person will spend nearly 16 hours per day plugged into digital media. Social media sites like Facebook have been linked to digital distress — such as inducing feelings of loneliness among users. And staying plugged in to our devices can lead to work burnout, technology addiction and more. If you’re looking to ditch the stress, disconnect from your device every once in a while.

Keep everything bottled up

Nothing makes those uneasy feelings stick around like avoiding what’s worrying you. By not letting yourself react — like holding back those tears – you’re easily helping yourself internalize stress. If you suppress your urge to cry or don’t address what’s stressing you out head-on, you could be hurting your physical and mental health. “Avoidance is not a good strategy,” David Spiegel, Stanford University’s associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, previously told HuffPost Healthy Living. “Avoiding makes it like it isn’t happening — and the more you avoid it the worse it gets … The more you deal with things that stress you out, the more mastery you have over them.”

Be a couch potato

If you’re looking to keep those stressful emotions locked in, stay stationary. Studies have shown that lack of exercise can have physical and psychological setbacks. Exercise allows us to keep anxious emotions in check. Moving our feet can release feel-good chemicals in the brain and low-intensity exercise can even reduce levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body. Physical activity can also boost your mood and improve overall cognitive function.

Sacrifice your passions for your paycheck

More money, more problems? Not necessarily — but there has been plenty of psychological research linking the stressful effects of money and its toll on happiness.

According to behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman, a connection between stress and wealth may not be hiding in what we’re doing to earn it, but what we’re giving up instead. “[B]eing wealthy is often a powerful predictor that people spend less time doing pleasurable things and more time doing compulsory things and feeling stressed,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 2008. Regardless of the dollar amount, pursuing a paycheck and power over a sustainable life may have you flirting with stress and workplace burnout pretty quickly.

Aim for perfection

Perfectionists strive to have everything just right and this drive can lead to a stressful lifestyle. Whether they’re procrastinating on a task because they want it to be just the way they want it or they act on specific habits that foster anxiety, perfectionism can be extremely draining on the mind. “[The perfectionist] acknowledges that his relentless standards are stressful and somewhat unreasonable, but he believes they drive him to levels of excellence and productivity he could never attain otherwise,” psychologist David Burns once wrote in an essay on the personality trait. Instead of striving for perfect, focus on the good. Experts suggest practicing gratitude can help perfectionists manage their expectations (and, as a result, their stress levels).

Overanalyze everything

When has any stressful situation ever been solved by obsessing over it? Ruminating on anxious thoughts only tends to create more anxiety — especially in women. Research has shown that women are 42 percent more likely than men to overanalyze something when they’re feeling down. In a 2013 blog on the Huffington Post, author Bob Miglani explained exactly how this tendency to overthink can sabotage our psychological well-being — and ultimately hold us back from living fulfilling lives. “[I]t’s the overthinking mind full of chaos that holds us back from moving forward in life,” he wrote. “It’s the overthinking mind that makes us feel anxious and worried about the future. It’s the overthinking mind that we need to better control in order to stop worrying and start living.”

Shop, shop, shop

Indulging in a little retail therapy may sound like an ideal way to burn off stress, but you may be doing the opposite. According to a small study conducted at Michigan State University, participants who scored as materialistic in the experiment had an increased likelihood of experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms and had a higher chance of compulsively or impulsively shopping. Study researchers also found that materialism seemed to intensify stress’s effects.

Feed off other people’s stress

Is your friend stressed out? The best way to increase your stress levels may be to allow yourself to get swept away in his or her problems. If you’re trying to be a good friend by inserting yourself into what’s worrying them, you may be setting yourself up for secondhand stress, a feeling that’s triggered by someone else’s behavior.

According to Heidi Hanna, a fellow at the American Institute of Stress and the author of Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship with Stress, when we’re tapped into the stress of others, it sends a signal that we should feel anxious too. “It’s important to understand that we do pick up stress from other people because the brain is so sensitive to our environment,” she previously told HuffPost Healthy Living. “We notice someone’s breath rates or that they’re talking really quickly and we pick that up and mirror that.” Hanna advised that order to find freedom from a stressful burden that is not your own, remove yourself from the situation right away and take a moment to assess what’s really going on.

Make “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” your motto

If you don’t take issue with persistent stress, then you may also have no problem getting less than your recommended amount of shuteye. Sleep deprivation can significantly affect stress levels — and without it, we can get irritable and have a harder time dealing with what’s worrying us. In a 2013 national survey conducted by The Huffington Post, participants even cited their biggest stress trigger as a lack of sleep. If you’re looking to manage those toxic, uneasy emotions, let your head hit the pillow a little longer — you’ll be amazed at the difference.

Disregard your finances

According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 76 percent of Americans cite money as a major source of stress in their lives. And struggling to make ends meet doesn’t just cause a little anxiety, it could actually affect your cognitive abilities. Research conducted by behavioral economists Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir found that financial stress can cause a significant decrease in IQ.

But you don’t need to be wealthy to feel in control: Even if your budget is tight, there are ways to manage your money so it doesn’t contribute to your stress levels. The APA suggests being mindful of your financial worries, addressing them head on and even seeking a professional for support in order to manage your economic stress in a healthy way.

You can find the article here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/03/being-stressed-out_n_5071642.html

We hope you enjoyed the above compilation – there’s loads of techniques there for you to try so get out there and get on with it!

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