Does the idea of stress relief have you STRESSED OUT? Are you unsure about which methods might work best for you? Stress relief doesn’t have to be complicated, difficult or expensive. I’m excited to share my top 6 methods to help combat stress in order to lead a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.
The Negative Impact of Chronic Stress
Stress causes a myriad of negative mental and physical health symptoms that can severely impact a person’s quality of life. Too often we burn the candle at both ends, going going going until we stop functioning well. For me personally chronic stress leads to anxiety, noise sensitivity, impatience, fatigue, insomnia, inability to lose weight, and has a negative impact on my relationships.
According to this WebMD article,
Stress means different things to different people. What causes stress in one person may be of little concern to another. Some people are better able to handle stress than others. And, not all stress is bad. In small doses, stress can help you accomplish tasks and prevent you from getting hurt. For example, stress is what gets you to slam on the breaks to avoid hitting the car in front of you. That’s a good thing. Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress. But, we are not equipped to handle long-term, chronic stress without ill consequences.
Ongoing, chronic stress can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems. Stress is a part of life. What matters most is how you handle it.
I found myself wanting to compile a list of natural stress relief methods that I can turn to when I’m experiencing chronic stress. When stressed out, I often forget about the simple activities I can do daily that will help my body cope in order to achieve relief. I hope the following simple methods enable you to relieve chronic stress and create healthy balance in your life.
Top 6 Methods for Simple Stress Relief
1. Having Fun is Not a Luxury
Near the end of 2017 I was going through a ton of stress, was overwhelmed, and a hot mess. I booked a counseling session with The Emotion Reset Coach to try to get much needed help. One of the things he told me has been resonating in the back of my mind for a while now.
Tranquility breeds creativity. Having fun and enjoying life IS NOT A LUXURY. All the things that you’re not doing anymore that you enjoy because you’ve got problems to solve and stress….DO THEM. Doing those things gets yourself in the right state to start solving problems at a world class level.~Steven Keller
I have found that for me, having fun is just as important for my well-being as resting. After having my 3rd kiddo in April of 2018, I found myself going back into overwhelmed mode. One day my “bestie with kids” and neighbor, Jessica, and I were discussing how we never really just hang out anymore. Life had taken over and we were missing each other. So we decided to take matters into our own hands and Wasting Time With Jess was born. This series will highlight our adventures as we schedule frivolous time together as a method of stress relief. The first picture in the series was taken in 2015 and is the inspiration behind it all.
If you’d to follow along with us on our goofy journey together to help manage stress and have fun, make sure you check in on the Wasting Time With Jess page every so often!
2. Don’t Forget to Breathe
Sometimes I forget to breathe. I don’t mean the kind of shallow, keep yourself alive breathing I do when I’m stressed, tired, and overwhelmed. I mean the deep, long, and soul cleansing breaths I should be taking all the time. I’ve made it a point to just notice my breathing more, because by nature I’m a shallow breather. In times of stress I have to remind myself to breathe. I stop whatever I’m doing and take 10 long luxurious breaths. This magical activity does wonders for my state of mind and attitude. It also induces a feeling of relaxation and helps me to think more clearly.
I’m incredibly intrigued by the concept of grounding. My kids go around barefoot all the time; my middle one often proclaiming that he has “country feet”. It’s my natural instinct to slip on shoes if I’m going outside at all, but in doing so I might be keeping myself from reaping the benefits of the Earth’s natural energy.
According to the Chopra Institute,
You are a bioelectrical being living on an electrical planet. Your body operates electrically. All of your cells transmit multiple frequencies that run, for example, your heart, immune system, muscles, and nervous system.
With the exception of humans living in industrialized societies, all living things on our planet are connected to the ground’s electric energy. In industrialized societies, you rarely go barefoot outside or wear natural leather shoes that allow you to absorb the ground’s energy. For many decades, people have increasingly been wearing rubber and plastic-soled shoes that act as a barrier to the Earth’s energy, insulating them from electrical contact with the Earth. People also generally don’t sleep on the ground anymore, as many cultures have done throughout history. They live and work above the ground, even far above the ground in high-rises. The truth is, you’re disconnected. You’re ungrounded. You are not in touch with the Earth.
When grounded, the diurnal rhythm of the stress hormone, cortisol, begins to normalize. Cortisol is connected to your body’s stress response and helps control blood sugar levels, regulates metabolism, helps reduce inflammation, and assists with memory formulation.
While the research on grounding is relatively new, the practice is timeless. Past societies went barefoot or wore leather footwear made from hides that allowed the energy from the Earth to rise up into their bodies. They were grounded.
Here’s the bottom line: You have lost your electrical roots, so to speak. You’re disconnected, and this disconnection may be a seriously overlooked cause of human pain and discomfort and the steeply rising incidence of chronic illness worldwide.
The good news is, you can reconnect. Weather and schedule permitting, go barefoot for a half-hour or so outside and see what a difference that makes on your pain or stress level. Sit, stand, or walk on soil, grass, sand, or concrete. These are all conductive surfaces from which your body can draw the Earth’s energy. Wood, asphalt, and vinyl are not conductive.
Ideally, you want to sustain the Earthing experience and make it a part of your daily routine.
To learn more about grounding, stress relief, and studies that go along with the above information, go here.
4. Go for a Walk
When I get stressed, often I’m too tired for traditional exercise, but going for a simple medium paced walk helps me tremendously. Even just 20 minutes walking outside in nature’s beauty helps me to feel more relaxed and less frenetic. I love this list from the Huffington Post about the 5 Ways Walking Helps to Reduce Stress.
1. It Can Put Your Brain In A Meditative State.
Taking a walk in the part could actually shift your brain into a calmer state, according to recent research. A UK study found that walking through green spaces can put the brain into a meditative state. The act is found to trigger “involuntary attention,” meaning that it holds attention while also allowing for reflection. Try following a walking meditation practice in one of your favorite parks to enjoy the health benefits of moderate physical activity while also quieting the mind and increasing awareness.
2. Spending Time Outdoors Reduces Stress.
Here’s a good reason to take a walk in the park: Spending time in nature has been linked to stress reduction. A number of studies have found time outdoors to relieve stress, and also improve memory and attention: Even when it’s cold, taking a walk outside can improve memory and attention span by up to 20 percent. Walking outdoors has also been shown to improve energy levels. Try walking outside for 20-30 minutes several times per week to alleviate stress and give your mind a boost.
3. Walking Boosts Stress-Busting Endorphins.
Like any other cardiovascular exercise, brisk walking boosts endorphins, which can reduce stress hormones and alleviate mild depression. Regular exercise, through the production of feel-good endorphins, can improve mood and self-esteem, according to WebMD.
4. Walking With Friends Has Even More Stress-Relieving Benefits.
Make your daily walk a group activity for the added stress-relieving benefits of spending time with friends and developing strong social bonds. Social support from friends, family and community members has been shown to improve stress resilience and lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Physical contact with a loved one or pet has also been found to lower blood pressure and decrease cortisol.
A walk with friends may be particularly beneficial for adolescents, as social interaction has been shown to decrease stress responsiveness in young people.
5. Walking Boosts Energy And Reduces Fatigue.
More energy and less fatigue? There’s something to lower your stress levels. According to a 2008 study, individuals with sedentary lifestyles experienced a significant boost in energy (20 percent) and a 65 percent reduction in fatigue after following exercise programs centered around walking.
Taking regular 20-minute walks has also been found to mitigate fatigue in cancer patients. The patients with moderate to severe fatigue showed a 27 percent decrease in fatigue levels after three months of walking, in addition to a decrease in pain.
5. Constructive Rest
I’ve never been a napper. To me a nap means 3 hours in bed in a dark cool room uninterrupted, but let’s face it, who has time for that? On the rare chance that I do fall asleep during the day, I often feel worse than I did before. What I found that helps me though is to just lie flat for 20 minutes. It recharges me without the need to go to sleep. After being diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue in 2006, lying flat a few times a day became essential to my recovery. While doing some research I discovered something called constructive rest which is inspired by the Alexander Technique.
Constructive rest, sometimes known as “active rest”, “semi-supine” or the “Alexander lying-down position” is an extremely effective self-help tool for Alexander Technique students, and for anyone else who wants a simple, practical way of releasing excess tension from their body.
What Does Constructive Rest Look Like?
You’ll find a variety of approaches to constructive rest here but there are three aspects that are pretty universal: 1. Lie on a firm surface; 2. Your knees should be elevated relative to your hips; and 3. There should (usually) be some support under your head. Most of the differences relate to what is most useful for you to think about (or not think about) while doing constructive rest. If you’re new to the process, you might want to experiment with different suggestions.
Try resting in this position for 20 minutes and notice the difference it makes for you!
6. Forest Bathing
As an outdoor enthusiast, I already know the immense positive impact that spending time in nature has on my well being. I love the idea of forest bathing that is highlighted in this NBC news article.
Research has shown that ‘forest bathing,’ the practice of spending time in a forested area in an effort to reap wellness rewards, is pretty darn good for you. That may explain why this Japanese trend is catching on stateside.
A 2010 study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, for example, found that participants who walked in a forest had lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol (a.k.a. the stress hormone) afterwards than those who strolled through a city environment.
You don’t need access to a forest to get in on the fun — any green space will do. Just make sure to take a few precautions before venturing out on your own.
1. Be aware of your surroundings. Going it alone? Staying safe is key. “Know your environment,” says Neric, “and let someone know where you’re going.”
2. Protect your skin and body. “You want to get the exposure for the vitamin D, but that comes with an increased risk of skin cancer, so apply sunscreen to exposed areas and wear a hat,” says Lee. You may also want to spritz on bug spray and wear long sleeves depending on your location, says Neric. And if you’re exercising in the cold, dress in layers and protect yourself from rain, snow and wind.
3. Wear the right footwear. While physical activity has many health benefits, one of the negatives is that it can increase musculoskeletal pain if you don’t use the right gear, says Lee. “If you’re walking or running, make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes or boots,” he says.
4. Stay hydrated. Don’t leave home with out the water bottle! Lee says it’s often hard to gauge if you’re guzzling enough H2O, so check your pee. “Your urine should come out clear,” he says. “If it’s dark yellow, you need to drink more water.”
No matter what you have going on, investing the time to practice these simple stress relief methods regularly is worth it. The less stressed out you are, the more efficient and productive you’ll be, thus creating a positive cycle. Don’t be too busy to take care of yourself. There is only one YOU in the world, and self care is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself.
Looking for stress relief for a baby or young child? Check out our post on the Happy Song!