6 Helpful tips to de-stress your life.
I get where you are coming from. I have been there. I am there. The important thing is to remember that nothing is forever (good or bad), but you need to be able to recollect yourself in the moment so you can maintain your mental, emotion, and physical sanity.
Stress isn’t just something you feel, it is something that physiologically can affect your health. Have you heard of the fight or flight response? A constant state of stress keeps your body constantly in the alarm response, activating your sympathetic nervous system; a state which can cause ill health over time. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress can:
- Cause chronic muscle tension
- Cause respiratory or psychological attacks (for those with asthma, emphysema, or panic attacks)
- Contribute to long-term heart and blood vessel problems due to consistent elevation in heart rate and elevated levels of stress hormones
- Cause elevated cholesterol levels
- Raise your risk for heart disease
- Raise blood sugar levels due to output of cortisol and epinephrine
- Cause acid reflux or other gastro-intestinal related illness
- Cause “wear-and-tear” on the body due to the prolonged effects of the nervous system and its subsequent physical reactions
- And more!
To compound the issue, women are even more sensitive than men are to stress, partly due to our body chemistry, which can present itself in some unique outputs that only women can, such as hair loss and menstruation issues. Lucky us right?
All of these factors should motivate you to get a better handle on your stress in your day to day life. Try one or more of the following six suggestions to de-stress, de-slump, and get yourself together:
This may sound like something a therapist would say to you (and maybe it is) but it is a tried and true method that works. Changing our mental tape can change our perception of ourselves. Begin with deep breathing (in through the nose, and out through the mouth), with your eyes closed if possible. Find a sentence that resonates with you, such as “I am in control of my own life,” “I am in control of my own destiny,” “This, too, shall pass,” or “Gratitude and clarity.” It could even be one word. Once you choose your word or sentence, repeat it slowly in your mind (or out loud! Just not in front of coworkers) while breathing deeply.
When those anxious, critical thoughts start nudging their way in, keep focusing on your sentence, and keep breathing. It is important to not let other thoughts or concerns intrude your self-talk session. I am confident you will open your eyes and feel more relaxed and feel like you have a better grip on the rest of your day.
2. Physical activity
We know we should be physically active every day, we have heard—or sometimes it feels like bombarded with—the message of exercise and health. Regardless, doing some kind of physical activity can help use some of that stress energy our body has ramped up and leave you feeling more relaxed and in control. You can choose any kind of activity for any length of time, as long as it requires exertion—sprint for five minutes, hula hoop, swim, punch pillows, have sex, hike, anything that helps you regain control of your mindset.
3. A hobby
When I feel stressed, feel slump-y, or need some time to myself, I love to paint. There is something very soothing about smearing all of those pretty colors across a blank canvas. It satisfies my need for creativity. When you are stressed, your mind may be telling you that it needs a creative outlet to release pent up energy. Try an art class, read, garden, fold origami, paint furniture, something that allows you to exercise a new part of your brain. The mind is a muscle, too, and it requires exercise to stay healthy.
4. Friends and family
For some people, talking to friends or family can really exacerbate their stress levels. If this is you, skip to the next suggestion. If this isn’t you, remember that your loved ones are a great resource and sounding board. Even though we may feel like hiding in a corner when we find ourselves in a slump, talking about it and expressing ourselves out loud can be a very therapeutic technique. You will feel even better when you receive support and love from the other person. Often times speaking the thoughts out loud helps to organize our brains and really focus in on what is keeping us in a state of slump and stress. Vocalizing these anxieties will often help remedy them by being able to recognize and put a name to them.
As I write, I have on Pandora’s “Reiki and Meditation” channel. Since it reminds of being in a spa, it brings me a deep sense of inner calm and tranquility. Music has that strange ability to transport us mentally into a new state of mind. What kind of music soothes you? Classical? Rock? Christian? Find a genre that allows you to bring yourself back down off that ledge and clears your head.
If you are so stressed out that these techniques don’t work for you, you are in a dark place, you cry for no reason, or have self-harming thoughts; I sincerely encourage you to go talk to someone. There are many resources, from hotlines to personal therapists.
On the flip side, you don’t have to be so far down this road to be someone that benefits from regular therapy. Sarah Silverman uses therapy as her center and rock in her life; so sometimes it just helps to have a professional to talk to, someone who will just listen.
The bottom line here is to find a method that works for you. You have to live with you, so don’t make it a slump-y house to live in. Be the queen of your mental castle. You control the negative energies that come in, and you control the energies you release into the world. Harness the good karma, and let the bad just slide on past. Your life will be brighter and happier this way.
***If you do feel the urge to harm yourself or others, please get help. You aren’t alone in your struggle, and things will get better. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Helpline 1 (800) 273-8255 or consult with your regular physician, they will be able to refer you to professional help. Ask a friend, ask a neighbor, ask someone, just get help.