Monday, August 1, 2016

De-stress Effectively

Contributing Author: The Tortoise

Everyone handles stress differently. Some people can juggle family, children, work, personal fitness, housekeeping and the tax return without blinking. Others, however, can find it difficult to negotiate even minor stresses in life, such as mild criticism. Increasingly, also, there are people with health conditions which generate anxiety and depression, making it harder for them to handle stressful situations. And there are others who manage disabilities such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or Complex-PTSD, which can make it nearly impossible to face many kinds of everyday stressors at all. Because we live in an increasingly high-pressured world which puts constant demands on us, we need to learn to deal effectively with stress. Inability to handle stress can, in the long term, lead to ill health.

Here are 15 tips to help you de-stress effectively.

1) Give yourself enough time
Whether it's getting ready for work or an appointment, or preparing a meal or receiving guests, the key thing is to give yourself enough time. Wake up earlier, give yourself an extra 15 or 20 minutes so that you're not rushing about in a panic. The extra time will give you time to think, to do things calmly and properly, to centre yourself and assess the situation correctly. Do not rush out the door in a frazzle -- things tend to go downhill from there.

2) Create a calm corner
For some people, a 'calm corner' helps. Create a soothing space or room with colours along the gray, green or blue spectrum, rather than red, orange or yellow. Dress this space with items or memories which calm you, such as a photograph of someone you love and respect, or pictures of a favourite pet or place. Let this space trigger good, happy, positive feelings and associations.

3) The tidying tactic
Clean out your junk drawers or corners. Tidying your home or personal spaces will also tidy up your mind, give you access into areas you've procrastinated about, and set up a boundary between having 'done something' and 'done nothing'. Purging junk and unused things will give you a sense of order and satisfaction, of moving ahead in your life rather than standing still, and a feeling that you've done something tangible and purposeful. Visible organisation will help your mental organisation -- it is also a cleansing process which helps untangle your mental and emotional knots.

4) Visualise and discard
Visualise your stressful thoughts as clouds or packages which you deliberately set adrift and send away into the distance. This is to remind you that your thoughts are not YOU, they are products distinct from you, constructions of thinking, and that unpleasant or negative thoughts can be identified and tackled.

5) Watch cute animal videos
Watching cat, dog or fluffy animal videos is definitely a feel-good exercise, especially if you love animals. Pets exert a calming and soothing influence on people, partially because their presence is (mostly) free from the social and power politics embedded in (most) human interaction, and we tend to be more 'natural' and less guarded and tense in their presence. Watching animal videos can distract you from a stressful trajectory and take you to a different place, like a good book or movie might. When you return from that positive other place, you are more equipped to start afresh.

6) Sing out loud, loud
Singing aloud can release stress the way a 'stress-shouting session' can. Letting your voice out is a sensory exercise; you can hear your voice reverberating through your body, and it lets you put internal feelings into an action, sound and sensation you direct outwards and away from you. By letting your voice put it out there, you are helping to get the stress out of yourself.

7) Muscle the stress away
This exercise does two things: it relaxes your body physically, which relaxes the mind; and it is a powerful sensory distraction which takes your mind away from the stress. Working from the top of your head to your toes, tense individual groups of muscles for 5 seconds at a time, then relax. Do this several times. Work all muscle groups until your whole body is relaxed.

8) Take deep breaths
Deep breathing also relaxes the body and your mind. Take deep breaths through your nose, making sure your diaphragm expands well. The extra oxygen will slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure, helping with any stress.

9) Count your blessings
It might be a cliché, but it is still effective. Look for the silver lining, and be thankful for what you have, because it could certainly be worse. Be glad for all the good things in your life.

10) Let your nose help
Everyone has favourite smells and scents. Employing such favourite smells could be an aid to lowering stress. Smells have powerful associative connections to memories and emotions -- triggering a happy memory or sensation would certainly distract you from your current stressor.

11) Do something physical you enjoy
Doing something physical which you like -- such as gardening or rearranging the living-room furniture -- is a good technique to counter stress with. It focuses the mind on one thought or objective rather than let it dwell on the merry-go-round of stressful thoughts, thus breaking the negative repetition cycle in your mind.

12) Listen to nice music
Again, this is powerful re-direction technique. Listening to soothing music or favourite sounds, such as a bubbling brook, refocuses your mind on something else with good vibes, to break the stress cycle in your mind.

13) Exercise
A good bout of exercise will help defuse the flight or fight state that is stress, and rid your body of the unhealthy adrenalin that has built up. Exercise will also release feel-good chemicals such as endorphin, creating an all-over body high that may give you a new perspective on things.

14) Bring back good memories
Reminiscing about good, happy and funny memories is always a powerful de-stressing tool. "Remember when Dad was chased by that small goat?" stories bring back the laughter and associated emotions of favourite memories, which in turn leave you feeling good.

15) Help others
Not so strangely, perhaps, helping others is one of the most effective ways of getting rid of stress. Helping others makes you feel good about yourself -- and feeling good about yourself and your actions is what de-stressing is all about.


10 stressbusting strategies for your daily commute, Everyday Health

10 relaxation techniques that zap stress fast, Jeannette Moninger, WebMD

13 ways to beat stress in 15 minutes or less, Yelena Shuster, Health

Photos credit: Pixabay

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