Let’s be honest, we face lots of demands from work, family, and the rest of the world. This election season has sent everyone’s blood pressure up the roof as the old folks say. In all the chaos of the day, there’s often little time to consider our own state of well-being. Getting extra sleep, eating nutritionally dense foods, and exercising are all great habits to support health and cultivate long-term stress reduction, but these habits also take time and/or energy to develop, and sometimes busy schedules just don’t allow for that.
To see improvements in your inner health, you don’t need to commit to hours of meditations a day or start exercising seven days a week. These self-care exercises can make a world of difference when it comes to checking in on yourself and relieving stress:
It’s so simple, and yet we so often overlook how impactful breathing can be to our overall state of being. Breath is the foundation of both yoga and meditation, it combines the focus of the mind with the life of the body. When you are feeling stressed, try closing your eyes for five minutes. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling your stomach expand from all sides. Let the breath move through your stomach, to your chest, raising your body like a balloon. Hold the breath for a second or two. Then, slowly exhale through your mouth, trying to make the exhale last a few seconds longer than the inhale.
This practice lowers the heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and clears the mind. It may seem trite, but breathing exercises should not be underestimated. Allowing your mind to clear by experiencing the sensation of breath can have a powerful impact.
Talk About It
I know, I know! Often when we’re feeling stressed the last thing we want to do is have a conversation about. Many people isolate themselves in reaction to stress, cutting themselves off from crucial support networks. But talking to someone can provide an opportunity for you to verbally process the events that are making you feel out of control. And, even if you don’t feel like talking to someone about the stressors in your life, simply having a positive conversation with a friend or colleague releases endorphins and provides a much-needed distraction from the daily grind.
Conversations can offer new perspectives and understanding which are powerful assets when tackling stress-inducing tasks.
Listen to Music
Music has shown to be a powerful stress fighter. Music offers redirection and release, providing an outlet for stress. You can try a music meditation, in which you put on a relaxing song and focus all your concentration on the notes and lyrics. During a music meditation, listen to each individual note, the story the song tells, and how it makes you feel. If you are not a fan of meditation, then just put on a song that emotes your own internal feelings and let loose for a moment. Listening to music offers an incredibly cathartic practice that has proven to relieve stress in a diverse range of situations.
Strike a (Power) Pose
Our body language has a surprising impact on the way our brain perceives situations. To understand this phenomenon, I recommend watching this viral Ted Talk, in which social psychologist Amy Cuddy reveals how holding a powerful stance for just two minutes can dramatically affect your own estimation of confidence.
Another increasingly popular self-care exercise suggests that we focus on the positives in your life, even when feeling overwhelmed by the negatives. Last year, Janice Kaplan’s book The Gratitude Diaries became a New York Times’ bestseller by preaching just that. The book tracks Kaplan’s own experiment with “gratitude exercises” – like writing down three things you’re grateful for each day. Studies have shown that being grateful indeed makes us feel better about ourselves. The simple act of taking a moment to focus on the things in your life you feel grateful for can have wonderfully positive effects. Feeling grateful helps to cultivate relationships and a personal sense of wellbeing. Turns out, taking a moment to count your blessings pays off in a big way!
So there you have, five quick and easy self-care exercises to relieve stress. Try them out and see how they work for you. Stress happens, it’s normal. So remember to allow some extra moments to yourself. Adopt self-care exercises that work for you in order to relieve stress and feel your best.
Text by Madison Mundy.