Life is stressful. Everyone has reasons to be stressed on a daily basis – job, family, illnesses, finances, car, house, pets….the list goes on. Add to our daily stresses the contention we see every time we read or watch the news – regardless of your political affiliation – and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But severe or chronic stress can negatively impact your health, it can cause you to lose sleep, it can lead to depression or anxiety, and it generally diminishes your ability to enjoy life! So it is of utmost importance that you find ways to DEstress – both from immediate stressors and over the longer term. Everyone is different in how they relax, of course, so we have compiled a list of suggestions – hopefully one (or more) will work for you!
- Meditate – many people eschew meditation because they envision needing an hour every day to complete this practice with origins as far back as 1500 BCE. The truth is, however, that you really only need as little as 5 minutes/day to benefit from meditating. Studies show that simply taking a few minutes every day to slow your breathing, clear you mind, and remove yourself from environmental stimuli has tremendously positive effects on stress levels, concentration, happiness, and health. Take 5 minutes tomorrow morning and see if you feel more relaxed as a result!
- Get Moving – ever heard of a runner’s high? Exercise is one of the fastest ways to instantly elevate your mood and dissolve stress. In addition to the obvious weight management and cardiovascular health benefits, exercise has been shown to ease depression and anxiety. To benefit, you don’t even need to run for an hour. ANY form of exercise – yoga, a 10-minute walk, a series of stretches, a leisurely bike ride – can help take your stress levels down a few notches.
- Get Outdoors – The Japanese developed a form of therapy called “forest bathing”, which, as the name implies, involves simply surrounding yourself by a forest. Don’t happen to live near a forest? You can still benefit from just getting outside. Exercise outdoors, or simply sit at a park for 15 minutes, enjoying the fresh air and sunlight.
- LOL – yes, it’s true. Letting your guard down to enjoy a good joke, funny movie, or goof around with your colleagues can be tremendously therapeutic.
- Get Social – your friends can be your lifeline when you are feeling overwhelmed. Studies have shown that people who enjoy an engaged social life tend to be happier and, in some studies, live longer. Are you a homebody? An introvert? You don’t have to fill your calendar up with engagements or go out every night to reap this benefit. Having a few good friends with whom you occasionally socialize or speak can help the stress melt away.
- Just Dance – get your groove on and you may find the knots in your shoulders loosening. Don’t like dancing in public? Crank up the tunes at home and make your living room your dancefloor. Sing along if the mood strikes. However you do it, you’ll likely find that your mood has improved.
- Gratitude – it’s easy to forget what we DO have when life gets you down. It’s also easy to get caught up in the “the grass is always greener” mentality. So keep a journal. Write down 2 things for which you are grateful every night for one month. Reminding yourself what you have to be grateful for may help take the sting out of the harder parts of the day.
- Watch out for #1 – take care of your body and it will take care of your mind. Sleep is enormously important for your health and your happiness. It’s easy to find reasons to stay up later than you should, but getting the right amount of sleep (for adults, it is typically considered 6-8 hours/night, depending on the person) will put you in far better stead to tackle a new day. Likewise with your diet. Most people don’t reach for broccoli and bananas when they are feeling blue, but if you’re able to ignore your sugar/fried food/pizza cravings, you might find that you feel better equipped to handle life’s obstacles the next morning.
Let’s face it: stress isn’t going away. Some of us even thrive on a certain level of stress. But make sure you take the time to allow your body and mind to destress. Having that balance is key to a happy, healthy life.