A few months ago I landed in the office of the nearest naturopath. I was having some crazy hormonal anxiety… something I had never really experienced before. Along with several other symptoms of hormonal imbalance and serious fatigue. I left there awaiting results of blood work. Returning later to discover my body was really out of whack. It’s taken a lot of studying to wrap my head around the root cause of all my trouble, but I’ve slowly pieced the puzzle together. The sad part is that I’ve done this to myself and it seems to all boil down to my body screaming at me that I desperately need to reduce stress for starters.
So, I’ve jump head first into a pool of serene stress less waters and never plan on leaving. The following techniques, and tips are things I have implemented to reduce stress in my life.
Affirmations are a great aid for reducing stress for those that battle lots of negative self talk or self doubt. What we believe becomes our reality. So, the more way say positive and uplifting things to ourselves the more likely all of our dreams will come true, and the more confidence we will have. Affirmations can reduce stress by changing how we see ourselves, our situation, and our potential. You can try out affirmations by writing them down, reading them, singing them in the shower, or repeating them in your head when self inflicted stress hits.
The Rule of Five
This trick is commonly used for people who have anger issues, but I find that it applies to stress just as well. Basically, you pause what you are doing when you feel angry, or stressed in this case and ask yourself these five questions:
- Is this going to matter in 5 seconds?
- How about in 5 minutes?
- Will it matter in 5 hours?
- What about in 5 five days?
- Will I even remember or care about this in 5 years?
Just say, “No!”
Unlike the movie Yes Man! I’m going to advice the opposite. As liberating as that movie made things appear, it is often the opposite. We get trapped by saying yes. Saying yes, lands us with extra projects, extra chores, extra responsibility piled onto our plates. Learning to just say “No” opens the door for you to have more peace and less rushing about. Try it out. See what you think.
Limit to do lists to 3-4 Things
I use to be the type to make the longest to do lists possible. I enjoyed crossing off the tasks. But eventually realized that all the extras on the list made me less productive and more stressed by the long list that remained at the end of the day. Now I keep my to do lists to no more than 4 things that I feel I can reasonably get done and that are the most pressing matters. The rest can wait or doesn’t deserve the ink.
Change your mindset about the things you do. Stop filling your life with what you should do, ought to do, have to do, got to do, better do, are expected to do, and what you are trying to do. Only do what you WANT to do and NEED to do. Let the rest fall out of your life. And use this list as a reminder when you are choosing what to do.
Ditch Procrastination and Plan Ahead
Where are you falling short in life? Are dinners last minute? Lunches hastily prepared? Work deadlines being met at the last possible second? Pick one area that you could improve in and make a plan and stick to it.
Identify the Stress Triggers
Stress triggers are things that spike your stress levels, or that are constantly causing you stress. There are two ways to tackle stress triggers. Pick what works best for you.
1- Brain dump everything that comes to mind that causes you stress. Write them all down. Once the list is made answer the following questions for each trigger…
- Why is this a trigger for me?
- How does this trigger make me feel? (Be specific about the emotions created by each trigger)
- Is this trigger deserving of my energy? Use the Rule of 5 to test it.
- What can I do to be proactive when I encounter this trigger instead of allowing it to cause me stress?
- Is there something I can do to change my situation so I avoid this trigger all together?
2- Pay close attention to your mind over the next few days. Notice when something causes you stress. When you find a stress trigger go through the above questions for that trigger. Do it again every time something arises.
Get More Sleep
Lack of sleep makes us cranky. There is really no way around that. Inadequate sleep elevates cortisol, elevated cortisol puts us in fight or flight mode. Chronic sleep deprivation has a spiraling effect on our mood and our health, especially for our hormones. In order to make cortisol, the body robs from progesterone, without enough progesterone, estrogen is allowed to run rampant and so on. Beauty rest is just that, if you want to avoid a laundry list of problems as well as simply reducing stress.
There are two ways to reduce stress with journal keeping. Ironically, they are opposites but both are helpful.
- Spill all of your frustrations out onto paper. Let everything that has built up inside of you boil out onto the page. Then you can symbolically burn it or tear it up and trash it as a way saying you’ve said your peace and let it go. It’s gone.
- Write down things you love, things you are grateful for, or things that bring you joy. Share what makes you laugh, or count out your blessings. This method shifts the mind away from the difficulties and frustrations of life and helps put the focus on the good. After all, what w focus on will automatically seem bigger. What do you want your focus to be?
Let’s keep this sweet and simple. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins reduce stress…. Ok, I can almost keep it that simple. Too much exercise can become a strain on the body and increase cortisol. So, a little everyday is good but I wouldn’t exceed a workout of 45 minutes and pay close attention to when your body is begging for extra rest.
Stress is a pretty popular condition these days. Which means that managing that stress is the up and coming skill that everyone wants. One of the most popular apps right now is even focused on the topic of stress reduction, and you’ve probably heard of it. The app is called HeadSpace. There is another one that I’ve also heard great things about called Calm. Totally worth checking out if you need your stress reduction tools in the palm of your hand.
Start by making a list of the things that cause you stress. Could be a hectic commute, a disorganized closet, family or friends, clutter, too many responsibilities, or that you set your self expectations too high. Then pick one thing off of the list that you can change. Clean that closet, cut your to do list in half, try a different route for your commute. Little changes can make a huge difference.
Let Go of Perfectionism
Even Pinterest moms aren’t perfect. There are times and places to flex that perfectionistic muscle. It certainly serves a valuable purposes, but it needs to be turned off for most of the time. This is especially true if you are trying to make perfectionists out of your spouse, your kids, your coworkers, or your friends. It’s also true when you are stressed. Take a look around at what you may be trying to make “perfect” and see how many of those things will be just fine without your detailed over analyzing mind. There are always several on my list. And at least half of the time it turns out better without my help.
Some people say that perfectionism is all together bad. Perhaps they are right. Or perhaps it just depends on how you define perfectionism.
Either way, striving for excellence has it’s place and it doesn’t belong in our lives in a way that can consume us.
Generally speaking I see the ability to be detail oriented as a good thing which can be a synonym for perfectionism. I don’t want you to stamp out the good parts of striving for excellence or being detail oriented out. But I do want you to separate it from an unhealthy need or desire for perfection.
Ask yourself the questions below when you are feeling like something in your environment needs to be perfected.
- “Is this something that really deserves my ability to see flaws?”
- Where would my ability to perfect be better used?”
- “Am I trying to force my perfectionistic tendencies on others?”
- Would I be happier if I didn’t take on the stress of perfecting this?”
Anyone remember the mom from Emperor’s New Groove? She has a line in the movie where she gets frustrated, snorts, and then says, “I need to go clean something.” This is a great trick because cleaning is not far removed from exercise when you are really into it and you also get a quick reward of an organized and less stressful space. Whoever thought to add that line was spot on!
Use Relaxing Essential Oils/ Aromatherapy
Essential oils can be applied to the skin, diffused with a diffuser, put on your pillow, or dropped onto a diffuser necklace.
- Any citrus oil
- ylang ylang
- roman chamomile
I don’t know about you but I tend to get in my own way at times. The overwhelm can sink in if you don’t feel like you are “enough”, or if the to do list is just way too long. Take a break from that too do list and find something simple you can do for someone else. My favorites include:
- Buying a rose for someone random like the cashier at the grocery store, or do this for a friend in need of love.
- Make goodies and deliver them to neighbors for no reason. Enjoy the small talk without rushing upon delivery.
- Pay for someone’s meal, or groceries.
- Visit the elderly.
- Read a book to a child.
I’ve heard that children laugh 300 times per day, and adults laugh less than 20. These numbers seem a bit extreme to me, but I guarantee the average kid out laughs the average adult by leaps ad bounds regardless of what the numbers are, and we NEED more laughter in this world. Laughter really is the best medicine. It decreases stress hormones like cortisol, and boosts immunity. Laughter releases endorphins. Hello happy feeling!
Take a Detox Bath
When was the last time you took a bath? Detox baths are a regular ritual in my house. Our favorite is to use 2 cups Epsom salt, 1 cup baking soda, and 10 drops of essential oil.
Magnesium has 400 functions in the human body. It is also best absorbed through the skin in the form of Epsom salt or magnesium oil. Most of the population is deficient in magnesium. Baking soda is an amazing for detox, reduces swelling, and balances the pH of the body. Essential oils like lavender, cedar wood, vanilla, and citrus oils help calm and relax the body.
If you have been eating lots of sugar, highly stressed, eating foods high in phytic acid, or don’t take any form of magnesium supplement then it’s time to pick up a habit of regular bathing.
Bonus! I love Epsom salt baths for kids. My kids sleep better after taking a bath and are generally less moody.
Physical touch releases oxytocin and lowers cortisol. A 20 second hug, snuggles on the couch with a loved one, and especially sex can rev up some serious happy chemicals in the body and help you relax.
There is a reason that movies have entire soudtracks and then some. All of that music sets the mood of the film. Same goes for our lives. Want to feel happy, play something upbeat. Want to find a peaceful space, play something relaxing.
Find a Quiet Space
Practicing deep breathing, absorbing yourself in prayer, or meditating relaxes the busy mind and helps you to let it all go for a moment or two.
Walk it Off
Walking is great in many ways to for reducing stress. It gets you outside, exposes you to some healthy sunshine and earth, gets your body moving without straining it, and offers you a chance to connect with those with you or to meditate and ponder. The act of walking helps you sort through life’s troubles without it spiking major stress signals.
Food plays a integral roll in how stressed the mind and body are. We will be covering this in depth in another post. This will cover dietary do’s and don’ts, must have herbs, and and helpful supplements. Watch for it in the upcoming weeks.
Bring on the adult coloring books! Just like the relaxation apps, this trend is popular for the same reason. As a society we are way too stressed, and coloring, drawing, or any other form of art helps the mind relax. So find an artsy hobby and bring out your inner child. Whether, you take up a pottery class, learn to paint, get a doodle pad, draw in a bullet journal, take up photography, or something else all together you will notice the benefits of less stress.
Some people just operate differently. They prefer comfy clothes and quiet organized spaces that don’t overstimulate them. If you think this could be you check out this test. Then work towards creating an environment that reduces overwhelming stimulus.