"Stress is the trash of modern life" according to writer Danzae Pace. "We all generate it but if you don't dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life." For 21st century humans, it's impossible to live a stress-free life. Even if you're doing what you love for work and have a fulfilling relationship, stress piles up like daily trash whether we notice it or not. It's natural to feel stressed out by life-changing events like serious illness, divorce, marriage, graduations or new babies. But it's the gradual accumulation of pressures, delays and unexpected demands that usually cause us to explode or implode. As our to-do lists grow ever-longer, our email and voicemail boxes overflow, our loved ones demand more attention and our goals get bigger, stress relief might seem like an impossible dream.
Susan Mitchell and Catherine Christie (authors of "I'd Kill to Have a Cookie") commiserate that "sometimes it seems your ever-increasing list of things to do can leave you feeling totally undone." It's no surprise that few people regularly take actions to relieve stress until finally they reach their breaking points.
It helps to experiment with simple stress management techniques when you're not already stressed out. As a Life Balance Coach and Certified Hypnotherapist, I've learned that reducing stress is an essential part of ongoing Self-Care for my clients. Taking baby steps on a regular basis relieves their stress and strengthens them so they can handle the inevitable stresses of daily life more easily and quickly. Read on to learn about my favorite stress management techniques.
1. SHIFT Your Perspective
When you feel "infowhelmed" after working at a computer for hours or talking non-stop on the phone, changing your environment will instantly relieve both physical and mental stress. If you're inside, go outside and take a walk around the block. This stimulates blood flow and deeper breathing which naturally relieves stress and also creates new brain synapses to boost your creativity.
2. TOUCH the Earth
Most people spend the majority of their waking hours inside these days, so we rarely make direct contact with the Earth anymore. We're all running on lectronic energy which moves faster and more continuously than Earth energy. The energy of the Earth ebbs and flows, and is more in tune with human energy rhythms. So managing stress by gardening, hiking, swimming or just sitting in a park near trees and flowers can renew us quickly when we feel drained. Tuning into Earth energy rhythms — like the gentle flow of water, the slow growth of trees and plants, the peaceful movement of stars or clouds — recharges our physical energy plus gives us emotional balance and mental clarity.
3. RELEASE Negative Thoughts, Tension and Expectations
Releasing physical tension and unrealistic expectations about ourselves, others and life in general can shift our thoughts and emotions from negative to positive in an instant. Doing any type of meditation, deep breathing, stretching or yoga (especially Laughter Yoga) erases physical and mental stress like magic. Hypnosis or guided imagery works well for people whose active minds are "too busy" to "calm down and float away" through Zen or Eastern-style meditation techniques. Listening to music — soothing tunes that calm you down or ones with an energizing beat that makes you want to dance — can also shift your state of being from drained to dynamic.
4. EAT to Boost Your Energy
Eating more protein and fresh veggies when you're stressed out helps maintain strong muscles as well as clear your thoughts. High sugar or carbohydrate snacks can create drops in most people's blood sugar levels, which in turn creates the physical sensation of anxiety followed by the emotional/mental feelings of overwhelm. Frequent snacks of high protein foods like yogurt, cheese, sliced turkey or chicken and almonds not only boosts physical energy but also erases anxiety. So if you feel anxious, eat something to boost your blood sugar in a healthy way and then notice how quickly your anxiety evaporates.
5. SLEEP Soundly and Deeply
When we work and play hard, we tend to naturally sleep well at night. But when we're running on Electronic energy and eating foods that spike our blood sugar levels, especially in the hours before bedtime, it's often hard to fall asleep much less slumber peacefully throughout the night. Since our minds and emotions "clean house" — i.e. relieve stress — via our dreams whether we remember them or not, getting at least 6 hours and preferably 8 of deep sleep is critical to feeling calm and balanced when we're awake. Creating the habit of thinking positive thoughts or visualizing your goals as you drift off to sleep also helps your dreams strengthen your positive energy plus your commitment to fulfilling your desires.
6. SPEND Time With Positive People
As I get older, I'm drawn only to people and things that are fun and positive. If someone's complaining all the time, I can't afford to let them drain my energy anymore. Spending time with positive people actually relieves stress and raises your energy, especially compared to being around people who are energy-drains. Doing things that are fun with positive people who also enjoy them naturally gives you a double dose of energy plus stress relief.
Trying these easy Energy Shifts to regularly reduce stress can transform your body, mind and emotions from the inside out. But if they work quickly and seem "too easy," please don't discount them! That's just a sign that stress management techniques like these are actually working for you. Keep in mind that stress relief isn't about being calm all the time — it's about becoming more centered so you can bounce back from life's challenges quickly and easily.
As Dr. Hans Selye, the psychologist who coined the term "stress" in 1950, reminds us: "Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one." Shifting your attitude any way you can is the best first step to relieving stress.
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