You've got to learn to chill out!
Chances are you are already acutely aware of what revs you up and calms you down. You know what (or who!) pushes your buttons, just as you know how to chill out. But just knowing doesn’t cut it!
Sometimes when you need to chill out most, your poor brain is too pre-occupied—actually hijacked by stress—to calm you down. Your more rational, wise brain goes offline faster than you can say "stress"!
Your overwhelmed or triggered mind makes some thinking errors, which can lead to thinking in 'black and white', where the contrast between your stress and being 'chilled out' is enormous. Stress can make you underestimate your control, or get "down and dumber", so that your brain can't relax because it's trying to look for danger. Try to avoid letting yourself set unachievable conditions when you feel this way! If you're feeling the stress, don't be delusional and overwork yourself when what you really need is to relax. Recognize your limits!
What can you do to reclaim your brain power, health and happiness?
Stress management is really energy management—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy management. People, events, situations, and your own thoughts can trigger you, deflate you, or drain your energy. One 5-minute difficult conversation can pull the plug on your momentum. Recognize it. Raise your awareness of what you need to refuel.
Try using these 31 simple 'tweaks' to deal with your stress:
1. Right now … take three long, slow, easy deep breaths.
Repeat as you breathe, “I am enough. I have enough.” After all, isn’t the basic message of that nasty inner critic that somehow you are not enough for the situation—that’s why the stress feels oppressive? What if your inner critic is just plain wrong? Stop believing those thoughts and practice some new ones! "Breathwork" is the fastest way to chill out your frazzled brain and body.
2. Inhale and tighten up every muscle, as hard as you can, and squeeze!
Fingers, arms, shoulders, toes, cheeks, abs, face! Now exhale and stretch every little part back out. Get long, tall, and refreshed. Feel the blood start to bring in fresh oxygen and take away stale tension. Have 10 minutes? Do a full Progressive Relaxation with Dartmouth’s free guide.
3. Get yourself a massage, girl!
There's nothing like having self-care on your calendar! Massage is proven to bring down the tension. It’s amazing how mental stress translates to physical tension. Sometimes the best way to relief is physical.
4. Try some reflexology on yourself.
Use acupressure to self-calm. Give yourself a 2 minute ear massage. Dare you to do this in the middle of a meeting!
5. Strike a pose!
Yoga combines breathing and stretching to decrease stress (and tone!) Again, you can use your body to calm your mind, release the tension. It’s not about the fancy lycra—yoga can be done at your desk.
6. Phone a friend.
The kind of friend who helps you get your perspective back, or at least gets you laughing. Connection is a basic human need, wired into your brain. And just when you need it most, you tend to withdraw. Put a few folks on speed-dial and use that option.
7. Schedule some laughter into your day!
Set the timer for 15 minutes and give yourself permission to surf silly YouTube videos. Check out Stop It. It will be easier to get back to better concentration after you flood your brain with some refreshing chemical relief. Curious about the science of laughter? It’s impressive!
8. Go for a breather!
Get outside for 15 min in the middle of the day—cold or not—get fresh air. Take a walking meeting. Eat outside, or circle the building and notice the outside world. This helps reset perspective, balance your brainwaves, and it removes you from the sea of stress clues so you can clear your head. Breathe!
9. Take a power nap.
Go ahead, put up the "Do Not Disturb" sign, close your eyes, and refuel for 20 minutes. It’s way more powerful for your brain than that cup of coffee. You're rebooting the system, replenishing the neurotransmitters, and improving your memory. Ask Edison!
10. Write down your top three worries.
What would you tell your best friend to do if she/he faced these? Just naming them is helpful, but thinking about them from another perspective can help you find new possibilities or at least regain a little perspective.
11. Do a worry "dump".
Start with a blank page and write down everything bothersome—big and little—rumbling around in your stressed mind. Keep writing. Take a breath, smile and send yourself a little love. Now, how would you like to spend your precious energy on these and the rest of life? How many can you just let go?
12. Make a list of 3-5 times you have succeeded.
In the face of any big or little challenge, you have won at many points. What strengths can you own and bring to your current situation? In the middle of stress it is easy and even natural to focus on gaps, failures, and insecurities, even to the point of catastrophizing. Really, just because you blew it as a parent this morning doesn’t mean your kids are going to need therapy for life. Bring to mind some successes and strengthen your confidence and creativity.
13. Find a little thing you can just dominate
Like tackling cleaning out one drawer with a vengeance! This gives you thought time and a sense of control of something! Check out the power of tidying up.
14. Use your nose!
Light a lavender candle, close your eyes, and just notice the power of scent to change your mood. Your brain is programmed to take in clues from your entire world, not just your conscious stream. Use your other senses to help find your groove.
15. Tune in to good vibes.
Turn off alerts and outside signals, and turn on relaxing music. Check out a new Pandora station. It’s no mistake music is used in medical situations to help patients deal with their challenges.
16. Relax your brainwaves with binaural beats.
These are sounds delivered to your ears in two different frequencies and they have been shown to affect your brainwaves. There are Pandora stations and apps dedicated to this. Use ear buds!
17. Take back lunch!
Really, 30 minutes to pause, breathe, nourish, change your scenery, or connect with someone will fuel your productivity for the rest of the day. No, you won’t lose your edge or your job! You’ll ramp up effectiveness and decrease stress.
18. Take a walk.
A 20 minute walk will recharge your brain to handle your challenges. Rhythmic activity resets brainwaves and ramps up the associative centers of the brain—think smarter! Extra credit: go outside. Extra, extra credit: go outside with a friend.
19. Listen in.
Use one of the zillions of guided meditations available to find a few minutes of peace. Check out Buddhify or Insight Timer You can find a voice and message you find helpful, and you can find a range of time options from a minute to an hour. Take this powerful path to the resilience of mindfulness while waiting for an appointment, during a 5 minute break, or at day's end.
20. Write a thank you note.
Focusing on gratitude is good for your mind and heart—a true stress antidote. It only takes a minute to dash off an email of appreciation and you’ve created a positive shift for two people.
21. Do just one thing at a time for the next 25 minutes
Really! Try the Pomodoro method when stress is compromising your focus. Chunking your focus between pauses is brain friendly. You’ll feel more effective and confident. You’ve got this!
22. Take technology out of your bedroom!
Science shows It increases your stress, and you must get sleep to be resilient. Create your new bedtime regime. Get creative and learn to put yourself to sleep the way you know works for you. You have to help your brain shift from the zoom of the day to the peaceful state, so you’ll awake refreshed and more resilient.
23. Vow to go to bed just 15 min earlier.
Try a relaxing guided visualization to close your day and let your brain gear down. If you're cheating yourself of sleep, you might as well start drinking a six pack before work. Try resting just a few minutes earlier than usual, and your brain will thank you!
24. Keep a gratitude journal.
25. Get it on!
Sex reduces stress hormones, lowers blood pressure, and creates better sleep. Not to mention it feeds that human need for touch and connection. Maybe waiting for the stress to die down to feel sexy is backwards?
26. Have a chat with your inner critic.
Give him or her a name. Thank him for motivating you and keeping you safe. (They've been cracking the whip on you for years!) Then assure them you have it from here. You have lots of “voices” in your head, and you are not crazy. When you're stressed, your inner critic gets louder and it’s up to you to practice finding your more benevolent and effective voice.
27. Practice whatever faith you believe in.
Whatever that is for you, joining others or creating rituals to remind you of your deep, wide beliefs gives you resilience. You can’t live without food and water, but never discount that spiritual energy sustains you. Feeling connected to your purpose and your place in a bigger world is the ultimate stress antidote. It is the driver of intrinsic motivation, your most powerful force in ‘I’ve got this.”
28. Close your day well.
Take 5 minutes to capture your “undones” and loose ends so you don’t have to fret overnight. No matter how smart and organized you are, keeping things in your head is asking your brain to keep working all night.
29. Keep track of your daily progress.
Focusing on progress makes you happier and more successful on the way to your goals. Vision and goals are key motivators, engaging your emotions and pulling you forward. Keeping track of the tiny successes along the way fuels your energy and keeps you from being stressed by the gaps.
30. Read Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.
Release the stress of perfectionism and never measuring up to unrealistic ideals. What if you upgrade your expectations for yourself or others to a more realistic version? I don’t mean compromise your greatness. I mean get real and motivate yourself with what matters (intrinsic motivation), not some frustrating fantasy.
Perfectionism is self-sabotaging, but an oh-so common challenge for high achievers. Your imperfections and mistakes are a critical part of your wisdom and humanity. Learn to be the best you, and what that looks like in your life.
31. Most importantly, never be afraid to ask for help!
I know, we are almost allergic to this, our whole culture is. Yet we really like to help others. Let someone help you, and you both feel better instantly. There is no shame—it’s the human advantage you should use to be your resilient best!
Tweak your way back to energy and confidence, happiness and health—back to chilled out and ready to handle what life throws you. Never underestimate the power of one tiny act of self-care to help you manage the crazy demands of this 24/7 existence! Make your own list of go-to stress zappers and post them everywhere you need them to remind you, “You’ve got this!”
This article was originally published at CynthiaAckrill.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.