We’ve all been there—mind racing, heart pumping on overdrive, hormones flooding the body, system fully engaged in the fight-or-flight response. Throughout 2020 our inner resilience has been tested. We all want to have freedom to make choices based in love and kindness, but sometimes stress takes over. With these simple tools, you can learn to manage stress and invite vibrancy and joy back into the center of your life.
1. Take 5-10 Deep Belly Breaths
Deep breathing is the greatest gift you can offer yourself when you are stressed. Slow, full breaths send a message to your body that you are safe, that you are not in danger, and that it is alright to enter a state of peace and tranquility.
Next time you feel the symptoms of acute stress take a moment to pause. Then, place your hand over your belly and observe the rise and fall of your abdomen, exhaling through your nose. This simple yet powerful practice transitions your body to a state of calm.
2. Practice Gratitude
Taking time to give thanks actively combats a part of your brain called the negativity bias. Our brains are wired to pay more attention to and exaggerate the negative, creating a filter through which we perceive the world. This bias likely originated as an evolutionary mechanism to keep us safe and alert to danger.
Imagine you come home after a long day of work, and your partner forgot again to take out the trash—even though you’ve reminded them more than 20 times. Your instant response may be to criticize rather than notice the fact that they left the sink completely free of dishes. And it’s not your fault! Science demonstrates that we are programmed to pay more attention to what is wrong rather than what is right.
Practicing gratitude can help you to counter this bias, and in turn strengthen your relationships and your ability to thrive in adversity.
A good place to start? Give yourself permission to relish in the world around you: the smells, tastes, sounds, and sights of your daily life. Notice the details and name what you are grateful for. Feel gratitude in your heart. Anchor yourself into the experience.
Repeat this practice and over time you will unlock your capacity to look for what’s right and wonderful in any situation. In turn, your stress levels will lower.
3. Create a Sacred Space in Your Home
When we are stressed it’s easy to leave a dish in the sink or throw a jacket on the floor instead of hanging it neatly in place. In difficult moments our energy feels scarce so it’s natural that we accept an external environment that is cluttered and disorganized.
But to really manage stress in the long-term it’s urgent that we consciously carve time into our lives to care for our spaces. Taking this time forces us to slow down and nurtures our daily lives with more organization and ease.
A great place to start is to choose one area of your house and devote yourself to it. Declutter, add a piece of art, discover colors that inspire you. Bring life and breath into this corner of your home. Then nestle into the energetic harmony you’ve created, and feel the support of a safe-haven you can turn to when you are feeling stressed or anxious.
4. Do Some High-Intensity Movement
If you are serious about rapidly reducing stress there is no better remedy than a burst of high-energy movement. We’ve all been there—so stressed that the idea of trying to meditate or take a bath seems futile. Our sympathetic nervous systems are in the drivers’ seat, and our bodies are surging with hormones.
In these moments fast-paced movement is an excellent solution. Through movement we have the power to instantaneously shift our state of being. After exercising, your body will be more prepared to fully receive the benefits of a calmer activity like meditation. Some great suggestions:
You might consider going for a run, dancing to an upbeat playlist, or cycling.
5. Let Go of Your Inner Critic
If we delve into the deepest layers of our stress, we may find we hold a limiting belief about stress itself. In a society that deifies excessive productivity, we are raised on the narrative that being stressed out and crazy-busy means we are worthy while taking time for ourselves means we are lazy and not good enough.
It’s impossible to sustainably reduce our stress without deeply questioning this cultural addiction to a fast-paced, frenetic lifestyle.
It might take some time for you to change this limiting belief because it is so contrary to the values of our society. Be gentle with and patient with yourself. There is profound relief of giving yourself comfort and space to just be, without the underlying guilt of not being in constant action.
I’m a healer, teacher, and licensed therapist sharing tools to help you relieve stress and restore well-being.