Last week, I polled my private Facebook community and asked what everyone needed the most help with. STRESS kept coming up. I get it. Stress not only comes from so many aspects of our lives, it also manifests itself in crazy ways. (Ask anyone in my family… I used to get a zit right between my eyes whenever I was stressed out. It was like a stress detector!!!)
Whether you are struggling to pay your bills, feeling nervous about your health, having relationships issues, overloaded and underappreciated at work, trying to balance parenting with everything else in life, or studying for midterms, stress can make you feel paralyzed or want to nap, and hope when you wake up, everything has fixed itself. Note of advice: naps are awesome, but not always a solution.
So this week, I want to share some of my favorite stress relieving techniques with you! Especially since chronic stress can wreak havoc on your health.
What happens when your body turns on a stress response?
It goes into fight or flight mode (very helpful when there was a food shortage or your ancestors were being attacked, not so much anymore) and adrenaline and cortisol flood your system. Glucose releases into your bloodstream for energy, blood pressure and heart rate increase, your breathing becomes labored, blood flow to your skin decreases, pain tolerance increases, and most importantly for you- your immune system suppresses and digestion and reproduction are put on hold.
So, as you can see, when your body is chronically stressed, it’s operating in a low-grade state of emergency constantly. It’s no wonder your skin might break out or your muscles tighten or you have high blood pressure. But, doctors and researchers are now connecting stress to even larger medical concerns such as PTSD, brain degeneration, heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, arthritis, infertility, psoriasis, eczema, and substance abuse.
Let’s dive into how you can mitigate stress every day. Here are 18 of my favorite stress relieving techniques (hopefully some you’ve never thought of):
1. Meditate. You probably saw this one coming 😉 But seriously, this is not only my favorite stress reliever, it also reduces overall tension in my life so I feel less stressed in general. There are dozens of ways to meditate. Walking meditation, breathing meditation, mantra meditation, sound healing meditation… my favorite is guided meditation. There are some meditation resources on my website here. I’m also launching a 30 day meditation series, sign up early here. Start with just 5 minutes a day. It will change your life, seriously.
2. Honor it. Give yourself some time to be introspective. Ask yourself: WHY am I feeling stressed? Do I HAVE to feel this way? (hint: no) So, what changes do I need to make to start feeling differently? What mindset shifts can I create in my inner dialogue to start reducing stress? Example: OMG I have so many dishes to wash tonight. It’s totally stressing me out. Mindset shift: I’m feeling stressed because the idea of doing dishes is exhausting. But, I don’t have to let it stress me out. Instead I tell myself, “You’d feel really good if you had a shiny clean sink with no dishes. No longer allow stress to be attached to this chore, instead put on your favorite music, rinse the dishes, and then have a dance party over your clean sink.”
3. Connect with nature. Studies show that getting outside protects against the impact of stress and also reduces negative moods and enhances positive emotions. It was recently discovered that grounding or earthing (putting your feet on the Earth’s surface) reduces inflammation and pain. So sit on your deck, go for a hike, or put your feet in the grass!
4. Talk it out. Sometimes when we vocalize what is bothering us, we release it, and it doesn’t feel so “big” anymore. Schedule a phone call with your bestie, meet a friend for smoothies, or have dinner with your favorite family member. Pick someone who is a good listener and can be a non-judgmental sounding board. Note of advice: This is also a good reminder to become a better listener yourself 🙂
5. Move your body. This is a powerful stress reliever because exercise releases endorphins in your brain which act like a mood enhancer. Exercise- yoga, walking, or biking- regulates your metabolic and psychological processes in your body. Meaning you will sleep better, your hormones will be more balanced, and you’ll be in a better mood. Yoga is a great option for autoimmune disease because it’s less intense on your joints. You can try a 15 day free trial of Yoga Glo here.
6. Love yourself. (cue… Justin Bieber: http://bit.ly/1WSijXJ) Just kidding, but really… truly, madly, deeply love yourself. Start with some self care. Tell yourself you are beautiful in the mirror. Or write it on a sticky note and put it somewhere you’ll see it often. Take an epsom salt bath. Write three things down in your journal that are awesome about you or that you are good at. Go get a pedicure or a massage. Schedule 1 hour into your day for whatever the hell you want. Make it happen. I also highly recommend the book, Radical Self Love.
7. Put it on paper. Journal about your stress. I enjoy free writing the best. I use scrap paper or my not-as-cute notebooks and just let whatever I’m thinking be purged onto the page. Then I burn it. That way no one can find it, you can write without judgment, and the burning ceremony is an energetic release of everything you just word-vomited. Try it and let me know what you think.
8. Find gratitude. When we shift our focus towards all the things we are grateful for the stress naturally dissipates. Start a gratitude journal or buy one. Start your morning with 1-3 things you are grateful for or before bed write down everything you are grateful for that happened that day. When we choose love, there is no time for lack.
9. Become more mindful. Before you reach full-on panic/stress mode, tune in to your body’s messages. You can do this through yoga or meditation, but it’s as simple as taking a deep breath and asking “how do I feel right now?” I like to remind myself throughout the day to be mindful and present in each moment. It’s easy to get swept away by my email inbox, but the Lotus Bud app is a great timer that rings a bell at random times throughout my day. Each time it rings I just stop what I’m doing and take 1-3 deep breathes.
10. Try aromatherapy. Essential oils were a game-changer for me. Seriously, I thought this was a silly suggestion, but just try smelling Citrus Bliss and thinking a negative thought. It’s nearly impossible. I love to diffuse oils in my home with my Aroma Ace diffuser. I also use them topically with a carrier oil. Lavender oil has been shown to help the body relax. I rub a couple drops on my wrists or neck. Essential oils have also been shown to reduce cortisol levels and blood pressure levels. According to Emotions and Essential Oils, tangerine is good for people who are overworked, white fir is good for life burdens, douglas fir is good for family stress, basil is good for fatigue, thyme is good for resentment, cardamom is good for anger, the peace blend is good for anxiety, serenity is good for calming your mind, console is good for grief, and balance is good for grounding your energy. There are endless ways to use the oils and make your own blends. Sign up for my free course on Essential Oils for Autoimmune Disease here.
11. Create boundaries. Stick up for yourself. Learn how to say NO. If you’re here, you’re probably an empathic being, which is not a bad thing, however you probably have a hard time saying no. It might seem like everyone comes to YOU with their problems. And you’re a great healer. But, don’t forget to put yourself first.
12. Sleep. I know I joked about naps earlier, but sleep is essential for regulating your hormones and healing your body. So, honor your body’s needs, and SLEEP. Start by going to bed 1 hour earlier every night. Not possible? Make sure every hour counts. Diffuse serenity oil next to your bed and fade away into deep REM sleeping.
13. Dance. Scream. Yell. Physically RELEASE what ever shit you’re going through or holding on to. Have a solo (or group) dance party and seriously SHAKE IT OFF (Taylor :-*). This one I learned from my brother: scream your bloody ass off in the car (careful if you’re driving!). AHHHHHHH! You’ll feel sorta awesome. Or you might start crying. Either way, you’re releasing the negative shit. My brother was also pretty good at singing in the car 🙂 I’ll dive deeper into how he serves as my inspiration another time. This is my favorite video of him: http://bit.ly/2eifzCx
14. Stop making it about you. This comes back to the gratitude lesson. Instead of falling into the downward spiral of stress, crawl out. Take the attention off yourself and help someone else. Smile at a stranger (even if it’s a fake smile). Give someone a small gift. Pick up the check for the person behind you in line. Hold the door for someone. Call a friend you haven’t heard from in a while and make it about them. Buy someone flowers. Do something for your partner/spouse that will make them smile.
15. Go back to what inspires you. What sets your soul on fire? What gets you excited? What are you most passionate about in your life? What leaves you with a FULL heart? What do you love spending your time doing? Write down 10-20 things. Then narrow the list down to 1-3 things. Spend more time on these things. Schedule it in your planner. Or just start now. It might be reading a self-development book or hanging out with an uplifting friend.
16. Tap into your inner artist. Get creative. Adult coloring is all the rage and there are TONS of options for cool coloring books. You don’t even have to stay inside the lines! 😉 I also love painting. I just pull out a canvas and put my emotions on the blank page. Some of the canvases end up in my closet and others end up on the wall, just depends on what emotions come out! Knitting, making jewelry, and painting rocks are also great options.
17. Eat well. Get your nutrients. A nutrient-dense diet is important in helping your brain handle stress. Eat more foods high in B vitamins (wild-caught fish, green leafy vegetables), calcium (wild-caught salmon), magnesium (nuts, avocados, nori), protein (I like this powder), and good fat (sardines, coconut oil). Avoid foods high in sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods.
18. Adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens have been shown to reduce the effect of cortisol on your body. I take ashwagandha before bed at night to reduce any restless thoughts or cortisol spikes. Other adaptogens include ginseng, maca, holy basil, and cocoa.
How do you deal with stress in your life? What new technique from this list do you think you’ll start implementing right away? Sending love! xoxo