Trust me, I understand feeling stressed. There's so much to do in a day. But I like to think of stress in a different way than most people do. To me, I like it when I notice that I am feeling stressed. Why? Because stress is a red flag that we need to wake up, slow down, create space. When we use stress as our friend, not our enemy, we can gain so much. Here's what you can gain from feeling stressed, and how to find relief in five minutes or less.
1. Take three deep breaths
Taking three deep breaths can make a huge difference in your blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormones. Here's how to take three deep breaths - inhale over the count of 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, then exhale over the count of 8 seconds. By doing this you are intentionally slowing down by doubling the count of your exhale. We are so accustomed to go-go-go but when we breathe this way, we reprogram our brain to slow-slow-slow down. This type of breathing is called Coherent Breathing.
2. Connect with nature
There is something visceral, physiological and spiritual that happens inside our body, mind and soul when we connect with nature. Look at a flower. Touch a tree. Soak up the sunshine. Take off your shoes and put your bare feet against the ground. Or read here on the power of earthing. Being in nature calms us down because we receive Vitamin D, more oxygen, being in nature lowers our stress hormones, improves blood pressure, gives the brain down time, dirt improves serotonin levels, physical activity pumps endorphins through the body.
3. Say a prayer
The power of prayer is starting to be researched. But until we get conclusive evidence let's keep praying. You don't have to be religious to say a prayer. I was told early on in my spiritual journey by a mentor that praying is asking, meditating is listening. By saying a prayer, you bring yourself into the present moment, you surrender, you connect with something larger than you, you remember you are not alone in this infinite universe.
It can be hard to meditate when you are anxious and overwhelmed but setting a timer for five minutes to meditate can create spaciousness between stimulus and response. Physiologically, meditation has proven to increase GABA (calming neurotransmitter) and dopamine (reward neurotransmitter), the amygdala (related to fear) will shrink, folds will increase gyrification) is known to boost how well the brain processes information. Start with just five minutes and check out my interview with Moonlit Skincare on meditation.
5. Drink water
It can't be this simple. But it is. Why? Because when we are dehydrated we add another layer of physiological stress to the body. Intuitively, I have found that drinking a glass of water after having a nightmare, or drinking a glass of water during a stressful moment in the day can reset the nervous system. Spiritually speaking, water cleanses and washes away debris. We are doing this literally and figuratively when we drink water.
It helps to remember the things that are important when I am stressed. This is why I have three objects - a photograph, a positive quote, and a testimonial, in the following places - inside my desk, on my bedside table, in my kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and inside the glove compartment of my car.
Photographs instantly activate the brain and enhance happiness and a sense of calm. Some photos can even reduce pain. We remember a positive time. We connect with a loved one.
Quotes reboot our mindset just like photographs physiologically reset the brain. When I read my favorite quotes, I am reminded of times in my life when I faced adversity and overcame. When I remember what I've gone through, it gives the dose of courage when stressed.
Testimonials don't have to just be from our clients or managers at work, they can also be an email where a friend thanked you for being awesome, or a spouse appreciated what you did for their birthday. Through these tributes you are reminded of the power you have on other people, the power you have in your life.
7. Give gratitude
Giving gratitude for what is working and what you appreciate will change your game instantly. There's tons of research that proves something I've known inherently for a long time. I have maintained a morning ritual for the past ten years and clients, family members and friends have also adopted it because it provides peace. Give three gratitudes, three self appreciations, three self forgivenesses, three intentions for the day.
With love, Gwen