In modern society it has become normal to have some level of stress present during our day to day lives. We are made to believe that performing faster, producing more and increasing efficiency is essential for our success in life. Being “busy” all the time is worn like a badge of honour, and many of us juggle long working hours with activities outside of work and looking after our families. Consequently, we often end up feeling overwhelmed and drop the ball when it comes to looking after our own health and wellbeing. In this article I would like to share with you some tips and habits that you can try to manage stress and feel a bit lighter.
What is stress and where does it come from?
Stress is a feeling of psychological strain and pressure, which can be caused by external circumstances or internal perceptions. We generate stress internally when we perceive situations to be threatening or we think that we are not able to cope with them. In reality these threats may or may not be true, but we experience negative emotions and anxiety around them due to our perceptions.
Small amount of stress has powerful benefits and can help us get things done or overcome obstacles. Research shows that moderate, short-lived stress can improve performance and focus and can even boost our memory. Manageable amount of stress also plays a factor in motivation and our ability to adapt to the environment.
Excessive amounts of stress that stays around for weeks or months, however is detrimental to our health. It can weaken the immune system and can lead to fatigue and mental health issues, such as depression. Chronic stress can constrict blood vessels and therefore increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and heart attack.
How can I effectively manage stress?
When life feels overwhelming, setting time aside to unwind is important. Here are some simple, but powerful tips and habits that you can try to loosen the grip of stress and feel a bit lighter:
1. Let go of perfectionism and cultivate “self-compassion”
Note that there is a difference between a healthy thriving and perfectionism. The later suggests that if I look perfect, work perfect, live perfect I can avoid or minimise judgement and getting hurt. However, perfectionism is often a cover up for our ultimate fear, the fear of not measuring up, not being enough. It is good to remember that there is no such thing as perfect and doing your best is always enough.
2. Break it down and do one thing at a time
Looking at the mountain of tasks might feel overwhelming, but we often forget about the staircase that leads us to the top. Breaking down bigger jobs into manageable ones will allow us to achieve our goals step by step.
3. Journal for emotional detox
Journaling can be an effective way to empty the mind from those racing thoughts and let go of heavy emotions. Get a pen and paper and just let your words flow.
4. Put things in perspective
Don´t let relatively small annoyances, like delays on the underground or impolite service in a shop, ruin your day. Catch self-defeating thoughts before they can take root. When you find yourself catastrophising certain events, for example thinking that making a mistake at work will destroy your whole career, stop and change your inner monologue to a more supportive one.
5. Make time to do something that you love
Maybe it is listening to music, dancing, playing with your kids or watching a movie curled up on the sofa with your partner. Doing the things you love or feel passionate about will help you to connect with your authentic self and tune in with the present moment.
6. Get in touch with your creative side
Cultivate creativity by painting, cooking, knitting, making music, rebuilding engines… whatever your cup of tea is. We are by nature creative, but often it gets lost along the way. Getting in touch with your creative side can be immensely healing and uplifting.
7. Go outside and be in nature
Several research studies have shown that natural environments have a calming effect on the mind. Nature doesn´t only soothe you emotionally it also allows you to awaken your senses and therefore can bring you back into the present moment. Spending some time outdoors can reduce your blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension and consequently will help with easing anxiety and stress.
8. Practice mindfulness and the art of slowing down
In mindfulness we talk about the awareness of the present moment, being mindful of the breath, emotions, sensations, thoughts or the whole self and environment. Mindfulness is about slowing down and becoming aware and using your senses. There is a natural “slowing down of time” that occurs when you become mindful, and as you become more present, your thoughts will also slow down with you.
Here at the retreat we host an introductory workshop on Mindfulness. You can also read more about mindfulness here.
A couple of minutes of conscious, deep breathing can take you from high alert, fight or flight mode to a much calmer place. Read our article about mindful breathing to increase your feeling of contentment and inner peace.
10. Calm your mind with meditation
Explore the benefits of meditation and progressive relaxation techniques, such as yoga nidra. In our earlier article yoga nidra for relaxation you can find out how yoga nidra can reduce stress, promote better sleep and encourage healing.
And last, but not least, the three fundamentals of energy. While these points might sound obvious, they are often overlooked:
11. Exercise regularly
Fitting in only 30 minutes of exercise three to five times a week will make a huge difference to your mood and energy. It can help with clearing your mind, dissipating focus and letting go of tension. Choose something that you like and fits in well with your lifestyle. My first choice is yoga, because it is a union of movement and meditation. With regular practice you not only increase your strength and improve your flexibility, but most importantly you can gain a sense of inner calm.
12. Eat a healthy diet
Eating a regular, whole food, preferably plant based and well-balanced diet will lighten the load on your digestive system and will help you to feel better in general. Lowering your sugar intake will keep your blood sugar levels balanced, which in turn can help you to stabilize your mood.
13. Get enough sleep.
We all know that sleep has restorative and regenerative function. The quality of your sleep affects your mood, your ability to think and remember and your immune system’s ability to heal. Read our article on how to get a good night sleep here.
Implementing one or two of the above tips can help you to quieten your mind and reduce the pressure of stress in your life. Making fundamental changes in your lifestyle might take some time and effort, so do it step by step and be patient.
Come and enjoy some stress-free time here with us at La Crisalida at one of our retreats. You can find more information about our relax and rejuvenate retreats here.