A few months ago I experienced a family situation and I felt immediate and extreme stress and anxiety. I am lucky enough that my exercise pal lives right around the corner so I sent her a text asking “Can we go for a walk NOW?” She is awesome for her willingness to drop everything to head out for a long walk or a yoga class. And yes I felt sooooo much better afterward. Plus I realized that night, that it was the first time in my memory I had consciously turned to exercise to alleviate stress. I admit it! I have a long history of turning to less effective methods of stress relief-- like being grouchy with my husband or eating handfuls of chocolate chips. But this time I actually experienced a more thorough relief of stress along with the benefit of a good brisk walk. It was a win win situation.
You guessed it! Your challenge for this week is to initiate some new and healthful ways of dealing with everyday (or even occasional and extreme) personal stress.
For every day you consciously utilize a new and healthy method to reduce stress you earn your 5 bonus points for a total possible 35 points for the week. You don't have to use a different method each day if you find a new one that works for you-- but I encourage you to try a variety of stress relievers.
The key to practicing quick stress relief is learning what kind of sensory input helps your particular nervous system find calm and focus quickly. Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so an awareness of your preferences is essential for reducing stress.
If you’re a visual person, try to manage and relieve stress by surrounding yourself with soothing and uplifting images. You can also try closing your eyes and imagining the soothing images. Here are a few visually-based activities that may work as quick stress relievers:
• Look at a cherished photo or a favorite memento.
• Bring the outside indoors; buy a plant or some flowers to enliven your space.
• Enjoy the beauty of nature–a garden, the beach, a park, or your own backyard.
• Surround yourself with colors that lift your spirits.
• Close your eyes and picture a situation or place that feels peaceful and rejuvenating.
Are you sensitive to sounds and noises? Are you a music lover? If so, stress-relieving exercises that focus on your auditory sense may work particularly well. Experiment with the following sounds, noting how quickly your stress levels drop as you listen:
• Sing or hum a favorite tune. Listen to uplifting music.
• Tune in to the soundtrack of nature—crashing waves, the wind rustling the trees, birds singing.
• Buy a small fountain, so you can enjoy the soothing sound of running water in your home or office.
• Hang wind chimes near an open window.
Smell & Scents
If you tend to zone out or freeze when stressed, surround yourself with smells that are energizing and invigorating. If you tend to become overly agitated under stress, look for scents that are comforting and calming.
• Light a scented candle or burn some incense.
• Lie down in sheets scented with lavender.
• Smell the roses—or another type of flower.
• Enjoy the clean, fresh air in the great outdoors.
• Spritz on your favorite perfume or cologne.
Experiment with your sense of touch, playing with different tactile sensations. Focus on things you can feel that are relaxing and renewing. Use the following suggestions as a jumping-off point:
• Wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
• Pet a dog or cat.
• Hold a comforting object (a stuffed animal, a favorite memento).
• Soak in a hot bath.
• Give yourself a hand or neck massage (or indulge in a professional massage)
• Wear clothing that feels soft against your skin.
Slowly savoring a favorite treat can be very relaxing, but mindless eating will only add to your stress and your waistline. The key is to indulge your sense of taste mindfully and in moderation. Eat slowly, focusing on the feel of the food in your mouth and the taste on your tongue:
• Chew a piece of sugarless gum.
• Indulge in a small piece of dark chocolate.
• Sip a steaming cup of cocoa or tea or a refreshing cold drink.
• Eat a perfectly ripe piece of fruit.
• Enjoy a healthy, crunchy snack (celery, carrots, or trail mix).
If you tend to shut down when you’re under stress, stress-relieving activities that get you moving may be particularly helpful. Anything that engages the muscles or gets you up and active can work. Here are a few suggestions:
• Run in place or jump up and down.
• Dance like nobody's watching
• Stretch or roll your head in circles.
• Go for a short walk.
• Squeeze a rubbery stress ball.
Good luck ladies and may you find many new ways to relieve stress and honor this wonderful body that we have been blessed with!