We’re always searching for the next best thing to help us manage stress. While we’re constantly juggling many aspects of our busy lives, caring for ourselves can end up on the back burner. These days, there’s constant talk about the concept of self-care, but have you considered that stress-care is self-care?
We know that managing the mental and physical impacts of stress is crucial to living a healthy and happy life.
Here are a few of our favorite stress-care rituals to help introduce some calm into your daily routine.
Managing Stress is Important for Your Well-BeingWhen we become stressed, our brain undergoes significant physical and chemical changes that affect its functioning. During periods of high stress, chemicals within the brain, such as dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, begin to rise, and our "fight-or-flight" hormones, such as adrenaline are released. When these chemicals are released, we may experience an increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and even a more weakened immune system. If left untreated, stress can cause more long-term effects, such as ulcers, strokes, or heart disease.
Physical symptoms of prolonged stress are one thing, but psychological symptoms are just as important. Anxiety, panic attacks, or depression can result from experiencing high-stress levels. Stress may affect your thinking, and ability to remember things, cause irritability or create conflicts with the people you care about most. According to WebMD, 43% percent of adults suffer adverse health effects from stress, and 75%-90% of all doctor visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
Stress Care Rituals Designed to Help You RelaxWe’re always searching for the next best thing to help us manage stress. With our busy schedules getting even busier, finding the time you need for stress care can be challenging. We’ve developed several stress care rituals you can incorporate into your daily routine, whether you only have a few minutes, or have more time to devote to helping you relax.
BreatheBreathing is the simplest, easiest thing you can do for your health. It’s a task that costs nothing, can be done absolutely anywhere, and doesn’t take up any extra time. Occasionally, when we’re caught up in the stress of day-to-day, we tend not to take the time to pause and just breathe.
The benefits of deep breathing are tremendous: you may find yourself with reduced blood pressure, achieving better sleep, a calmer body, and mind, all while boosting your mood. Although just taking a moment to pause and take a deep breath is a good practice, there are several deep breathing exercises you can try for even bigger benefits.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Also referred to as yogic breathing, alternate Nostril Breathing is a method to help you destress and clear your energy by breathing in deeply from one nostril and then exhaling out through the other side. You can use your thumb and ring finger to close the alternate nostrils as you breathe in and out.
Doing this for a few minutes can be a quick way to calm yourself before a stressful event or after a tense moment.
For this technique you take a long deep breath in through the nose, fully filling the belly with air. Open the mouth wide and exhale with a "HA" sound. Repeat several times to get a feeling of increased energy.
Another relaxing breathing exercise, 4-7-8 is done by breathing in through the nose for four seconds, holding the breath in for seven seconds, and then breathing out through the mouth making a "whoosh" sound for eight seconds.
Cycle through this technique four times.
If you have a computer or smartphone handy you can also try timing your breathing with a moving image. This type of rhythmic breathing using a visual aid can be helpful to keep you focused. Start with doing this for a minute and increase, as needed.
Seeking out a quiet place, such as your office, a special place in your home, or even outdoors are all great places to re-set. Meditation can happen nearly anywhere, and re-centering yourself can take as little as five minutes. Meditating once or twice a day can drastically improve stress levels.
Meditation doesn’t necessarily mean you need to light some incense, cross your legs and anoint your pulse points with essential oils (though that’s not a bad idea). All you need to do is take a few minutes to sit, stand, or close your eyes and breathe. Try to focus on full, deep breaths that permeate your entire body, filling your lungs, muscles, and limbs with oxygen. When breathing out, visualize releasing your stress and anxiety. This is a quick and easy exercise you can do almost anywhere.
Additionally, you can try the counting backward method. Take a few moments to count backward from 10 to one. Take deep breaths while you count. If you are feeling extra stressed or anxious, count backward from 20 or even 100.
This is another on-the-go relaxation technique that only takes five minutes. Squeeze, relax and repeat. Going through this process, focusing on muscles located in one body part at a time helps to soothe anxieties. Careful though - it’s also a great way to fall asleep.
Your imagination is one of the most powerful instruments in your toolbox that often gets overlooked. Imagining your favorite place, an ideal vacation, or a fun activity creates little bursts of endorphins which help to make you happy during stressful days.
Seek Out Aromatherapy
Scents can help regulate the part of your brain that controls emotions. Essential oils contain properties that help to connect your mind with your body. They provide instant relief for feelings of stress and anxiety anytime you need it. All you have to do is take a few sniffs of the inhaler or rub oils on your pulse points. You can also use a water diffuser or vaporizer with the right stress-relieving essential oils that can boost your mood.
It can also be beneficial to invest in skin and body care products that have soothing aromas, such as vanilla, orange/mandarin, lavender, or chamomile. You can even add these calming scents to existing unscented products in your self-care routine. If you’re looking for something already scented, be sure to opt for products that are scented with natural ingredients, like essential oils, instead of synthetic fragrances, which can cause irritations.
The Power of Touch
The power of touch can help to release cortisol, the “stress hormone.” Indulging in a quick hand and forearm self-massage can give you a bit more of a calmer headspace. A body lotion or cream in a calming scent is the perfect remedy for when you just need a quick pick-me-up. Start with a quarter-sized amount and gently rub the lotion on the hands. Cup your hands, and bring them to your nose, breathing in the calming scent.
Massage therapy is one of those remedies that help manage the effects of stress. Our body can hold on to tension, resulting in stiff joints, tight muscles, headaches, and even insomnia. Regular massages can lessen many of these symptoms and teach the body how to let go of negative energy.
If you are seeking a professional massage, look for a spa in which therapists take a consultative approach to develop a massage plan that is best suited for you and your needs. Whether it be Swedish, Deep Tissue, Sports, Lymphatic, or any combination of techniques, you will receive a customized massage that is designed to best help manage your personal stresses. After this treatment, your body, mind, and soul feel restored.