5 WAYS TO RELIEVE STRESS RIGHT NOW
"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" Lao Tzu
There are many different triggers that cause stress. It could be your current situation, job, deadlines, family issues etc. It could also be an event from the past that comes back up, such as a past relationship or a traumatic event that fires up the Sympathetic Nervous System, releasing stress hormones in the body preparing us to fight a bear or run from a snake. The problem is that the only things we fight are in our head, causing us to live in a constant simmer. So what do you do? Well, lets begin by focusing on activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) which is in charge of our rest and digest state and calms down all of the stress hormones.
Step #1 - Rethink relaxation
Easier said than done I know. However, you don't have to take a vacation to find relaxation right now. Relaxing brings the rest and digest state online and calms down our flight or fight mode. When you are relaxed it is difficult to feel stressed. Plus according to Rick Hanson in The Buddha’s Brain “the relaxation response may actually alter how your genes are expressed, and thus reduce the cellular damage of chronic stress.”
How to relax
Relax the muscles in your face, jaw, eyes tongue
Imagine the tension leaving the body
Find a bathroom and run warm water over your hands
- Look for a tense area in the body, close your eyes and take three breaths into that area. This sends a message to the body to let go of the tension.
Step #2 - Exhale Big
Respiration is the only system in the body that is both voluntary and involuntary. You can control your breath or you can just keep breathing without thought. Focusing on the breath or taking big exhalations, enacts the rest and digest state of your body and calms down the release of all the stress hormones that imbalance your body. When you feel overwhelmed, pour yourself a cup of fragrant tea and take TEN long even breaths.
Step # 3 Touch your lips
When our body’s register that we are about to eat or digest food we can’t possibly be in a situation that would require our fight or flight system. Therefore, by touching the lips our body’s think that we are eating and shifts to the rest and digest state of being.
Step # 4 Mindfulness of the Body
Hot Yoga improves your body chemistry by lowering cortisol, the stress hormone. If you stay stressed out, you're working against you body's natural desire to stay lean and healthy. Chronic stress leads to higher insulin levels, around-the-clock appetite, drop in the brain chemical serotonin, thinning skin and muscle wasting. Hot Yoga helps bring your attention inward, which activates certain networks of the Parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest state). The endorphins released, the extra circulation, the focus on the breath while moving, all help slow down the hormones released by stress. To start, pick a beginner friendly, 45-60 minutes class that focuses on proper alignment. Practicing Hot Yoga a few times a week at varied intensities will get your body from stuck to vibrant!
Step # 5 Rethink Meditation
Meditation is often the best way to relax and sometimes the most difficult one to start when our minds are busy. However, meditation is NOT wiping your mind blank, it's about catching the thoughts as they occur. Meditation activates the Parasympathetic nervous system through several different avenues by relaxing, bringing awareness inwards, focusing on the breath,and drawing attention away from stressful stimulus. The trick to this is to just do it. You do not have to be able to do it for hours or even 30 minutes. Start small then build up.
How to start a Meditation practice
Find a quiet place and a comfortable position to sit in. You can sit with your hips to your heals or legs crossed. The point is to be comfortable and alert so the mind is less distracted. This could mean even just sitting in a chair.
Start off small maybe just 3-5 minutes in the beginning. 3-5 minutes can have a profound effect if done consistently. Consistency is the key.
Create an anchor to come back to. For example, as you inhale count to 4 and as you exhale count down from 4.
When the mind wanders and you notice yourself caught up in thoughts and stories, just come back to your anchor and start again. This is where the work really is. It is not about having a perfectly still mind for the whole time; it is about becoming aware of your thoughts, noticing when you've wound into them and refocusing the mind again when you do.