On a scale from 1-10, how relaxed do you feel? We have more distractions than ever between keeping up with work priorities, raising a family, starting passion projects and still managing to find time to keep up on the latest episode of Westworld. It’s no wonder we’re feeling anxious, disconnected and stressed out trying to manage our life. But it’s easier to slow down, get centered and be happy than you’d think. This list is to help you take easy, actionable steps toward a more stress free lifestyle.
1. DO SOMEONE A FAVOR
Volunteering can help reduce blood pressure, according to a study by Carnegie Melon University. A quick task like grabbing coffee for someone having a bad day helps you feel connected to others, which aids in recovering from stress.
2. HIDE YOUR PHONE
The bells, ringers and chimes from our cell phones have us on alert overload. Researchers from a recent study at MIT are finding it can take your brain 15-20 minutes to get back to where it was after stopping to check an email. Try setting your phone to airplane mode during the day to increase your productivity so you don’t have to work at home later.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in most of the world’s major religions but the ritual has gained steam recently after heaps of research illustrating the benefits like stress reduction and lowered blood pressure. A major review from John Hopkins University showed that meditation might be just as effective as antidepressants for treating anxiety symptoms. Try closing your eyes and counting your breaths for five minutes each morning.
4. TAKE A BREAK BEFORE LUNCH
Taking a daily 10-minute walk before your lunch break can help you take a mini-vacation from your workday. The only rule is not to think about work while you’re gone. Listen to a podcast, chat with a friend (not about work though) or fantasize about your next vacation while soaking in some extra vitamin D.
5. THE TWO HOUR RULE
Help calm your mind before bed to increase your quality of sleep by following the two hour rule. Two hours before bed time digitally disconnect by putting your phone away, avoid high-intensity shows like Law and Order or watching politics which can increase adrenaline and avoid caffeine and sugary foods which can stimulate your brain and lead to a restless night of sleep. Try drinking chamomile tea, massaging lavender essential oil into your hands and neck and reading before bed to de-stress.
6. BREATHE DEEP
The research is in and a potent source of stress relief is connected to breathing. Some surprising benefits of deep breathing include happier mood, deeper sleep, less anxiety, healthier heart and better air intake. The next time you feel overwhelmed or angry try a breathing technique to chill out. Inhale through your nose for 10 seconds (or until your lungs feel full) and exhale out of your mouth for 10 seconds, counting one to ten as you take and release each breath. Repeat three to five times, or until you feel calmer.
7. TAKE THE LONG WAY
Walking in nature is a mega stress reducer. One Japanese study found a link between chemicals released by trees, called phytoncides, which lowered levels of stress hormones. Try walking around your neighborhood before your commute or taking the longer route to catch the train in the morning (but don’t make yourself late and stressed out).
8. PULL YOUR EARS
Steve Kravitz, a physical therapist from Nashville found an easy relaxation technique you can do anytime, anywhere. “Hold your ears midway down with two fingers, in line with your ear canal. Gently pull both at a 45-degree angle away from your head and hold for 60 seconds. This calms the nerves that surround the central nervous system.”
9. TURN OFF PHONE NOTIFICATIONS
Ask yourself, do you have to be in the know 24/7? Probably not. A British study of office workers found heart rates and blood pressure increased when emails were received and sent. Take back your life by turning off social media and email notifications on your phone so you can connect when you want to. Will the world end if you don’t read every response to your FB post in real time? Spoiler alert: It won’t. And you’ll feel more at peace as a result.
10. PRACTICE GRATITUDE
If all of our thoughts are energetic frequencies, then gratitude is the highest you can operate at. It’s even higher than love. Starting a gratitude journal or checking off the people, things and experiences you’re grateful for can help you attract more of those things into your life. It’s simply law of attraction physics. Try practicing gratitude an exercise to help you to fall asleep or while on your commute.
11. DEVELOP A MORNING ROUTINE
Daily habits, such as spending 20 minutes reading the newspaper, journaling or making coffee (my preferred habit) can help put you in a better frame of mind for your day. Words of wisdom: don’t try to follow anyone else’s routine. It’s important to understand yourself and figure out which habits work best for you. What daily habits or rituals do you practice to set yourself up for success?
Journaling can help you purge negative thoughts from your system. It’s an easy way to help you express yourself without judgment and release pent up feelings or emotions so they don’t stay bottled inside. The next time you feel agitated, try writing about it.
13. GET GOING
It’s old news that exercising makes you happy and fit. But even if that’s true, why do we struggle to get out there and move around? Building in small activities throughout your day can help you get moving on days you don’t have time or aren’t feeling like going to yoga or getting to the gym. Try taking the stairs, parking further away, walking to lunch or to your coffee break or using your mini-breaks to go outside instead of patrol instagram. Maybe take deep breaths and think about what your thankful for if you want to get really wild.
14. GO OUT WITH FRIENDS
Laughing is great soul food and our friends are usually the best people to help us let loose and enjoy ourselves. Social time is important to help us de-stress, as long as the conversation steers clear of anxiety-producing hot topics like work or politics. If it’s been awhile since you caught up with an old friend, try scheduling a dinner date or phone call this week.
15. CLEAN HOUSE
De-cluttering is an instant stress reliever. Walking into a tidy home, closet or office helps us to feel less cluttered or chaotic and more relaxed as we move through our day. A de-cluttered space can effect how we feel inside. Try tidying a junk drawer, a room in your house or your closet.
16. GET LUCKY
Sex has an instant grounding effect and can help you feel more connected not only to your partner but also to your body, helping you stay present instead rather than going from activity to activity on autopilot. Make some extra time to get intimate with your partner today.
17. GET A BABYSITTER
Give yourself a break and create time to connect with your partner. Regular date nights are great activities to de-stress and unwind together without distractions from your kids or family life. Has it been awhile since you’ve gone out with your partner? Make reservations at your favorite restaurant and hire a babysitter for the night. You’ll thank yourself later.
18. DO A DIGITAL SABBATH
Digitally detox one day a week. That means turning your phone and computer off for 24 hours. Going offline throughout the week can be anxiety producing but less so on the weekend. If you’re expected to be available 24/7, even on the weekends, try setting up an out of office reply that lets people know you’ll reply soon but you’re unplugged at the moment, connecting with people and the world around you. You may start a new trend and help your community unplug, too!
19. TRY PHONE STACKING
Ever been out to dinner and everyone at the table is on their phone? I’ll admit I’ve been guilty of it but meals don’t have to be that way. Phone stacking is where everyone places their phone in a stack on the table. The first person to pick up their phone has to pay for the bill or do the dishes. The next time you notice everyone at your table peering at their phone, enact the phone stacking rule.
20. DO ONE THING AT A TIME
We live in a society where multi-tasking is a sought after skill. But studies have shown that we’re more over loaded than ever and productivity levels have plummeted. A simple way to reduce your stress right now is to focus as much as possible on doing one thing at a time. Clear your desk. Pick one thing to work on and do only that.
21. SET INTENTIONS
Taking time to ask yourself why you’re doing specific activities can help bring meaning to seemingly mundane tasks. When you create an intention, or give purpose to an activity, thought or experience, you create a deeper connection to your life and find more happiness in your moment-to-moment experiences.
22. EAT RIGHT
There’s a reason we feel like we need a nap after lunch or the 3 o’clock fro-yo break. Eating healthy can increase brain function and give us more energy to combat the day. Instead of a sugar filled dessert, try foods with naturally occurring sugar like fruit or honey.
23. SLEEP IN
It’s no secret getting enough sleep helps us be more productive and creative in our day. Are you getting 8 hours of sleep? Apple’s iPhone has a new bedtime function that allows you to set a reminder for bedtime. Setting a bedtime brings perspective to late-night binge watching and forces you to decide if another episode of Orange is the New Black is as important as a feeling well rested tomorrow.
24. PLAY HOOKY
Take a day off and go to the spa. The time spent decompressing and recharging will help you feel more connected and productive in the days following your relaxing retreat. You deserve a break! Treat yourself.
25. GET REGULAR ENERGY CHECKUPS
Are you happy? Do you feel connected to the people in your life and the activities that make up your day? If not, there’s a good change your internal energy centers, or chakras, are not balanced. Regular energy checkups to balance dis-eased chakras can help you release emotional stress and create a better work-life balance. Contact an energy healing professional, me or someone you already work with, to help you slow down, get present, and de-stress.
The key to knowing when to make shifts in your life lies in your awareness of how good you feel. You’ll know you’re doing just fine if you feel just fine. If you don’t feel so great, try some of the exercises from the list above. Remember to focus on one thing at a time to increase your chances of success.
Begin your de-stressing ritual now. Cleanse, purge, start a new daily routine to start noticing positive shifts in your daily life.