Written by Aleksandra Slijepcevic
According to The American Institute of Stress, finding one single definition of stress is difficult, since everyone experiences it in their own way.
We can reference the age-old Epictetus quote that says, “people are disturbed not by a thing, but by their perception of a thing.” If we subscribe to this ideology, we can see how the statistics for stress are on the rise, with the latest numbers averaging 70% of the United States population experiencing symptoms of stress. Not only that, but these symptoms have turned to physical manifestations in the body in the form of disease, as well as mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
In our fast-paced world, finding stress is easy. With too much going on, and too many tasks to handle, stress is the simple by-product of having too much on our plate, with not enough hours in the day.
The leading causes of stress have become work/career, money, and the future of the world (whether politically or socially within local communities). Stress at work has become the unfortunate driving force, with an estimated 80% of workers reporting a stressful work environment.
When we’re feeling stressed, there are a number of physiological changes that our body undergoes: headaches, fatigue, aches, pains, digestion problems, insomnia, increased blood pressure, clenching of jaw, tightness in the muscles, and many more. Likewise, we develop emotional and mental symptoms, as well, such as agitation, low energy, racing thoughts, anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.
Thankfully, with a plethora of external research on the subject, stress management has become a priority in balancing work, life, and anything in-between. Major global economies, corporations, and organizations have shifted their approach to how we view stress, therefore creating more holistic work-life environments that aid in stress relief.
So how can you relieve stress with a few simple techniques?
1. Find Time to Exercise During Your Day
Exercising doesn’t have to take up hours of your time. We may not all be able to make it out to the gym or to a class for a couple of hours every day, but finding moments in your day in which to prioritize movement is a great way to begin the habit.
Write in a time on your calendar to take a cardio class at your local gym at least once per week, and commit to that time. Drive straight from work if you have to, therefore eliminating the temptation to stay home.
Take a walk during your lunch hour, instead of just working through lunch. Set up alarms and reminders on your phone to keep you accountable.
2. Stay Hydrated with Healthy Fluids
We may need a couple of cups of coffee to get us started in the morning, but that addiction has its ups and downs. Did you know that large amounts of coffee during the day elevate your cortisol levels, much in the same way that stress does?
Choosing to cut your day’s fluids with water, herbal tea, or sugar-free smoothies or juices is a good way of balancing the energy you get from food.
3. Leave Your Work at Work
So often, we take our projects and tasks home with us after a long day’s work. When those to-do lists cross the threshold of our home, we begin to lose the boundaries between being an employee and being a human being with a family, friends, and a social life.
Keeping those boundaries clear, and leaving work at work is a key technique in being able to enjoy the rest of your day, every day, to do the things that bring you joy, thereby reducing stress and leaving it at the door.
4. Make Time for Fun
Whether it’s going out with friends to a movie once per month, or catching a game or a concert, having fun is something we often put off on the back burner.
How many times have you run into an old friend and suggested you meet up, and then never follow through? We’re all guilty of it.
Life gets in the way; but just like we can plan our entire work day, we can also plan time for unwinding and enjoying the simpler things.
Meditation is a fast-growing practice, and for right reason. Not only does it lower cortisol levels, which feed stress; it also promotes deep relaxation and rest.
You can meditate in the morning before your day begins, to set the tone for how you’d like to approach your day’s tasks; or you can meditate at night before bed, to ease your way into a restful sleep and detach from the day’s events.
No matter when you decide to practice, initiating it is the first step. If finding and going to a local meditation class isn’t accessible for you, tune into the many free guided meditation apps on your phone, such as Insight Timer, Headspace, or Calm.
6. Carve out Time for Self-Care
This could be your perfect time to treat yourself. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive nor complex. It could be something as simple as taking a nice bubble bath at the end of a long day, or treating yourself to a picnic during the weekend. As long as it’s making time for yourself, it’s self-care!
Self-care not only alleviates stress, but also puts you back into the present moment, where you can enjoy the day and yourself without chasing future thoughts.
7. Consider Supplements
Even though most of our vitamins and minerals are derived from food, sometimes we need additional supplements to fill in the gaps.
Vitamin C and D are high in increasing our energy, especially in the colder months where the sunshine is low and citrus fruit is not always readily available.
Likewise, Omega-3 fatty acids that you would get from seafood and avocado have been proven to reduce anxiety by up to 20%, and they’re very healthy for your immune system and digestion.
8. Diffuse Essential Oils
Our olfactory system – our sense of smell – plays a key role in how we can relieve stress. Think back on your favorite smell and how you feel when you notice it. There’s often a sense of immediate relaxation, as if tension is simply falling away.
Essential oils have long been used in aromatherapy to do just that, and these days, purchasing essential oils and diffusing them at home, in your office, or even in the car has never been easier.
Some popular scents that have proven to relieve stress and anxiety are lavender, sandalwood, jasmine, lemongrass, and rose, among others.
Aside from diffusing, consider topical applications on the inside of your wrists, temples, and soles of the feet, for a long-lasting, all-day effect.
9. Keep a Journal
Another proven tactic for eliminating stress is to begin a journaling practice. Begin each morning by opening up your journal and doing a Thought Dump. This involves writing down anything that may be on your mind, whether it’s from the night before, or a thought that you woke up with. It’s also helpful to write down any dreams that you may remember.
The idea behind this practice is that once you dump out any thoughts that you may have, you’re clearer to prioritize your day. It’s almost as if you’re creating a new blank slate.
Additionally, writing down your thoughts allows you to process and analyze them from a detached perspective, without them festering and turning into stressful recollections later.
With as much as we’re juggling in our everyday routines, stress is the unfortunate stalker lurking in close shadows.
We can give in to the stressful habits and patterns that keep us locked in physical and mental pain; or we can redirect our habits into something more productive, therapeutic, and healing.
Thankfully, with the resources and techniques at our disposal, those habits are much easier to implement than we think.
About the Author:
Aleksandra Slijepcevic is an accredited and certified Vinyasa Yoga teacher, known for her authenticity, humor, and real-life approach to the body-mind-spirit connection in what she’s coined as “YogaSouhl.”
She is a Croatia native living in the United States since 1998, where she graduated from Towson University with a Master’s Degree in Professional Writing, before obtaining her yoga certification under the tutelage of One-Yoga’s Susan Smith.
Since 2015, she has contributed content to a number of platforms, including Elephant Journal, Elite Daily, and Sivana Spirit, on the topics of yoga in the real world, as well as spirituality and self-development in the age of anxiety and depression. She regularly contributes to Lifehack, and is the founder of a free online publication for eager creatives, Souhl. She is the host of a number of meditation sessions on Insight Timer, and she teaches regular classes in brick-and-mortar studios around the world. Check out Aleksandra’s schedule to catch her in a studio near you!
To learn more about Aleksandra and follow her classes, please visit her website.
*The post appeared first on Lifehack.