Stress Awareness Month - Practical Ways to De-Stress
“Don’t worry, be happy!” - Bobby McFerrin, Simple Pleasures album 1988
We live in a world that is wired to worry. We’ve been programmed to worry about the food we eat, the clothes we wear, our jobs, relationships and on and on. All of this worrying puts our minds through mental gymnastics while exhausting our bodies. As we place additional emphasis on, and give concern to, these areas of our lives we create stress.
Stress is characterized by pressure and tension and, while never comfortable, can be beneficial when expressed correctly. When we need to meet a deadline or get somewhere at a set time we can feel pressure or stress to get things done. This can be a positive form of strength, the “kick in your pants” kind of stress that motivates you to get things done. This is eustress, kind of like euphoria, it can make us feel good as we accomplish a task.
However, there’s always another side to the coin. Many times we don’t consciously lay the stress down once we’ve finished the task. We’ve become so busy, hyper-busy, that we continue to operate in stress and every situation that comes our way becomes a red-button, hot-topic issue. Operating under this pressure day in and day out creates distress. We may begin to feel anxious, consumed with worry, and easily agitated. Our thinking can become clouded and energy decreased, all while our perceived concerns rise.
Society has normalized this state of distress, making it appear as though one is “abnormal” if they’re not stressed. When we’re in the midst of the stress storm we can feel not only hopeless but also helpless. It’s at this time that our desire to regain control of our lives is expressed in activities that further cultivate tension and chaos in ourselves and in our lives at large.
Addictions, in all forms, have a root in feelings of stress. It makes sense, right?! When we’re pressed and feel out of control we seek to find something, or someone, we can control. The amount we drink, drugs we use, food we eat, people we surround ourselves with...these are all ways that we try to cope with and shake off the feelings of stress. Each coping mechanism is destructive, some are just more “socially acceptable” than others.
Since stress is a part of life it’s important to understand how we can channel this energy to make decisions that improve our wellbeing. Because, when applied correctly, stress can help us R.I.S.E. causing us to feel renewed, inspired, strengthened and equipped.
Here are a few practical ways to de-stress and elevate to new levels!
R - Renew - Fill your mind with positive thoughts. What we think and say the most we become. Meditate on and visualize yourself being successful!
→ GOAL: Select a positive word/phrase and repeat it when you feel stress creeping up on you. It may feel funny to say this, even if it’s in your head, and you may not believe it at first, but as you say it you’re rewiring your mind to believe it.
I - Inspire - Be creative! Whether that’s playing an instrument, singing/lip singing, writing/journaling, drawing (or coloring #teamnoshame) or cooking/baking, being able to express yourself, in your own unique way, allows you to activate your passion while finding peace.
→ GOAL: Allow yourself time to indulge in the activities that set your soul on fire. Enjoy an afternoon/evening being creative each week.(*this is part of self-care, this is not being indulgent or selfish, you’re important and deserve it!)
S - Strengthen - Move your body! As little as 10 minutes of activity can help improve memory and boost your mood.
→ GOAL: Take a walk break during the day or start working out, no amount is too small!
E - Equip - Regardless of where you are or the resources you have available at the moment, you have the ability to reduce stress by pausing and becoming mindful of your breath. In doing so, you reset your body and clear your mind.
→ GOAL: Practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique periodically throughout the day. Here’s how it works: With your mouth closed, quietly inhale through your nose while silently counting to 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Exhale completely through your mouth for a count of 8.
*Reach Your Goals: Select an area to work on (renew, inspire, strengthen, equip) and mindfully practice it throughout the week. Once you’ve mastered one area consider incorporating another. Pretty soon you’ll be ready to RISE!