I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it seems that these days, expectations are soaring. People are so used to getting what they want instantaneously that frustrations are quick to develop when that need isn’t met.
We live in a society of overstimulation and instant gratification. The effects of this can have us operating at such high levels of stress, we begin to experience it as the norm. The mind and body begin to forget how to relax, leaving us in constant fight or flight mode – on high alert. In this ‘always on’ state of mind, we can end up living in a projected future, worrying about things that we need to achieve or living in the past dwelling on things we cannot change. We lose focus and our minds become so fragmented that we cannot focus on one thing at a time. The idea of living in the now – what we used to do as children, becomes a distant memory.
This state of mind brings a constant underlying level of stress which can begin to manifest in the body. Symptoms such as insomnia, emotional instability, lack of patience, poor communication, troubled relationships, accumulated tension in the body and stress related illness become regular visitors to our everyday lives. It is only when we get to breaking point that we notice and are compelled to take action.
4 Simple ways to de-stress
Fortunately you have the power to change your stress levels and the process can be a lot easier than you think. Below are some simple stress relief techniques that I use:
1. Learn to breathe properly
We all have breath patterns whether we know it or not. Some of these are common such as, holding the breath when frightened or breathing faster when you’re anxious or agitated. How you breathe not only affects your mind, but your body as well. When you take the time to breathe fully and consciously, making proper use of the diaphragm, you create calmness in the mind and health in the body. Extending your exhales and making them twice as long as the inhales is an instant calming practice that you can do anytime, anywhere.
2. Exercise regularly
A regular yoga class would be great because it takes your body through its full range of motion (and I don’t mean the type that you go to purely for a physical workout and adrenaline high!) One that allows you to really tune in to your body and mind, making minor adjustments to promote tension release would be beneficial. But of course I’m biased 🙂 Regular exercise can be as simple as going for a short brisk walk a few times a week or even every other day. Exercise releases endorphins which can help to elevate mood. If done mindfully, it can also help to relieve tension trapped in the body from poor postural habits.
3. Do something for yourself
How often have you felt so depleted that you feel you just have nothing more to give? We spend a lot of time giving of ourselves to others and we often neglect to nourish ourselves in the process. Take the time to do something for yourself regularly that gives you real pleasure. It’s your way of showing yourself some love. If you think that sounds weird, try this exercise, close your eyes and bring to mind an experience you had that you really enjoyed. Really let yourself feel and remember it as though you were re-living it in this moment. Now take a moment to notice where you feel that experience in your body. Do you get a warm glow in your chest?
4. Live in the moment
These days this is called mindfulness. It can be as simple as focusing on one thing at a time rather than many. If you’re having a conversation with someone, you could try giving that person your full attention and seeing what you notice. Or it could be as simple as drinking your coffee and savouring every mouthful.
Why is it so important to take time out for yourself?
When you take time to nourish and take care of yourself, you really reap the benefits on so many levels. For some, the effects are immediate, but if that is not your personal experience, be patient. Over time, you may begin to notice small changes that can help you to:
- Gain perspective on life and your immediate situation
- Cope better with feelings of anxiety, frustration, irritability and inadequacy
- Learn to develop patience by letting go of negative feelings and emotions
- Build better relationships through improved communication
- Activate the parasympathetic nervous system, relaxing and restoring the body, mind and spirit
- Sleep better
- Elevate and stabilise mood
- Manage pain better
- Have better life experiences
My personal experience
The other day I caught myself trying to do six things at once, not because I planned to, but because every time I started one thing, I’d remember that I had a million other things that needed to be done. My heart rate increased, my body became tense, I started to worry about not getting things done and everything became a race against time. Needless to say, my stress levels went through the roof and I was in the midst of six things that had been half done. So how did I cope? I stopped and began to breathe deeply. I let go of everything I thought was urgent. My body relaxed, my mind was spacious, my heart rate normalised. More importantly, I realised how fragmented my mind had become and was able to redirect my focus to one thing rather than six. Needless to say, when I returned I achieved all six things with hardly any effort or time at all.
Next time you feel your stress levels rising, remember the importance of taking time for yourself before you reach breaking point. Focus on your breath, be mindful, live in the moment and notice the great things around you that you don’t normally see. Do something that makes your heart sing. If you have a couple of hours free, why not treat yourself and join me on Sunday 10 November 2019 11am–1pm for a relax and revive experience.