How often do you feel stressed throughout the week? Are you aware that you are stressed out? What are your ways of coping with stress?
It turns out that we, as a culture, are more stressed than we realize. We have been operating at such a high stress level for so long that it feels normal to be fried at the end of the day. It feels like the best way to wind down is to binge watch Netflix, and/or have a couple drinks to wind down. Common coping mechanisms include watching copious amounts of television, drinking, eating, and scrolling through social media. Does this sound familiar? We may not even be aware that we are that these are coping mechanisms for stress, but, unfortunately, these are not the healthiest ways to deal with stress. Screen time and alcohol do not allow the brain to rest, or the body to relax. In fact, depending on what we are watching, we can actually increase our stress levels. Our brains need time to rest and reset, and our body needs breath, deep breaths.
Stress is a silent, but dangerous risk factor. Recent studies have shown that stress increases the risk of many chronic disease. The tricky thing is that our daily lives are packed so full, that it is hard to find time to take care of ourselves. The good news is — a little self-care goes a long way. You do not need to find two extra hours in you day to start feeling better and taking care of yourself. Here are three things to do when the stress is high and you need relief:
Breathe – In any moment our breath is there for us. When you are feeling a bit out of control of your thoughts and emotions, instead of jumping on Facebook to fill the space of chaos, take five deep breaths. Most of us are usually breathing with short shallow breaths from the upper part of the lungs. This type of breathing tells your brain to stay in fight or flight mode. We can easily transfer the body into a rest and digest mode by inhaling and expanding the belly, then slowly exhaling and bringing the belly in. This relaxed kind of breathing brings clarity to the mind and relaxation to the body. Our breath is our best tool!
Meditation – Sit quietly, focus on your breath and let thoughts come and go. Don’t worry about not thinking, but just allow yourself to have time to slow down and observe. Set a timer on your phone to sit for five minutes. Try to find a space that is calming to you. There is exciting research showing the many healthy benefits of taking five minutes out of our day to meditate.
Gratitude – Think of five things for which you are grateful. Our brains are hardwired to look for the lack that is around us. If we can bring our thoughts to gratitude we start to realize that we live in an abundant world and we have everything that we need. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed and spiral into a black hole of negative thoughts. I bring myself back by thinking about someone that I am grateful for. I picture them in front of me and send them a hug. Dr. Sood suggests to start your day with gratitude by thinking about five people that you are grateful for. This practice will have lasting effects on your positive mindset for up to six hours into your day. Check out this link to Dr. Sood’s guided meditation: Morning Gratitude with Dr. Sood
By Lyndsey Medina CPT, Stress Resiliency Coach