Cool as a Cucumber. Relaxation Methods for Whenever Life is Too Hectic
Life in the 21st century was nerve wracking long before a global pandemic gripped the planet. As we learn more about the importance of mental health one should never feel self-conscious about their need for help, especially in this past year. Unfortunately, many mental health resources are still too expensive for people to access, and many people still feel unsure or even ashamed of seeking the help they need. If you’re looking for techniques to reduce stress without breaking the bank, or want to dip your toe in the world of active relaxation, here are some exercises to add to your daily routine.
Be honest, how much of high school did you spend doodling? We all have a penchant for drawing random shit in notebooks, and there were probably a few of those drawings you thought “huh, that’s pretty good.” Well we can’t speak to your potential art career, but we can confirm that picking back up your drawing hobby can help reduce stress. If you aren't into drawing or painting, consider coloring in a coloring book. Adult coloring books have risen in popularity and for good reason. Coloring can be a great stress reliever.
When you’re illustrating your favorite cartoon character, maybe try setting the mood. Light some candles, put on some slow music, dim the lights. No we aren’t suggesting romance, but stress relief. Using scents to treat your mood is called aromatherapy. Several studies show that aromatherapy can decrease anxiety and improve sleep.
Listening to music can also have a very relaxing effect on the body. Slow-paced instrumental music can induce the relaxation response by helping lower blood pressure and heart rate as well as stress hormones. Some types of classical, Celtic, Native American, and Indian music can be particularly soothing, but simply listening to the music you enjoy is effective too. So next time you take out your color palette, or even when you’re working, light your bergamot candle and put on some whale sounds.
If you want to make more serious commitments to substantial stress reductions then serious change is necessary. One of the keys to long term stress relief and improved mental health is physical activity. Before you groan, there are a ton of different kinds of activities that can reduce your stress. Not all have to be reminiscent of military bootcamp. Running, strength training, kayaking, hiking, swimming, spin class, and even walking are just a few different ways you can get stress relief.
One of the more well-known physical exercises to combat anxiety is Yoga. Yoga can vary widely in difficulty depending on the type you do. Some include intense physical movement, but no matter what type you choose, stress relief is a consistent byproduct. To get started, you might take a class, enroll in an online program, or use an app to help you begin practicing. Two other types of stress relieving exercises that might be less well known than Yoga, but very similar, are Tai Chi and Qigong. If Yoga isn’t for you then maybe give one of those a try.
Another equally obvious and daunting change you can make to reduce stress is improving your diet. You may have tried 11 different diets by now, but don’t let that discourage you. Don’t think about this diet the way you normally would, as a means to change your body, but as a way to reduce stress.
First off, try to avoid caffeine rich foods like coffee, tea, chocolate, or energy drinks. Those can all increase anxiety even when consumed in moderation. Reducing your intake of these foods may be a good first step. If you think you’re able to make further stress reducing changes to your diet try minimizing your intake of refined carbs like cookies and potato chips. These foods can cause a spike in blood sugar. When your blood sugar crashes, you might experience more stress and anxiety. There are also foods that are proven to directly regulate your mood and balance your body’s energy use such as eggs, oysters, and walnuts.
ON THE GO
Building routines may lower our overall stress level, but they can’t prevent every stressful moment. If you’re out of the house and can’t perform one of your usual habits, there are some tactics you can implement almost anywhere.
You can’t do a full HIIT workout in an office building, but you can certainly take a walk. Taking a walk won’t only give you the similar benefits of a more intense exercise, it allows you to enjoy a change of scenery, which can get you into a different frame of mind. You don’t even need to walk to a nearby park. Just taking a walk around the building can help reduce anxiety.
A full 20-minute meditation could prove challenging to complete out and about. You usually need a degree of quiet and calm and that isn’t always possible. Plus if you’re in a busy place, you could feel self-conscious about meditation which certainly doesn’t help. Fortunately, you can break down one of the elements of meditation for your advantage. Just focusing on your breath. Changing the way you breathe can make a big difference to your overall stress level. Breathing techniques can calm your body and your brain in just a few minutes. Plus, no one around you will even know you're doing them.
There is no greater obstacle to doing good work than stress and anxiety. If you’re plagued by this, try implementing one of these techniques to stay productive.