Stress is a fact of life, but being stressed out is not. We don’t always have control over what happens to us, that doesn’t mean we have to react to a difficult, challenging situation by becoming frazzled or feeling overwhelmed or distraught. Being overly anxious is not just a mental hazard; it’s a physical one too. The more stressed out we are the more vulnerable we are to colds, flu, and a host of chronic or life-threatening illnesses. And the less open we are to the beauty and pleasure of life.
1. Breathe Easily “Breathing from your diaphragm oxygenates your blood, which helps you relax almost instantly. Shallow chest breathing, by contrast, can cause your heart to beat faster and your muscles to tense up, exacerbating feelings of stress. To breathe deeply, begin by putting your hand on your abdomen just below the navel. Inhale slowly through your nose and watch your hand move out as your belly expands. Hold the breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly. Repeat several times.
2. Visualize Calm. Picture an experience or a place that makes you happy, It sounds New Age-y, but at least one study, done at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, h. When you feel stress, close your eyes, take a deep breath and go to your happy place and spend a few seconds picturing a relaxing scene, such as walking in a meadow, kneeling by a brook, or lying on the beach. Focus on the details — the sights, the sounds, the smells.
3. Make Time for a Mini Self-Massage. Massaging the palm of one hand by making a circular motion with the thumb of the other. Or use a massage gadget.
4. Try a cup of tea. Chamomile tea is a great relaxer. Close your eyes, go to your happy place and sip your tea.
5. Just smile. Smiling transmits nerve impulses from the facial muscles to the limbic system, a key emotional center in the brain, tilting the neurochemical balance toward calm. Go ahead and grin. Don’t you feel better already?
6. Count 10 things in your life that you are thankful for. Those are the gifts in life that keep on giving.
7. Stop Gritting Your Teeth Stress tends to settle in certain parts of our bodies, the jaw being one of them. When things get hectic, try this tip place your index fingertips on your jaw joints, just in front of your ears; clench your teeth and inhale deeply. Hold the breath for a moment, and as you exhale say, “Ah-h-h-h,” then unclench your teeth. Repeat a few times.
8. Compose a Mantra Devise an affirmation — a short, clear, positive statement that focuses on your coping abilities. Affirmations are a good way to silence the self-critical voice we all carry with us that only adds to our stress, the next time you feel as if your life is one disaster after another, repeat 10 times, “I feel calm. I can handle this.”
9. Check Your Chi Qigong (pronounced chee-gong) is a 5,000-year-old Chinese practice designed to promote the flow of chi, the vital life force that flows throughout the body, regulating its functions. Qigong master Ching-Tse Lee, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Brooklyn College in New York, recommends this calming exercise: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and parallel. Bend your knees to a quarter-squat position (about 45 degrees) while keeping your upper body straight. Observe your breathing for a couple of breaths. Inhale and bring your arms slowly up in front of you to shoulder height with your elbows slightly bent. Exhale, stretching your arms straight out. Inhale again, bend your elbows slightly and drop your arms down slowly until your thumbs touch the sides of your legs. Exhale one more time, then stand up straight.
10. Be a fighter, not a victim. The trouble is, feeling like a victim only increases feelings of stress and helplessness. Instead, focus on being proactive. If your flight gets canceled, don’t wallow in self-pity. Find another one. If your office is too hot or too cold, don’t suffer in silence. Call the building manager and ask what can be done to make things more comfortable.
11. Put It on Paper Writing provides perspective, divide a piece of paper into two parts. On the left side, list the stressors you may be able to change, and on the right, list the ones you can’t. Change what you can and stop fretting over what you can’t.
12. Count to 10 before you say or do something you’ll regret, step away from the stressor and collect yourself. You can also look away for a moment or put the caller on hold. Use your time-out to take a few deep breaths, stretch, or recite an affirmation.
13. Just Say No Trying to do everything is a one-way ticket to serious stress. Be clear about your limits, and stop trying to please everyone all the time.
14. Take a Whiff of Oils. Anise, basil, bay, chamomile, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, rose, and thyme are all soothing, Place a few pieces of rock salt in a small vial, then add a couple of drops of the oil of your choice (the rock salt absorbs the oil and is much less risky to carry around in your purse than a bottle of oil). Open the vial and breathe in the scent whenever you need a quick stress release. Look for the oils in your local health food store.
15.Warm Up. Rub your hands together vigorously until they feel warm. Then cup them over your closed eyes for five seconds while you breathe deeply. The warmth and darkness are comforting.
16. Say Yes to Pressure Acupressure. Accupressure stimulates the same points as acupuncture, but with fingers instead of needles. Start with your Third Eye, located between the eyebrows, in the indentation where the bridge of the nose meets the forehead, with your fingers press firmly in this area. The Heavenly Pillar, on the back of the neck slightly below the base of the skull, about half an inch to the left or right of the spine. The Heavenly Rejuvenation, half an inch below the top of each shoulder, midway between the base of the neck and the outside of the shoulder blade.Breathe deeply and apply firm, steady pressure on each point for two to three minutes. The pressure should cause a mild aching sensation, but not pain.
18. Shake it up. This quick exercise helps loosen the muscles in your neck and upper back. Stand or sit, stretch your arms out from your sides and shake your hands vigorously for about 10 seconds. Combine this with a little deep breathing. and you’ll do yourself twice as much good.
19. Eat a feel good food.Foods that are high in carbohydrates stimulate the release of serotonin, feel-good brain chemicals that help induce calm, crackers, pretzels, or a bagel should do the trick.
20. Identify it and let it go. Each of us has uniquely individual stress signals — neck or shoulder pain, shallow breathing, stammering, teeth gritting, queasiness, loss of temper. Learn to identify yours, then say out loud, “I’m feeling stressed,” when they crop up, and set it free visualize this stress leaving your body and drifting away like a series of helium filled balloons released into the sky.
22. Stare in to space. Look out the window and find something natural that captures your imagination. Watch the clouds as they pass overhead.
23. Go for a walk. It forces you to breathe more deeply and improves circulation. Step outside if you can; if that’s not possible, you can gain many of the same benefits simply by walking to the bathroom or water cooler, or by pacing back and forth.
24. Take a bath. When I have the time, nothing is more stress relieving for me than a hot bath. But when I don’t have time, I do the next-best thing: I wash my face or even just my hands and arms with hot water. The key is to imagine that I’m taking a hot bath. It’s basically a visualization exercise, but the hot water makes it feel real.
25. Whistle. Whistling makes everybody happy. Even if you can’t whistle, hum it will change your mood.
26. Listen to music, especially classical music, studies have shown that music can do everything from slow heart rate to increase endorphins. Good bets: Bach’s “Air on the G-String,” Beethoven’s Pastorale symphony, Chopin’s Nocturne in G, Handel’s Water Music.
27. Practice Mindfulness Heighten your awareness of the moment by focusing intently on an object. Notice a pencil’s shape, color, weight and feel. Or slowly savor a raisin or a piece of chocolate. Mindfulness leads to relaxation.
28. Call a friend. Sharing your troubles can give you perspective, help you feel cared for and relieve your burden.
29. Stretch. Muscles tighten during the course of the day, and when we feel stressed out, the process accelerates. Stretching loosens muscles and encourages deep breathing. One of the greatest stress-relieving stretches is a yoga position called the child pose, which stretches the back muscles. On a rug or mat, kneel, sit back on your heels, then lean forward and put your forehead on the floor and your arms alongside your legs, palms up. Hold for one to three minutes.
30. Say a prayer or meditate. Studies show that compared with those who profess no faith, religious and spiritual people are calmer and healthier.