The effect of stress cannot be ignored – especially if you want to live well. Unmanaged stress and a healthy body simply cannot coexist. I personally know this to be true because I have suffered from the ravages of uncontrolled stress for the past year.
Over the last twelve months, I’ve battled insomnia, digestive upset, irregular bowels, heart palpitations, elevated blood pressure, eczema, joint pain, breast pain, weight gain, and headaches. I’ve seen several different doctors (and spent lots of money) and thankfully all test results were normal. It wasn’t until a close friend asked if my numerous symptoms could be stress related, that I actually started to look at my problem from a holistic viewpoint.
I started looking at the things that trigger my stress. The main culprits were work and over commitment. I didn’t want to medicate myself, so I chose an alternative approach which focused on changing my mindset. This was my starting point because I knew that changing my perspective would ultimately change my body’s response to the stressful situations I was experiencing. Improvements didn’t happen overnight, but I can definitely see how I am becoming more grounded and less reactive every day. Here are 3 simple daily practices that help me diffuse stress and may just help you too!
- change your viewpoint
If you’re in a stressful situation – at home, at work or in public, simply remove yourself from the physical space. If you’re at work, go to the break room for a drink of water or take a five minute break outside and snap a few nature/landscape photos with your cell phone. If you’re at home, retreat to another room or walk around your yard/neighborhood with your camera and capture the first plant that grabs your attention. Engaging in something creative (like taking pictures) has been shown to boost mood – just 5 minutes works wonders to reduce stress!
- focus your breath
The next time you’re feeling stressed, pay attention to your breath. Are you breathing rapidly or holding your breath? Take a few moments to focus mindfully on your breath, then inhale/exhale slowly and deeply (in and out) for 30 seconds to 1 minute. If thoughts of the stressful situation steals your attention, simply return to your breath. You should calmer after a few cycles of intentional breathing. I always do.
- frame the moment
Playing stressful situations over and over in our heads only amps up our stress levels. Constantly rehearsing what we should have said at the moment or worrying about what could happen in response to the situation does us no good. A better approach is to frame your thoughts around the present moment. Notice the smells in your space, look at the colors around you, feel your feet planted on the ground or your hips settled in your chair. That’s it. Don’t clutter your mind with thoughts of the past or the present. Only focus on what is now.
Here’s to less stress and more joy!
peace and zen,