Finding your zen and relieving stress this February
Stress is a cornerstone of our lives that we’d all be better off without. But while it’s impossible to delete stress from your life entirely there are steps you could and should be taking to mitigate the stresses in your life and live a calmer and happier existence.
Regardless of what causes your stress (be it the morning commute or something more serious) the symptoms of stress are uniform – a pounding heart, tense muscles, feelings of anxiety and general hopelessness. This “fight or flight” response can work in our favour occasionally but, more often than not, it perpetuates negative feelings.
Here are a few relaxation techniques to get you started.
Focus on your breathing
There’s a reason why so much meditation is based on how you breathe. Taking long, slow, and deep breaths can help you to detach from your mind’s worries and focus on the here and now. It’s a particularly helpful technique for those who struggle to fall asleep at night and can also help those with eating disorders to focus on their bodies positively.
Drink more water
Cortisol is commonly known as the “stress hormone” and when your body is in even a slightly dehydrated state your cortisol levels can increase dramatically. Not only that but all of our organs rely on water to work properly so if we’re not giving them enough, it can put added stress on our bodies in general. Dehydration is a burden you shouldn’t need to deal with so ensure you’re drinking at least 8 large glasses of clean filtered water every day. A good tip is to start and end each day with one. Then you’re already a quarter of the way there!
Try guided imagery
This refers to the concept of conjuring up ideas and locations that you find soothing or experiences from your past that are comforting in some way. Loads of free apps can guide you through the process but if you suffer from intrusive thoughts or have a limited imagination this technique might be a little tricky for you.
This might seem counter-productive in theory given that exercise is engineered to make our hearts race and get out blood pumping but the endorphins generated from exercise will calm you down in the long run. Exercise also increases your awareness of the intricate connection between your mind and your body, which is always helpful when trying to quell stressful thoughts.
Give yourself time and space
The most important aspect of relaxation is giving yourself the time to do it. Everyone has a different happy place. For some, reading a book by the fire or going on a bike ride in the country might be the epitome of relaxation but that could sound exhausting to somebody else. Figure out what it is that settles your heart and soothes your mind and put some time aside every day to do it. Just before bed is often the best time for this, as the day is already over and we’re preparing to sleep.