Put this anti-stress routine on your to-do list for a more zen approach to daily life.
Stress is no doubt a leading cause of disease today. In fact, some studies suggest that stress may be the number one cause of illness and is linked to many different (if not all) health problems including anxiety disorders, heart problems, weight gain, diabetes, sleep disorders, and cancer to name a few.
Luckily, there are many ways to counteract stress.
However, it may take time, practice and really mapping it out. Meaning, putting your anti-stress routine on your to do list. Create a calendar if you must. The rewards of doing so may be the figurative “apple” a day to keep the doctor away.
Here are some ideas to get started:
- Wake up 2 hours earlier than you have to get up. Reminder, don’t make this a stressful thing. You can take a week to wake up 15-30 minutes earlier each day so by the end of the week you’ll be more than an hour ahead of the game. This leaves room for a morning routine to include meditation and yoga. You’ll be up to calmly move through your morning routine without the stress of rushing. One of the most common threads that connect many successful CEOs, celebrities and extremely efficient people is that they wake up anywhere from 4am-6am to center themselves, practice mindfulness and exercise. It may be a challenge for the first week, but keep it up and it will make your days less stressful in the long run. Mornings are the best time to set the tone of the day, identify intentions, say some affirmations, and drink some hot tea. Move through your morning with effortless ease.
- Find your perfect form of meditation. There is no one ‘right’ way to meditate. There are walking, talking, and eating meditations. There are meditations on a flower or a candle flame and even cloud- and star-gazing is considered a meditation. If you’ve had a hard time with meditation in the past, it’ s worth it to try them all until you find one that resonates with you. It may be losing oneself painting or playing music. Meditation teachers can also be invaluable guides when beginning a practice. Many companies are offering free online meditation experiences like Oprah and Deepak Chopra's 21-day Meditation Challenge and Deva Premal & Miten’s 21-day Mantra Meditation Journey can be a nice incentive to keep moving forward in your new mindfulness practice. Studies show that when you practice something for 21 days, it is more likely to stick and become a habit.
- Conscious movement. Yoga and Tai chi are great forms of moving meditation that ease stress and anxiety. A combination of breathing in conjunction with movement helps to keep the mind focused on the present moment and on the practice itself (not the list of 10,000 things you think you need to get done). These forms of mindful movements with breath awareness carry through to other aspects of our day.
- Breathe. Of course we all do this naturally, but many are not doing it properly. To get your body used to breathing well, start at your low belly. Lie down and place your hands below your navel and breathe down into your belly filling it up with air to make it rise. Exhale a deep slow breath letting go as much as possible. Do that same deep breath with your hands on your solar plexus, over your heart center, at your collarbone and neck, to your face and then top of the head. Releasing and relaxing even deeper with each breath.
It should look like this:
- Inhale 7 seconds
- Hold for 7 seconds
- Exhale for 7 second
- Hold the breath out for 7 seconds and repeat as many times as feels right (5-10 times perhaps).
- Laugh. Laughter is truly the best medicine – especially for stress. There is a new movement of classes dedicated to getting downright silly called laughter yoga. You can also try a comedy movie marathon. Laugh until your belly muscles hurt and you shed a tear (or two).
- Clean and organize. Where there is clutter...there is stress. Recycle, donate and throw away anything you haven’t used in 6-months to a year. Once you’ve gotten rid of the things you’ve been hoarding, now is the time to do a deep cleaning and organizing of your belongings. Feng shui teaches that a cluttered space leads to a cluttered and restless mind. Get rid of that which does not serve you anymore to make room for that which will.
- Experience gratitude. Become aware of the small nuances that create pleasure in your life. A butterfly landing in your proximity. Tea with a good friend. A gentle breeze on your face. Being grateful for little things makes room for bigger things to come. Oprah Winfrey says that one of the single most important practices in creating her success has been feeling and expressing gratitude.
- Unplug from electronics. Dedicate a certain amount of time per day to shut off all gadgets including computers, tablets, smart phones and TVs. If you really want to detox, try it over the weekend when you don't have to connect for school or work. It can work wonders on your stress levels and your peace of mind.
- Receive a massage. Try to schedule in a massage once a month. You may be able to make up excuses for not getting to the spa, but there is no excuse for not giving yourself a massage. Get a clean, organic oil and massage all over before or after a hot bath to unwind. This is a great way to learn self-care and it has many health benefits including counteracting stress.
- Keep a journal. If you have trouble sleeping (as many do with excess stress) keep a journal near your bed in case your thoughts are keeping you awake at night. Jot it down, then, let it go. Writing things down, even things that may be stressful, makes them seem less intimidating and doable. Journaling can also be a great way to express gratitude as well as emotions that are still lingering. It’s a way to become more conscious of our feelings and clear the mind of bottled up junk.
- Spend time in nature. Studies show that spending time in nature is anti-inflammatory. Stress is a known cause of inflammation and the great outdoors is soothing to the body, mind and soul. Whether spending a day at the beach or hiking in the great outdoors – nature is where we all belong. And with our sedentary lifestyles being another form of stress on the body-mind, connecting with nature should probably be on our daily to do list.
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