In today’s world, stress has sadly become a regular occurrence for most people. With mounting evidence to suggest strong links to common diseases with the overproduction of the stress hormone, Cortisol, stress is an important factor to address to ensure your overall health and well-being.
When we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, we often find solace in ‘offloading’ on close friends or family members and when we hear their advice – ‘slow down, relax, take a break, don’t do so much’ – you likely found yourself thinking, ‘that is exactly the problem, I don’t have time to slow down or relax!’ Well, although that is indeed very good advice, it can also trigger further stress as you focus on the fact that you’re in a vicious cycle of stress and no time to apply ways to destress! Very frustrating and some might say, even ‘stressful’!
So, what is the answer? How can you find time to de-stress? Are there really ways to induce a calm state in under 6 minutes? The answer is yes, there are! At least there are for short-term stress relief, the key to longer-term management is to address some of the root causes, as well as building these stress relieving tools into your daily life. Give each of them a try to find what works best for you.
Let the Music Take Control
There is no denying that music is emotive, it seems to have the most incredible power to change our emotional state in an instant. Just the same as when you feel energised to the rhythm of an upbeat track or sad to the words of a tragic love song, you can feel instantly calm and relaxed when you listen to the right kind of music.
To utilise this effective strategy, have some go-to calming tracks available for those times you want to induce a relaxed state and better still, listen to them regularly rather than just in response to stress.
Utilise the Mind-Body Connection
Our bodies are filled with neural pathways that are connected to our brains, sending constant signals and alerts back and forth, every second! Clearly your brain can tell your body you are stressed and it responds. However, your body can also tell your brain if you are stressed.
Notice what you do with your body when you are experiencing stress – are your muscles tense? Your shoulders hunched? Your back rigid? Perhaps, your hands are clenched? By first noticing how your body responds to being stressed, you can then take steps to quickly counter it. If your hands are clenched, gently open them to a cupped position. If your shoulders are hunched, slowly bring them downwards.
You can take this exercise as far as you like, to relaxing the individual muscles in your fingers and toes if you want to. The point being, that you can tell your mind to be relaxed by putting your body into that position!
Soak your Troubles Away
It’s a well-known fact that taking a hot bath, or better still a soak in a hot tub, can rapidly relieve tension and stress in the body. The warmth of the water penetrates the muscles, relaxing them almost instantly. As discussed above, you will find it very hard to remain stressed when your muscles are so relaxed! In a hot tub, the combination of buoyancy, heat and massage is a stress-relief haven! If you haven’t used one before, it is well worth investing in buying a hot tub of your own, as regular use can also help to prevent stress, providing a regular calming oasis to unwind in.
Seeing Is Believing
Although this is not something that all of us find easy, if you are a predominantly visual person and find it easy to conjure up images in your mind’s eye, this is the tool for you. The power that visualisation can have on your emotional state is quite profound. Visualisation is a key component in the majority of Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques, which has been known to really help with stress-management. The next time you find yourself feeling those familiar feelings of stress try these effective visualisations:
- Picture yourself in a tranquil setting, a place you associate with being relaxed and at ease. Make the image come to life by seeing it through your own eyes and engaging your senses – what can you smell, see, hear, feel etc?
- Give your emotions a colour – ask yourself, if this ‘stress’ emotion had a colour what would it be? Then ask yourself, how do I want to feel instead and what colour would that emotion be? Now, imagine that with every breath you take, you inhale a bit of the colour you would like to feel and with every out breath, imagine that ‘stress’ colour escaping until you are completely filled with just the colour of the emotion you wanted to feel.