Stress can impact the mind & body in a number of different ways. Sometimes we notice and feel its effects right away, while for some it isn't until the stress presents itself as a physical symptom that can no longer be ignored, before it becomes noticeable. Not all stress has negative effects however. There is such a thing as a healthy amount of stress that can be useful in motivating us or keeping us safe. They key is balance! The longer we allow ourselves to be in a state of stress, the more of an impact it can have and the harder it becomes to reverse its effects. When we experience stress, pain, negative feelings or thoughts or have a negative physical or emotional experience, it can affect our energy, creating emotional and physiological blockages and imbalances that can eventually impact our health. The more stress on our bodies means the more energy it takes to become balanced again.
Each one of us responds to and copes with stress differently. If you find yourself in a constant state of stress and find it difficult to relax, you can decide what the next steps are in order to work through and resolve your stress. Or maybe you decide to do nothing at all in hopes that the cause of your stress resolves itself. If there's one thing my experience with stress and stress related illness has taught me, its that stress is invasive but the way you choose to mange it doesn't have to be.
Here are 10 ways to naturally manage your stress:
1. Energy Medicine:
Energy medicine is a complimentary or alternative practice based on the belief that healers or practitioners can channel healing energy for a patient to relieve stress, manage pain and relax. The human body is surrounded by and emits various kinds of energy: electrical, magnetic, light, and subtle. It is believed that health and disease are related to the flow or lack of flow of our energetic systems. Techniques such as Reiki, Healing Touch, Quantum Healing and Emotional Freedom Technique approach the body as the total sum of its parts. Taking a holistic approach to health and well-being through the mental, emotional, energetic/spiritual as well as the physical body.
Meditation is about expanding awareness of ourselves and the world around us. Through self awareness you can begin to sharpen your focus and sense when something is rising to the surface before your feelings become explosive. Awareness gives us the space to identify and do our inner work. You start to become more conscious of what is happening within your own mind and body. Maybe you begin to observe the connections between the physical and emotional, maybe you notice there is no randomness in the universe. Once you begin to notice and realize that you are co-creating your reality, you can begin to tune in and see the patterns and choices that support your journey as opposed to unknowingly reacting to external circumstances.
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. This involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them— without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
When stress builds up in the body it can create physical discomfort, aches and pains. Exercise lowers the body’s stress hormones and also helps release endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkillers. Regular exercise can also improve your sleep and strengthen your self esteem. It is useful to have a physical outlet such as doing yoga, fitness, sports or some other physical activity that allows you to move the body in a vigorous manner. Movement allows un-expressed emotion (energy in motion) to move through you, releasing some of that heaviness and restoring the body to a state of balance.
There are several types of deep breathing exercises, including diaphragmatic breathing, alternate nostril breathing and belly breathing. When we are in a state of stress our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated, signaling the body to go into “fight-or-flight” mode. Stress hormones are released and physical symptoms such as a faster heartbeat, quicker breathing and constricted blood vessels are experienced. Deep breathing exercises are one of the simplest and quickest ways to combat stress. When we are conscious of how we breath, we can slow down the breath and this helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the relaxation response. This in turn, helps slow your heart rate, allowing you to feel more peaceful and in control.
6. Get Outside:
Spending time in nature allows you to enjoy a change of scenery, which can get you into a different frame of mind, while also experiencing the benefits of exercise and fresh air. Find a quiet spot that makes you feel calm and happy. When we spend time outside it can help us feel connected to something greater than ourselves and our problems. We become present and slow down to a more natural pace. What aspects of the great outdoors resonate with you? Is it the mesmerizing flow of a stream or river? Do you prefer to hike the trails of a forest? Or do you long to kick off your shoes and walk barefoot in the grass? Explore what feels good to you!
7. Use Essential Oils:
Working with soothing scents or flower essences can help reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and overwhelm. You can use essential oils to freshen up your space through a spray or diffuser. Or once diluted, you can apply them directly to the body. Peppermint & Eucalyptus are a wonderful choice for using on the temples to alleviate a headache or migraine. While calming fragrances such as lavender can be used for a relaxing foot massage before bed time.
8. Communicate Your Boundaries:
Not all stressors are within our control, but some are. If you find yourself taking on more than you can handle, juggling many responsibilities, feeling overwhelmed and unable to meet demands, you might need to set some boundaries around your time and energy. Each one of us has a limited amount of time and energy, once you realize what's causing you stress, you can exercise control and start saying “no” to anything that leaves you feeling drained and un-happy. By being selective about what you take on, it will help to reduce unnecessary stress and leave you with more time for yourself!
9. Get Enough Sleep:
Sleep is the time when your brain and body recharge. The quality and amount of sleep you get can affect your mood, energy levels, concentration and overall functioning. When you're stressed out, it can create disturbances in your sleep. You may have difficulty falling asleep, vivid dreams or nightmares, you may feel like you want to sleep all the time or wake up feeling tired. If you find you have trouble sleeping, practice good sleep hygiene by creating a relaxing bedtime routine. Listen to soothing music, put clocks away, avoid eating before bed, limit your exposure to screens and stick to a consistent schedule.
10. Have Fun!:
You might read this and think “I don't have time for fun, I'm too stressed!” But contrary to what your initial reaction might be, making time to have fun, to laugh and play can be an easy and rewarding way to burn off some stress! It is important to slow down, be present and savor the moments you find yourself in. Set time aside to express your creative energy. When we become fixated on work, driven by results and doing all the time, it creates an imbalance in our energy and can suck the enjoyment out of life and the things we once loved doing. Part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle means carving out time to pursue your passions, to explore and express your creativity and joy. Create something new, connect with others and don't underestimate the power of a good laugh!