Stress. We all have it whether you acknowledge it or not. It is impossible to live in this crazy world and stay calm without making a conscious effort to diminish it.
The issues of stress and anxiety are brought to my attention everyday as people of all ages come into my office looking for some bit of relief from their often chronic anxious state.
Facts About Stress
As we know, the stress that comes with the Flight or Fight response is a safety guard to protect our lives but living in this constant state of hyper alertness results in imbalance, ill-health and disease.
2017 studies done by The American Institute of Stress shows just how widespread and detrimental stress is:
|U.S Stress Statistics
|Percent of people who regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress
|Regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress
|Feel they are living with extreme stress
|Feel their stress has increased over the past five years
|Cited money and work as the leading cause of their stress
|Reported lying awake at night due to stress
And according to National Institute of Mental Health approximately 1 out of 75 people may experience panic disorder! This is serious people!
Detrimental Effects and Symptoms of Chronic Stress
- Inability to concentrate or make simple decisions
- Memory lapses
- Easily distracted
- Less intuitive & creative
- Pervasive Negative thinking
- Depression & anxiety
- Mood swings
- Extra Sensitive to stimuli and criticism
- Feeling out of control
- Lack of motivation
- Low self-esteem
- Aches/pains/Body Soreness
- Chest Pain
- Racing Thoughts
- Frequent colds/infections
- Allergies/rashes/skin irritations
- Weight loss or gain
- Panic attacks
- Physical tiredness
- Menstrual changes
- Loss of libido/sexual problems
- Heart problems/high blood pressure
- Prone to accidents, forgetfulness
- Increased reliance on alcohol, smoking, caffeine, recreational or illegal drugs
- Self neglect/change in appearance
- Social withdrawal
- Relationship problems
- Aggressiveness/angry outbursts
- Weight gain/loss
- Auto-immune issues: M.S., Lupus, Graves, etc.
Let’s reduce and even prevent all this nightmarish nonsense shall we? Here’s how.
My Favorite Ways To Shield From Stress
If you can prevent the stress from entering your life so much the better. Stress prevention is the ideal. Some of the items listed below will help you with this. I know though that it is not always possible to prevent stress or to even know what it is that is causing the stress. Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing there that should be stressing you out and sometimes it feels like everything is causing the stress. Some of the items listed below will help you once the stress has entered your life to either reduce your reaction to it and/or to reduce the stress itself. Check it out!
- Identify Triggers. Recognize what situations or people make you less than happy and do your best to avoid them. I would say this is my most trusted defense in the battle against stress/anxiety/depression.
2. Exercise. Ideally your’e exercising 3-5 days/week. If you do this you will feel better, calmer and stronger inside and out. Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects. If you are unable to exercise regularly then at least try it when you feel particularly anxious or had a very difficult day. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is efficient and effective. There are free Apps to help you. Try Keep Trainer or SworkIT.
3. Sleep. The amount of sleep you need to function your best differs at different ages and between individuals but 7-8 hours is consistently recommended by scientific studies. Even if nothing is taunting you, you know you get cranky if you don’t have enough sleep!
4. Eat Well. You know what this means. Lean meats, vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes. This item and some of the others on this list are shoring up your body, mind and spirit to be able to cope better with any discomfort that comes your way.
5. Vacation Often. It doesn’t have to be a grand vacation. Just a couple of days will do nicely but do it often. At least every 2 months at a minimum but more certainly will not hurt. In America we tend to take merely 2-3 weeks of vacation per year and we save that up to take it all at once so we’re just waiting and waiting all year for that release time. Not good for the stress. I have learned over the years that I need to have significant down time at least every other month. Your thresh hold may be different but once you know what you need, make it happen and you will be so much happier and less stressed.
6. Meditate or be in stillness. Can you be in stillness? Quiet and alone? Try it. It might be scary at first but eventually it’s beautiful., calming and peaceful. And if you’re not already meditating you might consider beginning a practice. Read here.
7. Gratitude Journal. When you’re feeling anxious try thinking about 1 thing you are grateful for. Write it down, write about it and then think of it throughout the day and especially anytime anxiety comes to call. This takes the mind out of the negative spin that it tends to enter when we become tense. Learn more about starting a Journaling Practice.
8. Tap in to and listen to your inner guidance system. Intuition, gut, psychic knowledge – we are all born with these gifts which most of us have lost over the years. To strengthen these important skills you simply have to use them. Pay attention to what your body is saying to you and when you get brave enough start acting on that voice. It takes a while to trust this knowledge but it will not steer you wrong and will ultimately lead you onto the ‘right’ path where stress will rarely exist.
9. Take actions toward your goals. Dreaming and imagining the life you want to live is an excellent first step but second, third and 4th steps, etc. must be taken to prevent these dreams from becoming another sources of stress. Small baby steps each and every day will get you there and make you feel more empowered along the way. Just do something. One little thing! And another tomorrow and soon it’ll get easier and before you know it you’re right where you want to be.
10. Increase physical human contact. Yes, more sex will reduce that stress! Yay! If that’s not up your alley then at least hug someone every day and if touching humans is is unappealing then give some love to a pet.
11. Unplug. At a minimum shut your phone and computer and TV off at least an hour before bed. Too much stimuli, too much information bombarding us day and night! We don’t even realize how much it effects us or how much negative information we are exposed to by these electronic ‘miracles’. Have you tried counting how many times/day you check your social media accounts?! Or how much time you spend being exposed to EMFs? It is scary. Try one day a week to not watch any TV or listen to any news radio or access any social media. It’s very peaceful.
12. Yoga Mudra. Mudras are just hand positions that control energies. The one I like best for relaxation is Vayu Mudra. Do it with both hands at the same time for 5 minutes or longer. If possible practice this with your spine erect but you can really do it anywhere. Use it to prevent stress from effecting you as deeply and also to reduce it once it hits you.
13. Yoga. A yoga practice is key to maintaining balance and calm in the face of stressors. If you can hook into a class that is convenient to your home/work then I would do this. If time and money is limited then find some free on-line classes and if that is too difficult for you then at least practice Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose) daily for at least 5 minutes. Upon going to be or waking up are convenient times of the day to practice:
14. Reiki. Reiki resets, balances and aligns your body and its energies so that you are in the best state to heal yourself from stress or any other unpleasantness that comes your way. Read more about this healing energy here or book your appointment with me here.
15. Clear and Organize. Living in a messy, cluttered space is not conducive to maintaining a clear, calm state of mind. Get rid of shit that you don’t use, don’t like, don’t want (even though someone nice gave it to you). Keep only things that bring you joy! Taking this thought further you can set up a special place in your home for de-stressing. Read here and here.
16. Crystal Therapy. To combat stress and anxiety the crystals that clients seem to find most helpful are: Blue Lace Agate, Rose Quartz, Clear Quartz, Amethyst. Once you get them you can wear them in the form of jewelry or carry them with you in a pocket or a bra, hold them in your hands while meditating or just sitting. They do need to be cared for so if this method of relaxation is of interest to you please text or email me and I will let you know where to purchase, more about how to work with them and care for these magical stones.
17. Supplements. These supplements have been shown to relax an anxious soul: Melatonin Magnesium,Valerian Root. Follow directions on the bottle. Try one at a time and give each a good 2 week shot before you assess its efficacy.
18. Essential Oils. I mention these oils and how to use them in ‘You’re Getting Sleepy’. Look there for more information. Lavender, Rose, Chamomile.
19. Listen to music or make your own music. I’d give you some music that I find relaxing (like this) but you may not find it so. Some clients tell me they find hard -rock, heavy metal or Blues relaxing and these make me more anxious so we are all needing something different. Identify music that calms you down and listen to it daily or specifically when you’re stressed. Making music may calm you too even if you’re not ‘musical’ you can bang on a drum which you can find inexpensively or if you already play an instrument do that or SING! Everyone can sing. You don’t have to be on key, just enjoy the beat, the rhythm, the emotion, the lyrics, etc.
20. Do things that make you happy and bring you joy. It makes me so sad when I ask people what it is that brings them joy and they really have no idea! If you don’t know, it’s worth investigating. These are things that make you feel free, light and joyful with not a care in the world. Engaging in these activities regularly (at least 1x/week but preferably daily!) will keep stress away. Is there something that you’ve always wanted to do but never tried or something you’d participate in if you had more time or something that you used to do as a kid that made you happy but you haven’t done it for years? Do those things and see how they make you feel.
21. Say No. And say no regularly. Only say yes if you really want to, if what you’re saying yes to is going to add something to your life. Saying yes to every invitation you’re extended will likely be a waste of time and cause lots of anxiety.
22. Spend time with people who make you laugh/happy. If you don’t have any of those people in your life then you must find some but until then spend time alone instead of with people who add nothing or negativity to your life.
23. Forgive. Holding on to anger or resentment is a major cause of stress. Do yourself a big favor and forgive. Yes, they’re wrong and they should apologize but most times it’s not worth the effort to talk sense into these perpetrators. Move on for your own health. Read more on Forgiveness.
24. Let Go of Control. Are you a control freak? I know it’s hard to let go especially when you’ve likely been trying to control things all of your life. It’s a waste of time because it takes much more energy to control than to let go and most of the things you’re trying to direct are not worth your energy. Things will work out as they should. This does not mean that you can’t be involved with things that you care about and do your best and then let it go. This one can be complicated and involve many steps to get to letting go but at least start by acknowledging that this is an issue for you.
25. Express Your self. Holding your feelings and emotions in is not ideal! Eventually these feelings will eat you alive. Somehow they will be released and not in the most productive way. Let them out somehow before they control you. Journaling is my go to release. If you are the artistic type draw or paint your feelings, dance it out or write a poem or song or maybe a letter to the person who you feel caused the feelings. You don’t have to give it to them but getting it out on paper will free you!
26. Spend Time in Nature. Ahhh. One of my favorite things to do to calm down. I understand that not everyone is the ‘outdoorsy’ type and if that is the case then being in deep nature may cause you panic with all the bugs and animals milling about you. Consider then just sitting on a towel on the beach and breathe in the salt air, listen to the waves. If you are open to the forest setting I would recommend going deep into the woods alone. Get lost even. Try Forest Bathing -retreating to nature to immerse in the forest atmosphere.
27. Herbal Teas. Try Chamomile, Lavender or Cup Of Calm (Traditional Medicines Teas).
28. Breathe. A 5 minute a day breathing practice will help you to learn to inhale and exhale completely training the body what to do should you begin to hold your breath in times of stress. If you do not want to commit to this daily practice then just implement complete breathing when you begin to feel anxious, making sure to release all the breath completely when you exhale.
29. Squeeze & Release. This method does nothing for me but some people swear by it. My anxiety prone clients recommend this Squeeze Toy. It has a harder consistency than most. Almost like a clay. Another option is to carry a small smooth stone with you. Whenever you feel tense, put the stone in the palm of your hand and then squeeze the stone and then slowly release. Do this a few times and feel the tension leave your body.
30. Let Only Good Thoughts In. This takes practice but along with #1 is most important for me personally in preventing stress, anxiety and depression. The moment you notice your mind spinning with a negative thought or image switch it out with a beautiful image or happy thought. You will have to do this over and over again until the positive thought state is your norm. This method will be supported by many of the other items previously listed especially limiting your exposure to negative people/situation and limiting your exposure to News through TV, Radio, Social Media, and to engage in activities that bring you joy.
Here are a couple of fun Stress Tests you can take to assess your level of stress: 1. , 2. even though you likely already know!
Well, try some of my recommendations and let me know how they do for you!
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Lisa Hassett, Reiki Therapist, Life Coach, CYT
Healing For Body, Mind & Spirit
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Reiki of Greater Boston
Healing for Body, Mind & Spirit
160 School Street, Suite 1-1, Waltham, MA 02451
160 School Street, Suite 1-1
Waltham, MA 02451