Hey LIV Fam: Friday, April 16 is National Stress Awareness Day. Want some quick and easy ways to alleviate tension in your life? We’ve got them here.
1. Get Grounded
If it feels like the world is spinning a bit too fast, take a moment to ground yourself. Try this quick grounding exercise: Sit with your feet on the floor and take five deep breaths. Now, identify five things around you that you can see, such as a table, a tree, or anything in your field of vision. Next, close your eyes and identify four sounds you can hear around you—whether it’s wind, your neighbors, or the ticking of a clock. Then, name three things you can feel, such as the chair beneath you, a fan blowing on your skin, the heft of your favorite ring on your finger. When you’re done, name two things you can smell, like the cleaner you used earlier or the aroma from your cup of tea. Lastly, name one thing you can taste. Open your eyes and feel refreshed.
2. Get Cooking
No, we’re not advocating stress eating, but doing something with your hands can help relieve anxiety by shifting your focus to a tactile task. Chopping, stirring, mashing, and mixing can be meditative actions. And all that garlic? Consider it aromatherapy.
3. Get to Bed
When we have so much to do, it seems impossible to find time to sleep. The contradiction is that times of stress are when you need sleep more than ever. According to the American Psychological Association, lack of sleep can adversely affect your judgement, memory, and mood. To ensure you’re getting quality shut-eye (even if you can’t get the quantity you want), set yourself up for sleep success: Use light blocking curtains to keep your room as dark as possible, and try an eye mask to avoid light disruption. If your surroundings tend to get loud, turn on a sound machine (or even an app) set to an ambient white noise.
4. Get Fueled
If you’re stressed out as you’re reading this right now, chances are you’ve eaten at least one meal in front of your computer or with one hand while doing something else. (Can you tell we’ve been there, too?) The Cleveland Clinic did a study that found that people under stress could forget to eat or make stress-induced food choices. What’s more, cortisol, the stress hormone, can make you crave salty, sugary, or fatty foods as your brain slips into fight or flight mode. Give your body the food that will make it feel good, and eat without distractions. Disconnect from the stressors around you by shutting off your devices and screens to savor your meal. Work will still be there afterwards—we promise.
5. Get Mindful
When you’re experiencing stress and anxiety, the idea of clearing your mind to meditate can feel, frankly, impossible. It will help, though: studies have long shown that the practice can help control stress, decrease anxiety, improve cardiovascular health, elevate your mood, and more. The secret to starting your mindfulness practice? Start small. Set a timer for just three minutes, find a quiet space, sit comfortably, and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing, and as thoughts come in (like your pesky to-do list), acknowledge them and let them go, like a balloon you’re releasing. Can’t quite find your focus? Don’t be hard on yourself: It’s called a “practice” for a reason. With consistency, you’ll begin to feel the difference meditation makes.
6. Get Up and Go (Exercise)
Whether it’s a walk around the block, a quick cardio class, or pounding out a few miles on the nearest trail, physical activity is an instant stress-buster. It gets you outside in the fresh air, pumps up feel-good endorphins, can curtail the body’s stress response, and is also meditative (yes, it’s true!). Schedule non-negotiable time in your calendar and mark yourself out-of-office for a 30-minute block each day. Then, get moving.