It would be an understatement to say that times have been getting harder. The Earth herself is being pushed to new limits with the strains of Capitalism and societal habits of extraction and disposal on more levels than I can say. Our human nature and our human pace has been radically disturbed to say the least. We each have our story as to what is causing stress for us on both internal and external levels, but we all experience it, and we need to take care of ourselves and each other, now more than ever.
The point of reducing stress can go beyond just “feeling better”. It can also be for the purpose of being more available to the world and those who need extra support. While we are often overwhelmed by trying to maintain our own sense of wellbeing, it can be a tremendous gift that uplifts the heart, if we can also orient towards being of service to what we believe in, while coming from a grounded, capacitated place. I suggest that we take care of ourselves with that larger picture in mind.
How Does Stress Effect us?
In basic terms, stress puts us in survival mode, and we operate from the sympathetic nervous system which governs the Fight, Flight, Freeze mechanism in us that is meant more for those short moments when we experience danger or life threatening circumstances in order to defend ourselves or run away. This state was not designed to operate from this place as an everyday baseline. This is how we end up feeling drained and exhausted and become more prone to disease.
Not only does stress effect our own energy levels and depletes the body’s system and functioning, but it can cause difficulty in maintaining healthy relationships. Imagine trying to be open and loving with another, while your body is operating from the system that was made to help you to run away from a saber tooth tiger! For the sake of our health, our enjoyment of life and our quality of interpersonal connections, we need to lessen the effects of stress. Here are some ways to ease the effects of stress and keep centered, even when the heat is on:
- Deep Breathing Practices
Taking a few minutes in each day to take slow, deep breaths can bring the system back to a healthy baseline. Pay special attention to relaxing the body on the exhales. Making you exhales longer than your inhales will take your system out of fight flight and freeze mode.
- Regular Exercise
Exercise gets the endorphins flowing, allowing for a more overall sense of wellbeing. 20 minutes per day of increased heart rate is great, but anything helps, even just a good walk after work.
- Prioritize a Healthy Diet
Reducing sugar and caffeine intake can make a huge difference on its own. Dark, leafy greens such as kale and spinach can help reduce stress responses and reduce sugar cravings. Home cooked meals, bone broth and foods that are less processed help you do more good in the world, due to having more sustained energy.
- Stay Connected to Your Friends
Stress, and particularly today’s Political stress in The United States of America can leave us feeling isolated due to feeling drained both emotionally and physically. Know who your supportive friends are, stay connected to them. Reach out to good people. Be kind to one another. We all need a few good solid people or a community that share our values to make life more tolerable, and we need to show kindness to those we don’t know as well. We are social creatures, and we need to be there for one another.
- Aromatherapy and Herbs
Plants have so many healing properties. Essential oils such as Lavender, Blue Chamomile and lemongrass are all nice calming scents to use in a diffuser or just a drop on the hands. Melissa Officinalis (lemon balm) is considered to promote relaxation and uplift the mood. To refresh and energize, you can make a large pot of hot water and put several handfuls of fresh rosemary in it. Strain the rosemary after 15 minutes and let cool. Pour the herbal water over your head. You can also scrub your body with the herbs.
- Schedule Tiny Breaks in Between Things
Even if it is 10 minutes in between coming home from the grocery store and starting to make dinner. Take a tiny breather, Sit or lie down, take a moment for stillness, take some breaths and feel into your body and feel into your inner state. Relate to yourself as you would a good friend you care about. It is a simple and easy way to show yourself some Love and reset your system.
- Magnesium Baths
Having a warm bath is already calming and stress reducing. Adding Magnesium salts in a bath add the benefits of improved sleep, relieving headaches, improving nutrient absorption, and easing achy muscles. You can add essential oils for extra therapeutic benefits.
- Spend Time in Nature
It may seem obvious to some, but I have to include it, since it is honestly such a simple and effective way to ease everyday stress, connect with ourselves, others and the beauty of the world. If Nature is hard to get to every day, keep something beautiful in your eyesight. Notice beauty around you.
- Schedule Time for Self-Care
Whatever it is that rejuvenates and revives you, feeds your soul, makes you happy, cares for your body or eases your mind. Schedule it advance, so that you also get the added benefit of looking forward to it.
- Music and Art
Listening to music that is calming and beautiful changes the entire atmosphere. It can ease stress in a way that nothing else can do. It can be combined with many of the above suggestions. Art is a tool for self-expression and it is a medicine just to behold. Take time to ether create or to be inspired by artwork. Find the magic and wonder of life in amongst the daily grind.
- Herbal Tea
While coffee is amazing, so is herbal tea. Great ones that nourish and calm the nervous system, or are just grounding and tasty are: Nettles, Gotu Kola, Tulsi, Lemon Balm, Passion Flower, Skullcap, licorice, chamomile and catnip. Throw a little lavender here and there. Of course if you are taking medications or have allergies, check with your doctor first.
While these are simple suggestions, implementing just a few can help ease stress. Remember to reach out to a friend. We need one another for inspiration and support. Taking care of ourselves and easing our stress levels is an important ingredient for being a grounded, kind human, and this exquisite world of ours definitely needs as many of those as we can get, in order to honor ourselves and one another in the ways that feel good, true and beautiful.