7 Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety with Mindful Self-Care
Well, hello there, unexpected hibernation! How’s everyone doing? As we’ve been abruptly thrust into a new way of doing life, many of us are feeling all kinds of crazy. Whether you’re feeling sad, scared, confused, lonely, or just plain annoyed with the whole thing, all the feelings matter. No matter how we spin it, this is a time of loss and stress for us all. We’re all learning a new normal, discovering ways to stay out of panic mode, and doing our very best to keep an even keel.
I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get. Self-care has never been my strong suit, but I’m learning. Like you, all of my people are home, and my days are not as quiet as they used to be. It’s requiring some real intentional choices to keep my wits about me. Some days I stop what I’m doing and take a walk outside in the sun. Other days I busy myself with nesting and preparing for the arrival of our newest family member.
I’m figuring out what works for me. And I want to do what I can to be there for you in the best socially distant way possible. So here you go. If you’re needing some fresh ideas for taking care of you during this time, give these stress-relieving tips a try…
1. Just move it
“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.”- Carol Welch
All this time spent at home in my jammies doesn’t exactly have me feeling motivated to get in a workout. The lazy vibe is real strong up in here, am I right? While there’s nothing wrong with using this time to get in some much-needed R & R, incorporating some kind of daily movement will do us all some good. Moving our bodies relieves mental and emotional stress, releases endorphins that boost our mood, and improve our sleep quality.
Daily movement can look like taking the dog for a walk outside, riding bikes with the kids, doing a little yoga and stretching, or knocking yourself out with an online HIIT workout. You do you. Just don’t over-do it. Over-exercising can work against us, increasing inflammation and stress hormones...just what we don’t need right now. Keep it simple. Find a way you love to move and just do that a little bit every day.
2. Combat stress with adaptogens
“The classic descriptor of a true adaptogen is that it can offer energy in the morning and allow the body a better night’s sleep when night falls.”- Dr. John Douillard
What are adaptogens? Well, as you can probably tell from the word itself, adaptogens are simply plants that help us adapt to stress. If this is new to you, know that adaptogens have been used therapeutically for thousands of years. Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine have used adaptogenic herbs to treat stress and anxiety for centuries, and for good reason! These stress-busting herbs support a sense of peace and relaxation, a level of calm that we all need right now.
So how do you use adaptogens? It’s as easy as drinking a cup of hot liquid yoga. Tulsi tea (also known as holy basil) both beats stress AND prevents respiratory illness. Called the queen of herbs, tulsi tea supports our nervous system by normalizing stress hormones and reducing anxiety. It sounds like the perfect herb for this coronavirus season! But if tea just isn’t your thing, you can also take an herbal adaptogen in capsule form. Ashwagandha (ash-wuh-GONE-duh) is also known for reducing stress and anxiety. Taken regularly, you should notice yourself enjoying a renewed sense of peace and calm. (Just don’t take it if you’re pregnant like me!)
3. Connect with Mother Nature
“Resilient people stop to smell the roses.”
- John D. Preston, Psy.D.
Nature is a powerful healer. And in this electronic world where we struggle against the increasing pull towards screentime, we desperately need time spent in nature to balance the scales (and get away from the news!). Nothing puts life in perspective quite like savoring some time in nature. As we’re all spending more time indoors than ever lately, it’s important to create space for some outdoor time. This goes for our kiddos, too! We’re all happier people after being outside together.
If the weather is right in your part of the world, try taking off your shoes. Have you heard of earthing? Or grounding? Well, it’s not just hippie lore. Connecting your bare feet to the earth is a powerful healing modality that provides electric nutrition generated by our planet. Grounding reduces inflammation and stress while boosting our immune systems and relieving tension. So get out there. Kick off your shoes and do some gardening, read a book on the lawn, get your toes in some dirt. Soak up all the healing energy that Mother Nature has to offer.
4. Laugh it off
“Laughter is part of the human survival kit.”
- David Nathan, Comedian
Is it even possible to feel stressed out when you’re laughing? Things are feeling way too serious around here these days, and I think we’re all due for some shits and giggles. One of the fastest ways to relieve stress and muscle tension is to have yourself a good belly laugh. If you’re needing some ideas for tickling your funny bone (besides giving your dog peanut butter), here are a few to get you going:
- FaceTime that friend who’s guaranteed to make you laugh until you pee a little
- Watch funny videos on YouTube (Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan are both pretty clean for kids)
- Type “models falling down” into Google and see if you can keep a straight face
- Try theSpeak Out Game with your family for some serious LOL’ing
- Have a funny dance competition with your partner and/or your kids
- Work your way through the comedy movie genre on Netflix
- Play tag our wrestle with your kids in the yard (or indoors if necessary)
- Write a funny song, story, or poem - take turns writing lines for a good laugh
5. Practice mindfulness and gratitude
“Create a habit of gratitude and watch your life transform.”
- Robin Lee
No matter what our circumstances may be in this present moment, we always, always, always have something to be grateful for. It might not feel that way on an extra bad day, but believe me… there’s a silver lining in there somewhere. Keeping our minds in the present moment is good practice for all of us to follow right now.
If you’re struggling to see the good in your life, try keeping a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Just pick a notebook (or a digital version) and write 3 things you’re grateful for every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to sleep. You’ll notice your spirit feeling lifted, your heart swelling with gratitude, and your mind feeling more anchored in the present moment. Add in some gentle yoga, prayer, or meditation, and you’ll soon find yourself living above the effects of all the negative energy in the air. It’s seriously life-changing stuff.
6. Snuggle up with your cuddle buddy
“Nothing eases suffering like human touch.”
- Bobby Fischer
Did you know that snuggling releases oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, and reduces cortisol, a stress hormone? Meaningful human touch also lowers our blood pressure and heart rate, boosts our immune system, and helps us sleep better. Snuggle with your partner. Snuggle with your kids. And snuggle with your furry children. We can all use the extra comfort and reassurance that cuddling brings.
If you live alone, you’re not left out here. I know it can be a challenge to get in that human touch while we’re all about social distancing for the time being. But cuddling doesn’t have to be between you and a partner, or even another person! You can show yourself some love by rubbing your own shoulders, soaking in a warm bath, or snuggling up in a warm blanket. However, you enjoy feeling warm and connected; do that. The oxytocin boost will have you feeling better in no time.
7. Change the channel already
“I am more convinced that our happiness or our unhappiness depends far more on the way we meet the events of life than on the nature of those events themselves.”
- Karl Wilhelm Von Humboldt
It’s easy to find ourselves glued to the news these days. We want to know what’s happening in the world, what to expect, and when this whole thing will end! But here’s the deal. What you focus on grows. If you’re feeling like your present or your future is full of anxiety, change the channel. Turn off the news. Take a break from social media. Because what we choose to focus on right now is what will decide how we feel. If something big happens in the news, you’ll know one way or another.
We can also apply this to our mental channels. If we’re allowing our minds to wander down scary paths with uncertain or disastrous futures, we can choose to change the channel. We can choose to focus on hope. We can choose to focus on gratitude. We may have lost our sense of normalcy and stability for a little while, but we’re going to be just fine. We’re not powerless. We still get to wake up every morning and choose to live in today.
Tomorrow has enough worries of its own. Keep your mind in the present and trust that you’ll have all the strength and grace (and toilet paper) you need for tomorrow. We’re in this together, friends. We can do it!
Stay well friends! xo-Rachael