In 2022, more than a quarter of American adults reported feeling so stressed that they couldn’t function according to the American Psychology Association. This is not surprising given that we went through a world pandemic shifting our lives dramatically. Combining this with the evolution of technology and fear of missing out is at an all time high.
In a world where everyone is rushing and busy, it’s critical to take time for ourselves. It may not feel natural to focus on stress-reduction practices but with a little bit of practice we can lower our cortisol levels and live happier and more holistic lives.
Here’s where to get started.
Best Practices for Stress Reduction
Starting with everything at once can feel overwhelming and have the opposite effect on reducing your stress. Try one or two things out and slowly incorporate them into your routines until it becomes natural.
Getting Started With Yoga
Yoga is the holy grail of all things relaxation because it connects our mind, body, and breath together for an overall calmness. Specific techniques and types of yoga promote relaxation by engaging in certain poses that are physically beneficial for our body. Being present in the moment may take some practice but the good news is that yoga can be done both at home and in-person.
- For those who are busy bodies and don’t have time to get to an actual class, there are a number of free options online. You can simply go to YouTube and find different levels, practice goals, and areas of the body that are being focused on.
- For beginners it’s never a bad idea to go in person if it’s an option. Teachers can be more hands on in showing the poses and there are a number of different classes that you may not be able to find online. Hot yoga is one of them.
Since yoga is also a form of exercise it can increase your flexibility, help with weight loss, and work on strengthening your muscles.
Going for Walks without Technology
Going for walks and spending time in nature is a wonderful way to be present. But if we are getting texts and calls on these walks, it’s not possible to unplug. Our stress levels may remain high which is why going phone free can be such a wonderful option.
If this is something that is too difficult for you, try walking and listening to a podcast. The trick is to put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” so you don’t receive any notifications while you are walking.
Another trick to make sure that you are truly present and observing your surroundings is to journal about it. While journaling deserves its own section, simply writing about the colors, weather, smells, and other descriptors of your walk forces you to be in the moment.
Learning How to Meditate
Meditation is the optimal goal when trying to be present. But as with yoga it takes some practice. Meditation focuses on the breath and being where you are. In times of feeling stressed it’s good to know how to take a step back and ground yourself.
Here are a few key tips for learning how to meditate.
- Sitting up in a chair or on the ground is a great start. Sometimes slouching in a bed or somewhere to comfy can cause someone to fall asleep rather than meditate.
- Putting a time limit on the session is important. Even 10 minutes can be an effective amount of time.
- Having patience with yourself and accepting that your mind will wander and drift is key. The goal is to bring your attention back to your breath, not punish yourself for losing focus.
- A mostly quiet place is great. But it’s OK if there is some muffled background noise. Sometimes a too quiet place can be even more distracting.
- Always thank yourself at the end of the practice for trying to meditate and finding time for yourself.
You can download guided meditation apps like Headspace or Calm or even find a number of free options on YouTube.
Daily Reflections and Gratitude Through Journaling
Too many times a holiday season has come around and we all feel like we just celebrated the last one. This is because we aren’t paying attention as much to the present but more so the future. But by doing daily journals it’s easier to appreciate what we have and what we are doing instead of focusing on what we need to do or where we need to be.
One of the best ways to get started journaling is doing a small appreciation thought. Keeping it simple helps you stay in the habit. Simply talk about one thing you were grateful for that day. This will get you into the habit of writing.
Then you can work on journaling your daily workouts and things you need to write down to stay productive and on task. This helps eliminate stress because you have a plan.
Interestingly enough one of the times of day where we are most rushed, mindless, and distracted is when we eat. This is because of a variety of factors. It could be we are watching TV while eating or taking a quick lunch break before going back to work. Worse, it could be working while taking our lunch break.
Mindful eating is a great time to sit back and focus on the only task at hand. Enjoying the food. Eating slowly is not only great for digestion but it also calms our mind. Food is meant to be enjoyed not inhaled.
Amping It Up
Getting your heartrate up isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you are doing it on purpose. Sometimes we have too much energy to quiet our minds. Going at a moderately intense workout that gets our blood pumping is a good way to bring our heart rate back down later.
Try kickboxing, swimming, dance, or a number of cardio induced exercise classes if none of the above seems to be working for you. You can combine the two to work on overall health and fitness as well as relaxation techniques. They go hand in hand.
You may feel like it is another task to keep track of some of the new habits you are trying to introduce to reduce stress. That’s normal. But keeping track of trying new things ultimately will guide you to find out what helps as a stress-reducer and what doesn’t. Not every idea is a solution or fit for each individual.
Making your own routines with the right strategy is ultimately what will lead to better health and lowering your cortisol levels. It’s also important to remember that just because something didn’t work on the first try doesn’t mean it isn’t right for you.
Give yourself ample time to add in some of these approaches to mind and body practices. If we could quiet our minds instantly, we would all do that. Have patience and love for yourself and the new journey you are embarking on.