The holidays can be wonderful.
And they can be stressful too.
In addition to the magic of the season, there is a heck of a lot of running around. Doing all of the things with very little reprieve. We may have jammed in 2 weeks worth of work to take a week off, or orchestrated holiday concerts and sports, all while managing the household or prepping to host family and friends etc. Bottom line, the stress can sneak up on even the most well-organized plans.
Stress is a word we are all familiar with, but did you know that you have all of the tools you need inside of you to help reduce it?
Sometimes we just need a fresh perspective or a guide to help us unleash the power that is already within. Now, time is sacred (especially this time of year) so I’ve pulled together some simple tips to help reduce in just 60 seconds. Are you ready to unlock your inner peace?
First, why does our body react to stress? All of the things mentioned above, and many more, can cause the body to shift into fight-or-flight mode. That chaos signals your sympathetic nervous system to turn on which causes the body to feel like it’s in danger. (Even when there is not actual danger in sending out the Christmas cards later than planned.) That high level of stress keeps your heart rate elevated, dilates your pupils, raises your blood pressure, and keeps everything in your body on high alert. Not fun! To REDUCE stress, we need to turn on our parasympathetic nervous system (often referred to as the rest/digest sytems) so it can start downregulating. It mainly functions using a nerve called the vagus nerve, which sends impulses from the brain to the body but also back from the body to the brain. In essence, your parasympathetic nervous system tells your brain what’s happening, instead of your brain telling your body what to do. This helps to regulate your system and calms your body down.
Now, let’s TURN OFF the STRESS response and TURN ON your CALMING system.
6 SIMPLE WAYS TO REDUCE STRESS IN 60 SECONDS OR LESS
1. Deep Breathing Did you know that breathing is one of the only bodily functions necessary for life that can be controlled both consciously and unconsciously. The unconscious action of breathing is controlled in the brainstem, which automatically regulates the rate and depth of breathing depending on the body’s needs at any time. Consciously we can speed up or slow down our breathing. Try a simple 4 count breath: Breathe in for 4; hold for 4; breathe out for 4; hold for 4; and repeat for 60 seconds to engage your parasympathetic nervous system.
2. Music Research confirms that music is effective for relaxation and stress management. The current findings indicate that music around 60 beats per minute can cause the brain to synchronize with the beat causing alpha brainwaves (frequencies from 8 - 14 hertz or cycles per second). So hit play on your favorite song and notice the shift in your energy and mood. (You may want to listen more than 1 minute, however it won’t take longer than a few seconds of your favorite song to shift into a happier place)
3. Scream Yup, I said scream! A primal scream can give you a cathartic release of the pint up frustration, anger, or whatever emotion that is causing your stress levels to rise. This vocal release has the same release as laughter or a good cry. So when the stress is building to the point you just want to scream … do it. NOTE: Please avoid doing this in the presence of others and if there are other people around, find yourself a pillow to scream into otherwise you could unintentionally transfer your stress and frustration to others around you.
4. Saying "No". Boundaries go a long way for your personal sanity as well as stress management. When it comes to commitments, it is OK to decline some or all of them. It is ok to say “Now is not a good time.” Or “I would love to after the holidays.” NO can be said in way less than 60 seconds but you can take the full minute if you’d like.
PS - If you struggle with saying “no” and boundaries in general, you are not alone. I’ve got something in the works just for you so stay tuned in the New Year.
5. Meditation The word meditation can be overwhelming for some. I know it was for me when I first started. So, here is the easiest way I’ve found to meditate … repeat a mantra you want to embody. If you want peace say “I have peace.” If it’s balance “I am balanced” and so on. Choose one phrase and repeat it in your head when you breathe in and again when you breathe out. Meditation can benefit both your emotional well-being and your overall health. It helps with stress by refocusing your attention on something calming.
6. Move your Body We all know exercise is good for us. Sometimes the pressure of time keeps us from taking action. While exercise is done in longer increments, moving your body doesn’t require an hour-long training session or 30 minutes of cardio to make a difference in how you feel. Just seconds of movement can offer immediate relief in a stressful situation. How you may ask … well, movement releases “happy chemicals” like dopamine and serotonin to improve your mood almost instantaneously. It only takes 7 seconds for an emotion to flow through your body so go ahead and do a full body shake, jumping jacks, run in place, or dance ... whatever floats your boat for 30-60 seconds to hit that reset button.
Try out any or all of these and see what helps with you the most. After the holidays, give yourself some actual down time for more than 60 seconds at a time. Book a massage. Read a book. Have a date night. Anything that just brings a state of calm or rejuvenation when you think about it would be a good choice for you. If you’re looking for a complete reset for the new year, treat yourself to my upcoming workshop, Awaken Your True Self. I would love to see you there.