To say life is stressful right now would be a gross understatement. Even with just ONE of the many major current events unfolding it would be a bit much. But there isn’t just one, it’s many.
I’ve noticed recently that everyone (ok almost everyone) seems to be living at an 11. What I mean is, if 10 is the breaking point, we’ve moved a tad beyond that.
It makes sense really. Our sense of safety has been threatened daily for almost 2 years. Our body was not made to sustain this level of constant stress!!
When we are living in such a difficult time we need tools that will be effective in the moment, not in a week or two (NOT saying stop practicing your other tools) but the immediacy is needed sometimes.
You knew it would be on the list! Deep breathing (like imagine your lower rib cage/back fully expanding) is one of the best ways of calming down a sympathetic response and returning to the parasympathetic. Especially if you focus on the exhale.
When you inhale, your sympathetic system is activated. Your heart rate increases as well as blood pressure. However, when you exhale you’re engaging your parasympathetic system and getting into rest and digest.
Try it: Place a hand on your heart and one on your belly. Take 3-5 slow breaths (at least), before returning to what you were doing.
There are many techniques to ground yourself in the moment, but this is one of my favs. You can change the order of this if you’d like as well. Doing this exercise will help you to not focus on what was upsetting a moment before, but it will help you to be in touch with the world around you so you can think clearly again.
Try it: Observe the world around you. Find 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste.
Get Outside/In nature
Bonus points for combining the above exercises while you’re outside. Being outside in nature has been scientifically proven to activate your parasympathetic system and reduce stress. The Japanese even have a fun term for it called “Forest Bathing” (my husband thought I was cray cray when I first said this to him).
Try it: Step outside for a few moments and listen to the world around you. Go for a walk in the woods if you’re able!
Move your body/Shake
This one I’m stealing from our pets. Did you know that animals have a way of moving stress energy through and out of their body? I bet you’ve seen it happen even. Have you ever seen a dog shake? Not when they’re wet, that’s different. But after running or a stressful moment? That’s because dogs, and other animals, instinctively know that shaking will move the energy out of their body.
This could also be why many people enjoy exercise when they’re stressed. They’re moving the energy through and out of their bodies.
Try it: If you’re able, do a light workout or shake your arms and legs when you’re stressed. I’ve been trying it lately, and it’s actually incredibly effective.
Sure, it may sound super simple, but when was the last time you thought about playing as a response to stress? It’s definitely not one of the first things we think about doing as an adult, which is too bad. Play can bring us joy, which is kinda the opposite of stress, and much needed in our lives these days. It can also serve as a wonderful distraction from the world as well.
Try it: Play! With your kids, pets, friends.. Maybe a board game, or an obstacle course or water balloon fight.
The world may seem like a dumpster fire, wrapped up in a tornado, packaged inside a hurricane, but that doesn’t mean you need to feel it 24/7. In fact, you shouldn’t, at all.
If you find yourself more stressed than zen lately, try some of these activities out. See how they feel to you. Switch them around and change them if you need to. Make it yours. And enjoy yourself in the process.