Stress and anxiety: there is nothing fun about it. Shall we count the ways they negatively affect our lives? Decreased productivity, increased risk of depression, sleep apnea, skin breakouts, illnesses – the list goes on. Stress can feel like a powerful force on your life, difficult to control, but there are a number of natural stress reduction techniques that, if practiced regularly and especially when you feel like you are on the brink of what feels like an anxiety attack, can really help bring you back to a calm, controlled, perhaps even optimistic place. Besides the obviously ideal option of finding a field of sun, breeze and tiny white flowers to lie in like the one pictured above- here are a number of other tried and true techniques:
1: the Body Scan. This technique reestablishes your connection with your body in a way that makes you feel more grounded and relaxed by bringing your consciousness out of the hectic, abstract world of thoughts and concerns and into the physical world of breath and observation. How does it work? It helps to start with closing your eyes – and then focus on one part of your body at a time. Close out all thoughts, noticing nothing but the pace of your breath and the sensations on, say, the top of your head, and move down – focus on your whole head, your neck, shoulders, your spine, your back as a whole. Move your way down to your toes and pay attention to your body’s sensations; where it feels tight, where it hurts, where it feels okay, where you can feel your pulse. I like this technique for its ability to remind me of my present reality – when one feels lost in thoughts of the pressures of the future, it is easy to forget that there is such a thing as the present, but this practice brings it back and can make those stresses feel a lot smaller. Try it sometime!
2. Keep a “Stress Journal” – right on your desk where you can easily grab it and scribble away, or next to your bedside. Get it all down on paper: make a to-do list with a specific plan-of-action outline, or just write a stressed rant – for your eyes only. Getting these thoughts down in words can help them feel more manageable and less intense. Trying to go to sleep after a stressed day without a mental detox is a terrible idea, as your sleep and dreams will be restless as a result – spend 5 minutes before bed writing out what you are stressed or anxious about to alleviate pressure. Or, chat about it with somebody – getting it out in the air makes the body feel much lighter.
3. Eat well! It is true that this suggestion is in nearly every list of suggestions from us at Tata Harper but it is an important one. In regards to stress, eating a varied diet of leafy greens, fruits, veggies and lean meats helps keep the immune system strong (which can become very debilitated by intense stress, leading to illness) and the brain healthy. Reducing salt, sugar and fat intake helps all around – your body will be in better shape to handle waves of stress and your mind will, too.
4. Stress Relief Aromatherapy. As I discussed in an earlier blog post, scents can have an immediate effect on our mood due to the fact that they’re directly carried via olfactory nerves to our brain’s limbic system, which is our mood and emotion center. Certain fragrances and scents have deeply relaxing effects on the body’s nerves because they are so directly linked to our nervous systems, so rub some of our Aromatherapy Stress Treatment on your palms, breathe in deeply, and let the scents of Neroli, Frankinscence and Rose Otto bring you back to center and reduce your feelings of anxiety, almost instantly. Keep it on your desk and use a few times a day to keep yourself on track and feeling in control.
A couple more easy, quick stress-relief techniques include getting up from your chair and doing a bit of stretching, taking a stroll around the block to get some fresh air, or simply taking a 10 minute break to think about something else (or nothing at all: meditate!) for a little while. Stress is one of the leading causes of premature aging, both on the body and skin, so be sure to take daily care of yourself so you feel your best!