Eight tips for dealing with stress & slowing down
By Leila El Krekshi
What constitutes the “hurry worry culture” of our modern lives? Expectations from people, from a situation, relationships, work and constant pressure to meet deadlines lead to stress and cause various physical and emotional pain/ illnesses. They can cause your body and mind to overreact to situations, resulting in digestive problems, weight fluctuation, heart disease, depression, and a host of other issues that no one desires or deserves.
According to the American Psychological Association, in 2014, 75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress and nearly half reported that their stress has increased from the past year. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work and Eurofound, in joint communication reported in 2014 that one quarter of Europeans risk health problems due to stress at work.
Managing stress is important for all of us. While we can’t always control stressful life events such as a conflict or the loss of a dear person, we can still find ways to respond to stressors with good management tools. These include time management, learning to say no when we do not want to accept or do something, modify our attitudes and secure a supportive social web in addition to other self-coping strategies that can help us be less stressed out.
The state of our mind and our body are intimately related. When our mind is calm and relaxed, our body also becomes relaxed and at ease. Stress produces a state of mental, emotional and physical tension. We all suffer from occasional mild level of anxiety. However chronic stress takes a huge toll on the body, draining energy resources and keeping the body in a constant state of stress.
The effects of stress are particularly magnified when we become more sedentary in our lifestyle, and when our body lack physical exercise we experience muscle tension, shallow breathing and a spinning mind that has no rest from the whirling thoughts and emotions that feed the stressors.
How can one deal with stress? Here are 8 tips on how to deal with it in your life, gentle reminders to all of us (including myself) that we need to slow down.
Identify what triggers your stress
An important step in managing stress, is recognizing and becoming aware of what triggers you to become stressed. While it may be impossible to remove life’s stresses, understanding and becoming aware of the triggers can be particularly helpful in solving the root that causes problems. Spend some time to ask yourself what stresses you out, how it affects your body and how you react to it.
Find your daily stillness
A tip I learned from my yoga master teacher and that I love sharing with my clients, is conditioning our mind to bring it to stillness. Conditioning is a very short meditation that can take 3-4 minutes of your time. It is a simple exercise, where you focus on the natural flow of the breath as you inhale and exhale and gently move the attention from feelings of anxiety to feelings of relaxation allowing calmness to come to your mind. This simple yet effective exercise can be done before the start of any assignment or action, i.e. before lunch or a meeting, while stuck in the traffic, etc. Doing it several times per day will help you bring your mind to stillness whenever you feel overwhelmed, allowing you to be focused and more efficient in what you do.
Have good hours of sleep
Are you getting enough sleep? Restful and restorative sleep is essential for good health and vitality. It is even more crucial when you are going through challenges in life, to ensure having good hours of sleep. When your mind and body are well rested, you can approach stressful and challenging situations more calmly and in a more focused way.
Keep a good energy level and balanced diet.
Many of us are still engrained in unhealthy habits. We rarely pay attention to what we eat, how we eat, when we eat and where we eat. This can have a significant impact on us. Providing our bodies with the right food is crucial to give us the energy needed to tackle the challenges we go through in our lives. It cannot be emphasized enough how important the link between stress and nutrition is.
A balanced and healthy diet is one of the most important components to a healthy living because it boosts our resistance against the effects that stress brings upon the body.
Under the influence of stress, the body craves foods/drinks that are high in fats and sugars. Such examples include sweets, starches, caffeine and smoking.
It is important to constantly boost yourself with vital nutrients, i.e. vegetables and fruits and other high-fibre foods and make conscious eating choices.
Practice Conscious Breathing
When our mind is relaxed, our body is also relaxed. When we are worried, stressed or have negative afflictions, it is common that our breathing becomes shallow, fast and tense. Through conscious breath and meditation, one can bring calmness to both the body and mind. The relaxation helps to stabilize the autonomic nervous system and there are many breathing techniques that can help alleviate stress and restore balance; one simple yet powerful technique to calm the mind, body and emotions is Anuloma Viloma, alternate nostril breathing.
Time management and slow down
We all have busy and tight schedules, which is one contributor to stress.
Slow down… and take time to plan your day, prioritize with calm and mindfulness. Furthermore give yourself breaks, and have activities that will bring positivity and nourishment to you mind body and spirit. For instance, walking, swimming, reading, practicing yoga, hiking, or spending fun time with friends and family. Making time for activities that you enjoy, will help alleviate stressful feelings and bring your balance back.
Take time off
Going on holiday is really good for you and it may actually be necessary for a good health.Take time to properly plan a weekend or more exotic getaways. This will help you to disconnect from your daily routine, leaving you energized as you come back home. But do make sure to disconnect from the digital world while on holiday.
Your Happiness Should Not Wait… It Is Now
We hunger for health and happiness in our bodies, our families, and workplace. In yoga, we say that there is no tension in the outside world, it is rather our perception that causes us tension. We need to slowly train our personality not to take anything as tension nor label as negative. According to yoga philosophy, when a person is away from a happy state, he/she is under tension. In his powerful teachings Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh said: “when I breath in, I see myself as a mountain. This mountain represents stability. A person cannot be happy if has no stability. When I breath in, I see myself as still water, this represents stillness and fluidity.” Reflect things as they truly are, when you are calm you are not victim of wrong perceptions, nor anger, nor fear. We do not imagine things.
“Being in the present moment, is the moment we realize we are alive. Being alive is a miracle and if you don't go to the present moment you cannot perform this miracle. Be in the present moment, as it is a wonderful moment”
Because we’re so full of negative perceptions, ideas and judgments about what we should and shouldn’t do, we tend to ignore that little voice inside us - the guidance from our inner soul. We live in forgetfulness instead of mindfulness and being in the present moment.
As part of self reflection, think about three things in your life that bring you joy, then think about three things that you do not enjoy. Consider what changes you can make in your life to turn the negativity into positive.