How to relax your mind and ground yourself in moments of stress.
With increases in stress and anxiety amongst the population, stress management has become an important topic. We all experience fear and worry from time to time so we are familiar with how they can disrupt thoughts, behaviours, and sleep patterns. A little bit of stress every once in a while is normal, healthy even. However, issues arise when this stress persists or we are unable to calm ourselves down.
Because of our busy lifestyles and demanding careers, chronic stress is becoming a major problem. For example, many athletes struggle with anxiety and burnout because they don’t have the proper tools to manage the stresses and pressures that come with the demands of their jobs. The current Covid-19 pandemic has also been a cause for higher levels of stress and anxiety, which can be dangerous to a person’s overall health, especially those with preexisting mental health problems.
If you’ve found you are feeling more anxious or stressed out than normal lately, it’s important to address these issues before they take a greater toll on your health. There are ways you can help your mind and body relax in times of stress. It’s all about finding the best relaxation methods that work well for you and making a habit of practicing them. Once you know what works for you, you’ll have strategies to turn to when you feel your anxiety taking over. Here are 10 tips that’ll help you calm your mind the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed.
1. Breathing Exercises
Have you ever noticed that when you’re anxious, your breathing becomes shallow? When you’re stressed out, your body enters fight or flight mode. This means that the sympathetic nervous system becomes activated and sends signals to the body to prepare for danger, quickening your breathing and heart rate. By taking longer and deeper breaths, you can tap into your parasympathetic nervous system, activating your rest and digest response to calm the body and mind down.
One effective breathing exercise you can use to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems is belly and chest breathing, practiced in JOGA. To perform this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent and place your right hand on your lower belly and your left hand on your chest. Isolate the breath by first breathing only into the belly for a count of 3, hold at the top, then exhale for a count of 3. Repeat this 3 times, then switch to breathing into the chest only. Once you’ve completed 3 sets of breathing into your chest, you’re going to combine both breaths. Begin by inhaling into the belly for 3, then continue inhaling into the chest for 3. Hold at the top, and then exhale as an entire unit for a count of 5. Repeat this twice, then reverse, starting with the chest first.
Moving your body is a great way to quiet your mind, as exercising releases endorphins, helping to improve your mood. You don’t have to do a high intensity workout to start to feel the positive effects of movement on your mental health. Just going for a walk or doing some active recovery, like a JOGA session, will work just as well.
Writing down your thoughts is one of the easiest ways to better understand your anxious feelings and work through letting them go. When you feel like your mind is running a mile a minute, try getting out a journal and just let the words flow out of you. You may find that by seeing exactly what it is that is stressing you out will allow you to feel more in control.
4. Getting Fresh Air
Nature has many proven benefits on mental health. Getting some fresh air, exposing yourself to natural light, and interacting with the land around you has been seen to reduce stress and anxiety and boost mood.
5. Stimulate the Senses
Using the 5 senses is a common method for treating anxiety. Focusing in on your 5 senses will help distract you from the thoughts in your head, grounding you. One way you can use the 5 senses to help calm you down, is by simply acknowledging what you can see, smell, hear, touch, and taste in moments of stress. Alternatively, you can try appealing to your senses to calm you down. For example, you can light your favourite candle or sip on a soothing tea.
6. Take a Bath
There’s a reason people love to take baths after a long, hard day. A warm bath not only relieves tension in the body, but it also calms the nervous system and induces feelings of comfort. To make your bath even more relaxing, add a few drops of a calming essential oil, like lavender oil.
Meditation has been used for centuries to improve self-awareness and promote mindfulness. When you meditate, your brain relaxes and becomes more alert, so if you’ve been running on autopilot and feel removed from yourself, meditating can be a great way to become conscious of the sensations and feelings going on in your mind and body. There are many different ways to meditate, so if sitting cross-legged in silence is not your thing, don’t fret! You can try following a guided meditation or even try concentrating on being present and conscious of your mind and body when performing a simple task, like washing the dishes.
8. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is a powerful tool when it comes to minimizing stress and boosting mood. By taking the time each day to show gratitude, you’ll develop a healthier dialogue with yourself and begin to rewire the brain to notice the positives more in life.
9. Use Pressure Points
There are various pressure points in the body known to relieve stress and anxiety. Seeing an acupuncturist to address your mental health concerns is an easy way to access these points or you can try massaging these pressure points on your own. In JOGA, we activate one of these pressure points when in child’s pose. The next time you’re in child’s pose, place your head on 2 stacked fists and gently rock your head side to side. This will activate a pressure point between your eyebrows that can reduce anxiety, induce relaxation, and improve sleep.
10. Talk to a Loved One
Sometimes, one of the best things we can do for ourselves when we’re feeling stressed or anxious is to vent out all our feelings. Especially if you are feeling isolated and alone, talking to a loved one will help you feel supported as you release some of the negative thoughts and feelings you’re holding onto. Always remember, you never should be afraid or ashamed to reach out when you need help or support!