It is a sad irony that this six-letter word is linked to the six leading causes of death in our world today (those causes include cancer, heart disease, and suicide).
Have you guessed it? The word is stress.
You can’t escape it.
Everyone experiences it at one point or another.
And to add to the irony, let’s talk about how stress can even be caused by a fascinating thing like a wedding or a move into a new beautiful home. Doesn’t seem fair.
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It’s not just an underlying cause of something terrible, like the loss of your job – unfortunately, stress can show its ugly face almost anywhere and anytime.
It can be tricky, but to stay healthy, you must take control of the stress in your life.
If you’re anything like me and find that you have a hard time relaxing, it’s crucial first to accept that it’s perfectly okay for you to relax, that you deserve to relax, and that relaxation is part of a happy, full life.
Now that you have permission to relax, let’s look at ten tactics that you can use every day to improve your relaxation and reduce your feelings of stress.
Anytime you feel as if you cannot relax, try some different breathing techniques. One that works very well is to breathe in slowly through your nose and out your mouth by counting to four. Count 1…2…3…4 to breathe in, count 1…2…3…4 to hold the breath in, then count 1…2…3…4 to blow it out of your mouth.
You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can turn things around by just taking 12 seconds to breathe!
Another great way to relax is to release the physical tension in your body by tightening up and releasing all your muscles. Start at your toes and move all the way up to your head or vice versa, depending on your preference. Tighten the muscles, then release them, one at a time.
I love to start my day with this one before my feet even hit the floor, no matter what my stress level is at that morning. It almost feels like a really effective preemptive measure to take.
Some people have extra tension in their bodies due to a lack of physical activity. Anyone who has anxiety or who cannot sleep at night should first try moving more to see how that works. Everyone should shoot for a minimum of 150 minutes of intentional moderately difficult movement, such as fast walking per week.
I’ll do the math for you: that’s 30 mins for 5 days a week – or close to 20 mins every day. Easy peasy, right?
Get into Nature
Humans need nature. Even if you have allergies to nature, going outside to walk with your feet in the dirt or grass is a great way to encourage your body to relax. If you’re shut in for some reason, try looking at nature pictures online while moving.
And if you’re really not into nature (I know you’re out there!), you can also open a window and breathe in some fresh air to clear your mind.
Eating a healthy diet of at least 80% of the time is an essential component of being able to relax because you need the vitamins and minerals in the food. If you have any deficiencies, it can show up as sleeplessness and anxiety.
So much truth in this one…and possibly the one-trick here that is going to make the most impact the quickest. If you haven’t read my book, Clean Eating, you must check it out!
Most people are walking around slightly dehydrated. Humans need approximately 64 ounces of water every day unless you live in a dry climate, then you’ll need more. When you note the inability to relax, ask yourself if you’ve had enough filtered tap water today or not before you do something else.
Same as eating better.. What goes into your body directly affects what is happening in your mind. Drink more water, and you’ll see rapid results – it’s amazing what a significant difference H2O can make!
Clean Up and Get Organized
Studies show that living in a cluttered environment adds to stress and makes it harder to relax. Try working on one room at a time, starting with your bedroom and workspace. You’ll start feeling more relaxed as you get rid of the clutter.
I am a self-proclaimed Clean Freak, and honestly, clutter makes me crazy. Spend a few minutes tidying up your space every day, and you’ll be sure to feel like a changed person.
Put Worries into Perspective
If you are concerned about something, even if it’s severe, putting worries into their true perspective can aid you in lessening some of your fears. At the very least, perspective can help you develop a timeline when you can overcome it. Ask yourself, “what is the worst thing that can happen?” and then visualize that along with what is most likely to happen can help a lot.
One of my all-time favourite mantras is “Knowledge is Power.” If you answer that unknown caller on your phone and find out it’s a wrong number instead of just assuming it is a debt collector, for instance, you’re taking back your power and control over your stress.
Journal Away Your Worries
Using your journal to get worries out of your mind is a great way to use journaling. It also sets a time limit to giving thought and attention to the negativity that can get in the way of your relaxation.
Now, you KNEW I was going to include this one, right? To me, writing in my journal can be life-changing. If you haven’t tried it, you should!
Visualize Yourself Calmer
If you’re worried about finishing a project, picture it done. If you’re concerned you can’t complete the marathon, picture yourself crossing the finish line. If you’re just worried for no reason, find a calming visualization like being at the beach or holding an infant to help you calm yourself.
Your mind is more powerful than you know. Some of the most successful people in life will tell you they live by the mantra, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” (Yes, that’s a quote from the ever successful Walt Disney – probably the biggest “dreamer” ever known, and definitely one of the most successful, as well.)
The Bottom Line
It doesn’t matter which techniques work best for you; the most important thing is to have tools in your toolbox for when you need them.
Being relaxed about your life is an effective way to reduce stress, and be generally healthier…and that’s the ultimate goal.