Stress is an insidious killer. The scariest part is that most people are too overworked, overstimulated, and distracted to even realize the large amounts of stress they’re under. One of the few facts I retained from my freshman year as a Bio major is that stress is harmful to humans on a cellular level. According to a piece on chronic stress by Stacy Lu on APA.org:
“Telomeres are a protective casing at the end of a strand of DNA. Each time a cell divides, it loses a bit of its telomeres. An enzyme called telomerase can replenish it, but chronic stress and cortisol exposure decrease your supply. When the telomere is too diminished, the cell often dies or becomes pro-inflammatory. This sets the aging process in motion, along with associated health risks.”
I don’t know about you, but my goal is to age gracefully. So when I started to see physical manifestations of stress (i.e., hair loss, weight gain, dull skin), I concluded I didn’t want to become codependent on substances or medications to help me calm down and re-center. As a result, I searched for practical ways to manage and relieve stress that I could do on a regular basis. Here’s the list I compiled:
Take slow, intentional breaths:
Instead of just saving breath work for meditation, become mindful of your breathing throughout the day. After a while, it becomes a habit. Many people wonder how I keep my cool in crazy situations. Well… this is it! The moment I feel my heart rate rising (especially in traffic), I start to focus on my breathing. I start with one deep breath to calm down, followed by 8 intentional breaths (4 count inhales, 4 count exhale).
Write things down:
My mind loves waking me up in the wee hours of the morning to remind me of all the menial tasks I need to complete by the end of the day. So, I make lists. On Sundays, I create a to-do list for each day of the entire week noting if the task must be completed. I even include things like “check the mail”, “don’t leave list on the table”, and “review checklist”. It may seem like overkill, but it helps to have something to follow mindlessly without worrying I might miss something. This frees up mental real estate for more important things.
Speaking of freeing up space, decluttering your physical space is just as important as decluttering your head space. I generally sift through my things every 6 months and asking myself have I used or even thought about an item in the past 6 months. I divide those into a “can go” and “item will live to see another 6 months” pile.
Once you sort through everything, this could be a simple Goodwill drop off or pick up. Or maybe you need some Marie Kondo style tidying and need a dumpster to get it done all at once. Services like Junk Queen TX make tha
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Here’s the thing…I don’t believe the only way to meditate is by sitting Indian style on a pillow and chanting. That’s a great way to quiet your mind and learn to control your thoughts. However, there are many ways to quiet your mind. Whether it’s coloring, listening to music, dancing, walking at the park, the idea is to zone out and be in the moment.
If you’re like me, your stress manifests in physical form. I’m pretty flexible, so I always know I’m stress based on muscle tension. Use a heating pad, soak, and sit in a sauna or steam room regularly. I can’t explain the exact science behind it, but heat has a way of loosening the muscles and calming the mind.
While it may seem stressful because of the extreme temperatures, Cryotherapy is also a great way to relieve stress. The process encourages the release of melatonin. I always feel euphoric when I’m done. Check out my experience with Cryo here.
Yoga or just regular stretching always loosens up and relieves the tension stress causes. I stretch just about any and everywhere.
Take a day to deactivate from everything electronic. Even if you can’t do a full day, put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ and leave it somewhere out of sight for at least 3 hours. Make it simpler. Do a social media fast. I like to do deprivation tanks (check that out here). Where I can just go blank and nothing else exists for 1 hour.
Unfortunately, stress is inevitable. However, it is a personal choice whether we allow ourselves to accept stress culture as the norm. Start by recognizing that you’re stressed and pinpointing the things that trigger stress. Then begin implementing these(or your own) stress relieving practices regularly to start improving your quality of life.