Most of us would agree that life can be stressful at times. Generated by adversity or unfortunate life circumstances, stress can often lead to distress. It also occurs, albeit in a different form, from a positive response to stressors, known as eustress.
Much on-going research is dedicated to uncovering ways to identify stress within our bodies and how to decrease or even temporarily eliminate it. To do so limits the potential risk of compromised physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Checking in with oneself on a regular basis by performing a mini body scan meditation brings focus to the present and helps in determining if tension or anxiety is causing physical discomfort or distress. Symptoms of increased anxiety include headaches, racing thoughts, accelerated heartbeat, shortness of breath, stomach discomfort and/or overall fatigue and body tension. Sometimes our thoughts take us so far into the future that we lose sight of the present, leading to mild dissociation. The goal is to stop and quiet the mind, to raise our awareness, increase focus on the present, and do something to change our circumstances or, at least, how we think about them. Intuitively, most of us have discovered ways to slow down and relax and just need gentle reminders to put them into practice.
My own experience
One of my favorite ways to decompress is to go outside, day or night and regardless of the weather, take a few deep breaths while tuning into the natural environment. We can rekindle a sense of wonder and grounding by noting what we see, smell, hear, feel and experience. Going outside regularly, even for a few minutes, connects us to the universe and elicits feelings of splendor and awe for something much larger than ourselves.
Dealing with digital stress
Many are stressed by what seems like a constant need to respond to emails, phone calls, texts and social networking sights, the content of which can cause a variety of unhealthy reactions. Taking digital breaks provides a sense of balance, mentally and physically. Setting limits to the amount of time we’re attached to our phones and computers, especially when not at work or school, is an effective way to decompress. It also better connects us to our surroundings and the people who are physically present in our lives.
There are countless other ways to decrease stress and anxiety. Examples include breathing exercises, regular exercise, meditation, massage, gardening, talking from our hearts with someone we trust, spending quality time with those we love (including pets), yoga, creative endeavors, such as photography or drawing, or the simple pleasure of lying in a hammock listening to the birds sing.
There are excellent resources available on improving one’s mindfulness. And don’t forget the bountiful joy of a good laugh and the rejuvenating benefits of gratitude.