I had experienced stress before. But, last month, it was on a completely other level.
I spent days locked up at home, sending CVs and pitches that fell into a black hole. When I went out, it was to look for a new place. In a more expensive area.
Money was beginning to run out. Worry kept me awake at night. I couldn’t sleep more than 4 hours a night. My appetite was gone. My blogging mojo was quickly disappearing too. Stringing two words together isn’t that easy when you’re sleep deprived and stressed as hell.
Everything looked so black back then. And yet, thinking about it now, I kind of smile at the panic I drove myself into. Yes, my new place is more expensive. Yes, getting work is hard.
But I have enough money to support myself for a few more months. I know that if I keep pitching and applying for jobs, something will turn up. In fact, the tide is slowly turning already. And I’m blessed with friends who are always there for me. Life’s good.
I just needed to bring my stress levels down to remember that. Easier said than done, isn’t t? Luckily, science gives us a helping hand. Here are 7 scientifically-proven ways to relieve stress. I hope they’ll help you, as much as they’ve helped me:
1. Take A Deep Breath
Did you know that our body has an in-built stress relief system? It’s our breath. Diaphragmatic, or belly, breathing has been shown to lower cortisol levels, reduce stress, help manage anxiety, and treat depression.
If I feel stress and anxiety creep up when I’m out and about, I take a deep belly breath. I breathe in slowly through my nose, allow my belly to rise and expand. Then, I slowly breathe out through my mouth.
Even after just one breathe, I can sense a huge difference. My body is a lot more relaxed, and whatever was bothering me doesn’t seem so bad or serious anymore. Now, I can deal with it a lot more easily.
I’m an overthinker. My mind is constantly at work, thinking, calculating, predicting, worrying about every little thing that could go wrong. Sometimes, I wonder how I’m still sane.
When I want to shut up all those voices, I’ll meditate. I don’t repeat a mantra or anything like that. I prefer mindfulness meditation. I focus on what I’m experiencing while I’m meditating. The flow of my breathe. My emotions. Every sensation that goes through my body.
It’s trickier than it sounds. Those voices in our heads won’t just stop talking all at once. They’ll still make themselves heard and try to distract us. Just keep at it. You’ll feel a lot less stressed afterwards, and much more focused on the present moment.
3. Reach Out
I love spending time on my own. So much so, I’m often scolded for being anti-social. But even a bear like me craves company sometimes. Ok, often. I’m a social animal too. We all are.
We all need to reach out to others, shares our thoughts and feelings, and connect on a deeper level. Life is tough enough as it is. Without a supporting network, it’s unbearable.
Just talking to a friend on the phone about our struggles helps us lower our stress levels and see problems in a different, more positive, light. So, pick up the phone, or, even better, meet for a drink. Share the burden, and have fun!
4. Hug Often
As children, we hug and are hugged all the time. But, as we start to grow older, we lose the habit. It’s time we get back into it. A 2005 study suggested that hugging decreases, especially in women, levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
What are you waiting for? Go give your partner a hug. And your parents too. And your friends as well. Spread the love, and lower that stress! Both yours, and theirs.
5. Do What You Love
I’ve always loved writing. Yet, for years, I barely penned a few words. It seemed to selfish to sit down and write my thoughts on this and that, when I needed to finish my homework, give my mom a hand around the house, and be there for my friends, even when they didn’t bother to return the favour.
But taking some me-time isn’t selfish. It helps us recharge our batteries and stay sane in this crazy, demanding, hectic world of ours.
When I finally put pen to paper (ok, fingers to keyboard) again, I felt a huge surge of relief. As I kept writing, I could feel the stress slowly leaving my body, leaving me feeling happier and satisfied.
You don’t have to write. Just do whatever it is that you love. If you don’t know what that is (so easy to forget when life pulls us in some many different directions), ask yourself, “what did I love doing as a child?”. Then, do that.
6. Move Your Body
I know, I know, you don’t want to hear it. Sitting on the sofa with a good book is so relaxing. But we need to get our butts off it and go for a run. Or a walk. Or play tennis. Or swim. Whatever works for you. Just move your body. It clears your head, dissolves tension, and releases that burst of feel-good endorphins that melts all your stress away.
7. Laugh It Off
Been spending way too much time watching cute videos of cats on youtube? Me too, and I have no intention of stopping anything soon. It’s good for my health. Yes, really. A good laugh can lower stress levels and boost your immune system. Laughter really is the best medicine.
What are your favourite ways to relieve stress?