De-stressing Techniques for a Busy Life

I’m no stranger to stress (and I KNOW you can so relate). I’ve had days full of deadlines, I’ve had full blown panic attacks, I’ve had nights when I just couldn’t clear my head… and when I have no reason to stress, I usually invent one. I’ve experimented with meditation, but it’s been little help to me; all the little messages bouncing around inside my brain try to battle their way to the forefront, and sometimes struggling to shut them up is more stressful than just forgetting the whole thing. I know there are a million sites out there that focus on yoga, spirituality, and calmer living in general. But for those of us who are just a little short on time, here are a few down-and-dirty tips for de-stressing that actually work for me.

1. Stop looking at your computer! Most of us these days, regardless of the industries in which we work, probably spend a fair amount of time in front of a computer. I find that if my eyes are tired and strained, it triggers a general feeling of stress in my whole mind and body. I’m extremely fortunate to have the pleasure of working from home (even on the days when it’s not such a pleasure), which allows me some flexibility in my schedule. I really try to do something every day that gets my face away from the screen, and preferably into some sunlight whenever possible. I like to take tasks that need to get done anyway—picking up groceries, doing the dishes, etc.—and space them out throughout my day so I end up taking short breaks without total lapses in productivity. I know it’s much more difficult to get out a few times a day if you work in an office environment, but that doesn’t change the importance of doing so. If you need a break from work, find an alternative to browsing the internet or checking your smartphone—anything that doesn’t involve a glowing screen—even if it’s just swiveling your chair in the opposite direction and closing your eyes for a moment. If your lunch break is really the only break you can manage in a day, don’t take it at your desk. Find a change of scenery, preferably on a nice bench outside if the weather is pleasant.

2. Don’t compromise on exercise! We all know that we end up sacrificing many things we’d rather not sacrifice when our schedules are busy. For me, it’s really important never to skip a workout, even if it means sacrificing something else. That probably sounds next to impossible if you haven’t managed to fit exercise into your schedule yet, but trust me on this one. Force yourself to do it for a while and you’ll be addicted (in a good way!), and then it won’t be so difficult anymore. I’m sure you don’t need yet another voice in your ear insisting that exercise is good for you… I know, you know that already. But how about this: any type of movement (to use a friendlier term than “exercise”) aids in detoxification. It’s important that your lymphatic and other fluids that carry toxins out of your body are flowing freely. When you do nothing but sit all day, the toxins build up instead, and toxic buildup equals stress. So move! It really doesn’t even matter what you do—walk, run, dance, do yoga, join a bar league softball team, play with your kids, take your dog for an extra long walk, sign up for a class so you have to go—just MOVE!

3. Poses for a quick fix. There are a few points in your body that produce a natural calming effect when stimulated. The two that give me the most noticeable relaxation are the diaphragm and the forehead. Crocodile pose is an extremely easy yoga position that stimulates both simultaneously. Visit this page for a picture and a thorough description of crocodile pose. The key is to breathe into your stomach so you can feel it press against the floor as it inflates.

Similarly, simply lying on your back with something warm (like a heating pad) or a little heavy (like a hardcover book on top of a folded towel) on your stomach and breathing into it, making it rise up and down, is very calming.

Another favorite pose of mine is a simple supported back bend. When you sit at a desk all day, you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time slouching forward. Taking a few minutes to reverse that is very calming and liberating. Here is a quick 2-minute video that will show you how to do it.

4. Listen to an audiobook in bed. I have a very overactive mind, and this tends to plague me the most when I’m trying to fall asleep. I’ve also always liked reading or watching TV in bed. Recently, however, I discovered (quite by accident) that listening to an audiobook in bed is much more calming. I was on a long car trip and had brought an audiobook for entertainment, and didn’t come close to finishing it. So when I finished the regular book I was reading, I put it on my iPod and listened to it at night during my normal reading time. Listening to a book eliminates the need for light, which is stimulating (and a flashing television is worse). It also allows your eyes to relax. Hearing a story keeps my mind off my thoughts, and so far every night I’ve listened I’ve gone right to sleep after turning off the book, which is quite unusual for me. I never thought I’d enjoy listening to a book as much as reading one, but I was pleasantly surprised. Give it a try and see what you think!

Got any de-stressing tips of your own? Let us know in the comments!

Carly

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