It seems like stress is present in our everyday lives. Most of us in the US anyways struggle with relaxation and turning off our work brain. Our culture is so work and income focused that we forget to have a life outside of our public roles. Unless you’re a parent too then it’s even more stressful to balance both personas. The amount of “things to do” minus any alone time is a recipe for stress.
Why do we have stress?
I mentioned a couple to reasons above that are cultural. Many professions expect you to be on call and/or available all the time. The most important part is what happens internally after days and days or months and years of stress. Our body regulates itself using the nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) controls our “fight or flight” response in danger or stressful times. The activation commands the brain to have the adrenal glands release chemicals like epinephrine and cortisol in to the blood stream. Epinephrine tells our muscles to conserve blood to send to the heart and lungs while opening the oxygen passageways in the lungs to receive more oxygen. Cortisol is in control of raising our blood pressure, blood sugar levels and metabolism to combat the physical endurance the body goes through in times of danger.
Why do we struggle to relax?
These days when we are stressed its usually not because of physical danger. Our bodies were designed for physical danger not mental danger. Because of that our blood pressure and sugar levels raise but we are not moving which could result in headaches, migraines and stiff muscles. — In our minds we don’t want to go to work and we may dread going to work everyday. Each day may have new deadlines, tough managers and any other thing you could perceive as stressful. This creates a cycle of SNS hormones getting released daily beyond normal ranges. The most important clue I want to leave here is that it is PERCEIVED STRESS.
What are emotional signs of stress?
Emotional cues of prolonged stress are feeling more emotional than normal, changes in sex drive, irritability, trouble concentrating on work or projects and decision making. Anxiety is another big symptom of stress and can cause insomnia. Drug use and drinking are bad ways to cope with the emotional baggage of stress. I’ll give you some positive tips to combat both the emotional and physical signs of stress.
What are physical signs of stress?
I mentioned earlier that you could get headaches and migraines from stress but what are some other symptoms? Tight, uncomfortable muscles are common due to the epinephrine making the muscles due with less blood. The hardest hit locations are the lower back or the neck and shoulder region. The SNS is located along the spinal cord with two energy centers one at the bottom of the back near the intersection with the sacrum and one where thoracic meets the cervical region. Stress is stored in these muscles and most often in the hips and lower back. Fatigue is one that gets swept under the rug because we are all busy however, it is important that we realize burnout and practice self care. Check out these baths to help with sore and tired muscles.
What is self care? How do I do self care?
Self care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. This can me mental health, spiritual health, and/or physical health. Think about what feels good for/to you. What do you like to do outside of raising children or working? Doing that is self care. To do self care simply schedule a self care day, hour or even 10 minutes a day at the least. You will see a lot of activities that can be considered as self care on my list of 12 ways to relax in 2023.
12 ways to relax in 2023
1. Get off Tech!
Schedule a full day without tech or give up 10-20 mins each night before bed.
Write about your day in those 10-20 mins with out tech before bed. Or journal in your morning routine to set your head right for the day.
3. Schedule in time to sit and enjoy your coffee or tea in your morning routine.
Wake up a little earlier to enjoy your first coffee at home, instead of drinking it on the way. If you want a clear start to the day enjoy it while journaling in your morning routine.
This shows up on every list ever. But you can’t argue with facts. 5-10 minutes a day can help you greatly.
Yoga is a wonderful addition to any morning or bed time routine. It helps to stretch out your muscles and forces your you breath oxygen back into them. Yoga is my personal favorite and I like that classes can be found easily online for free. I fully recommend this as a great stress reduction practice for your mind, body and spirit.
Again physical movement is good to open up your muscles and reduce tension. Exercising also releases neurotransmitters that help to combat any pain, tension and stress you may have. These endorphins attach to your reward centers in the brain and uplift your mood. It’s science.
Massages feel so gooooooooddd! One of my favorite things in the world. Depending on which technique you choose they may vary but the basic idea is that rubbing and pressure on muscles and certain energy centers can relax tension in the body. This is extremely helpful for tight spots and sore muscles. Please drink lots of water after as massages help detox your lymph system and water will help to flush it out of the body. — Take a spa day you deserve it!
8. Hot Bath
Another one that I love! Put your phone on the charger and leave it in the bed room. Light a couple candles and lock the bathroom door. Add any bath additives, oils or flowers and soak for 20 minutes. Baths help your soothe your skin and muscles but affects the mind and spirit as well. My routine is to take long soaking baths on the full and new moons. Take a look at these bath additives.
Find a hobby and commit to 1 hour a week minimum. If you can get a full Saturday then go for it. When we’re involved in something we enjoy it helps to release endorphins like we talked about earlier with exercise. This will fight the stress and make you feel happy. If you’re having trouble being creative or finding a hobby just find random groupons and try things until you like something. Hobbies are important to have outside of work and home life.
10. Create and stick to a bed time routine
I know we’re not 5 years old however, the idea is to limit screen time. We need some time to think from our own mind instead on being bombarded with 15-30 sec clips with each swipe. Journal, take a hot bath, read or try yoga before bed and once your body gets used to the routine it will know that it is time to sleep. You will train your body.
11. Get out in Nature
This is another one of my favorite remedies. Take a walk through your neighborhood if nature is a far stretch for you. Look at the trees, the birds, the flowers and the sky. Anything that you notice and just feel grateful for the beauty. Again no tech. Take a hike, visit a national park, visit a local park, or even sit under a tree in your back yard.
12. The tapping method
This is a new find in psychology. Basically when you feel triggered take 5 minutes and tap a finger somewhere on your body. You focus on the feeling and action of the tapping and essentially is a type of meditation. Being a newer method I decided to give it it’s own description.
There you have the top 12 ways to relax in 2023. I hope this helps you to relax and provide self care always. As they say, “you must put your mask on before helping others.” Make sure you take care of your self.
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