Stress = The. Worst. For me personally, I get horrible TMJ and headaches when I’m stressed out. For some people, it’s insomnia, high blood pressure, you name it. I think many of us take on more than we can handle, and are left feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything.
Fortunately, stress is a very easy thing to rid, if you take the time to call attention to it. Even taking five minutes a day to meditate can greatly reduce the amount of stress in your life.
Here are my top 10 natural ways to relieve stress and leave your body feeling relaxed and refreshed.
1. Take a Warm Bath – It’s a proven fact that warm water relaxes your body muscles and rids your body of stiffness and sore joints. Immersing yourself in hot water before bedtime causes your body temperature to rise, which enhances your ability to fall asleep faster. Also, by adding Epsom Salts to your bath (which are made of the mineral magnesium sulfate – a sedative for the nervous system), your skin will absorb the magnesium sulfate which sedates the nervous system and relaxes muscles. Soft music and candlelight is always a nice touch, too.
2. Massage Therapy – Massage plays an important role in training the body how to relax and getting rid of muscle knots. If your significant other isn’t willing to participate in a little massage therapy, and you can’t afford a weekly trip to the spa, you can attend a massage school session with massage students for a low price. Thai Reflexology Spas also offer foot and body massages for around $25/hr.
3. Yoga and Stretching – Yoga trains you to build up a natural response to stress and bring the relaxed state of mind into your everyday life. The slow movements and controlled positions of yoga improve muscle strength, flexibility, breathing, blood circulation and promote mental focus and calmness. Stretching also reduces tension and anxiety and slows down your heart rate.
4. Music – Whether you realize it or not, music plays a big part in our lives. Listening to relaxing music is a great method of reducing stress and relieving anxiety. The calm, soothing sounds will reduce your tension, blood pressure, and promote feelings of tranquility. Be aware of how you feel when you hear certain songs, and keep listening to the ones that produce a relaxing effect.
5. Exercise – Regular physical activity strengthens your muscles and releases endorphins, which reduce pain and induce euphoria, therefore improving your mood and mental concentration. Even if you dedicate fifteen minutes a day to dancing around your house or riding a bicycle around your neighborhood, you’ll find yourself feeling less stressed. Not only is exercise good for the body, but it’s good for the mind, too.
6. Drink Tea – Both black and green teas contain an amino acid called L-theanine, which produces a sense of calmness and relaxation by releasing neurotransmitters (like serotonin and endorphins) in the brain. (Reading a book while drinking tea = double win!)
7. Sleep – Getting enough sleep is CRUCIAL to your health and has a huge impact on your stress levels. Lack of sleep can leave you feeling cranky, absent-minded and you may have difficulty concentrating on everyday tasks. When you sleep, your body and immune system have time to rejuvenate. Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night because sufficient sleep benefits alertness and memory.
8. Take a Vacation – I know, not all of us can afford to hop on a plane whenever we feel stressed, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t create a mini-vacation of our own that’s affordable. Instead of wishing you could escape to a tropical island, try opting for a realistic vacation instead. For example, when I lived in Boston and couldn’t find the time to get away, I usually spent the weekend in Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard so it felt like a relaxing getaway. Try finding a relaxing yet fun spot near you that you can venture off to for the weekend for some peace and quiet.
9. Make a To-Do List – Sometimes, the burdens of everyday life can be a bit overwhelming at times. I usually find myself getting stressed when I have too much to do and not enough time to finish everything. Whenever this happens, I sit down and write out a to-do list of everything that I need to get accomplished. That way, I know I won’t forget any tasks and as I begin to cross off each item one by one, my stress slowly begins to dwindle.
10. Meditate – I saved the best for last – meditation is crucial to stress reduction! If you think about it, our minds are always active – even when our bodies are resting, our minds are still dreaming. Meditation is the only time your mind is able to rest and take a “nap,” because we’re consciously forcing thoughts out of our mind and allowing it to be quiet. You’d be surprised at how much we overthink things, and then, when we allow our minds to be still, the thoughts actually come to us. It’s hard because we’re used to millions of thoughts running through our head, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get, and eventually you’ll really start to notice a difference in your life.