Stress Down Day

Tips for reducing the stress in your life and reclaiming peace and calm naturally!

Life by its very nature can be stressful, especially in the hectic, frenetic pace of modern life. We are constantly plugged in 24/7, living over stimulated and undernourished lives with little time to pause, rest or recuperate. We tumble out of bed and hit the ground running unrested and bleary-eyed into a world in which stress seems to be culturally entrenched – lurking around every corner.  Over time this stress can wreak havoc on our body – disrupting digestion, skin, emotional wellbeing and immunity.  But you don’t have to let stress hold you hostage! In this blog post we will explore how and why stress occurs and give you some tips for injecting some peace and calm into your life!

To get a real understanding of stress and why it occurs I’d like you to come back in time with me – about 25, 000 years. We’ve got our trusty clubs by our sides and we’re out foraging for wild berries in our finest loin cloths. But we’re not alone. Suddenly through the bushes we notice the glimmering, blade-like teeth of a saber-tooth cat. It spots us. We have two choices, to stay and fight or flee as fast as possible.RelaxSGP_14-15

Luckily, our bodies are designed to deal with this. To help level the playing field between us and our attacker we have an inbuilt fight or flight response that kicks in as soon as we register something as a threat. Adrenaline floods our blood stream and our sympathetic nervous system kicks into overdrive. Our senses are heightened, and our blood pressure and heart rate increase so that nutrient-rich blood is sent directly to our extremities to help us fight or flee. All other bodily functions that aren’t essential for this struggle (like reproduction, digestion and immunity) are temporarily shut down. We are primed to respond better, run faster and hit harder.

Fast forward 25 000 years, and our genetic make-up has remained much the same but our lifestylesand physical environments have changed dramatically.

Hectic work schedules, relationship issues, financial pressures, traffic and chronic over stimulation – the stresses we face today for the most part aren’t on par with the dangers faced by our ancient ancestors. The perception of stress though is very real to us and so is the response of our body – which has not evolved along with the demands of the modern world.

So whether we are stressed out over a morning traffic jam, unkind word or looming work deadline, our body will react as though we are face-to-face with a life and death situation. What’s more – our body cannot distinguish between an external threat and an internal one – meaning a negative thought alone can trigger the same adrenaline rush as being face to face with a hungry, salivating lion. We can even trigger a rush of stress hormones by anticipating a future event or revisiting an unhappy memory.

The good news? We don’t have to suffer through life uptight, anxious and on edge. There are plenty of ways to bring a little peace, calm and tranquility into our lives. Let us share some with you!

Tip 1. Perception Correction

It’s all about perception. Let’s take an example. Say for instance you sleep through your alarm on your first day of work. You rush to get ready and hop on the highway only to get stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. Your mind and body identify the threat. The stress response is activated. Your blood pressure and heart rate increase, breathing shallows and your mind floods with agitation.

There is nothing you can do to change the traffic jam – but you do have a choice about how you handle it. Instead of fighting against it, sitting in the car screaming profanities, jaw clenched and gripping the steering wheel (which doesn’t help you or the situation) can you make room for some peace and meet it with a little acceptance? Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation or giving up, it’s about letting go of resistance and creating some space to respond in a more mindful way and from a reflective rather than reactive place.

I find it helpful in moments like these to try and remind myself that stress isn’t actually a concrete and objective experience – it’s completely subjective. There is choice in every moment. No person, place or thing can make us feel anything without our permission – there is always choice – how we feel and react is our choice. Whatever stress we are experiencing in this moment we have allowed ourself to experience and very often for me it is stress I have created myself over things that really aren’t worth it (the phrase don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s all small stuff comes to mind).

It’s even possible to try and alter the way we view the traffic jam or stressful situation. Author and motivational speaker, Wayne Dyer, points out that “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation try asking yourself can I do anything to change it? If not, then can you make peace with it, can you make some room to accept it for what it is? Can you look at it from another angle, maybe seeing it as a challenge or opportunity to learn and grow?

 

Tip 2. Indulge in a fragrant pharmacy

If you’re looking for a gentle, holistic way to help deal with some of the manifestations of stress try the beautiful science and art of aromatherapy! Essential oils are nature’s gifts that when inhaled stimulate the limbic system of the brain, which is the centre associated with emotion, memories and pleasure.

Here are a few essential oils that have been specifically recommended for easing some of the symptoms of stress.

Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Geranium, Vetiver, Sweet Orange, Roman Chamomile, Bergamot, Cedarwood, Jasmine, Frankincense, Sandalwood, Clary Sage, Neroli

When choosing your essential oils make sure you go with your gut and choose one that really relaxspeaks to you – trust your body, it often knows exactly what you need!

If you’re having trouble deciding, the beautiful synergy of relaxing and calming essential oils in Relax Essential Oil Blend is ideal for creating a calm and tranquil environment.

I also like to keep an aromatic mist in my car and handbag as part of my stress soothing tool kit. Next time you’re in a traffic jam or stressful office situation try misting some Happy and Calm Aromatic Mist or Relax Aromatic Mist around to help diffuse feelings of tension and unease.

Tip 3. Learn to say no

We seem to be living in a yes world – which is great – life is meant to be lived, don’t get me wrong! But something many of us are guilty of in this fast paced world is taking on more than we can handle – saying yes when we really want (and need) to say no.  How many of us commit to a social event or request for help when our plates are already overflowing? If you’re feeling super busy and overwhelmed adding more to your schedule isn’t likely to help.

Identify your limits and honour them. If others are making unrealistic demands on your time, you have the right to make yourself & your wellbeing a priority and politely say no. Prioritising yourself and making time for you isn’t selfish – it’s an essential ingredient for self-care. Setting boundaries is healthy and means that you can give 100% to the tasks you do commit to, rather than spreading yourself too thin.

Often when asked for a favour our reflex is often to say yes straight away even if we’d really rather say no. So before saying yes to a request I don’t feel 100% comfortable with I like to ask myself do I absolutely have to do whatever it is I’m being asked? Will everything fall apart if I decline or would things be ok without my assistance? And do I really, truly want to do this? This way I know that my motivations are pure and my decision stems from love and willingness rather than guilt of feelings of obligation.

Tip 4. Sip your way to sanity!

Herbal teas can be a lovely addition to your stress soothing program!

Leave your worries behind and settle your nerves with gently relaxing herbs like…

Relax_withHerbsSkullcap, Passionflower, Hops, Lemon balm, Lavender, Chamomile and Linden flower.

For an added dose of peace and calm, try drinking your tea mindfully. Become fully present and really immerse yourself in the experience. Instead of banging away on your laptop, replying to emails while you drink, take a ten-minute break and really channel all your awareness into every sip you take. Notice how it tastes, what it feels like, the temperature, the smell. Use the tea as an anchor to the present moment. See how this makes you feel.  I always like to try this with a warm cup of Chill Out Tea which is filled with spearmint, lemon balm and passionflower, or Relax Herbal Tea which is gently calming with hops, lavender and chamomile!

Tip 5. Get loved up!

Released from the pituitary gland, oxytocin is a hormone known as the cuddle or love hormone because it is released when we cuddle or snuggle up to a loved one. It has been observed that when released, oxytocin lowers stress and cortisol levels as well as blood pressure and helps improve digestion and immunity! So how do you boost your oxytocin levels? Hug and cuddle loved ones, watch an emotional movie, get a massage, practice loving kindness meditation, cuddle up with your pet – basically do anything that makes you feel socially connected and warm and fuzzy!

Tip 6. Sweat it out

When our cavemen ancestors were approached by famished preadators they would either fight like crazy or flee. The intense physical activity associated with this would quickly burn-off stress hormones. The modern day stresses we face generate the same stress hormones but often aren’t accompanied by an immediate physical release. Engaging in vigorous physical exercise (even in short spurts) can help burn off the excess stress hormones and also has the added bonus of releasing bliss chemicals like endorphins.

Tip 7. Activate your relaxation response

Also known as the rest and digest system, the parasympathetic nervous system is the branch of our Autonomic Nervous System that induces relaxation. It lowers blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension and helps our body return to balance or homeostasis where it can heal and repair. It’s the system we want to activate to restore internal peace and balance, especially when we’re experiencing acute or chronic stress.

So how do we cultivate a parasympathetic state? There’s no one method that works for everyone – but we’ve included some of our favourite, tried and tested suggestions below.

Make a commitment to yourself…

Finding time to nourish and recharge yourself isn’t a luxury or selfish nor is it about being lazy– it’s essential for your wellbeing. Sometimes taking a break is the most productive thing you can do. Schedule in some me time daily, if possible, and use this time to do things that make you feel nourished and relaxed! Really savour the time you set aside for yourself and let go of any niggling feelings of guilt.  Remember you are worth this, you deserve to feel relaxed and at ease. If you struggle with giving yourself permission to rest, try using affirmations like “It is safe for me to relax” “I love taking time for myself” or “I am safe and at peace” or create your own personal affirmation that really resonates with you and your situation. Check out Louise Hay for some affirmation inspiration.

Try lighting some candles and soaking in a warm, scented bath. I like to treat myself to a nightly bath time ritual. I light some candles and add 7 drops of Relax Essential Oil to my diffuser. I’ll then pop on a soothing
playlist, add 2 tablespoons of Relax Bath Soak and 2 teaspoons of Relax Bath SoakRelax Bath Oil into a warm bath and spend a good 20 minutes soaking. There’s nothing more delicious than feeling the stresses of the day melt from your body as you consciously release any negative thoughts or feelings that may have accumulated.

I then smooth a layer of Relax Body Lotion all over and indulge in a mini foot massage with Relax Massage Oil. After that it’s time for some herbal tea and a short yin yoga session before pranayama and bed (usually after a quick spritzing of
Sweet Dreams Mist
over my pillows).

Some other me time ideas include going for a long leisurely walk, spending time in nature, journaling, getting creative, booking in for a facial or massage, meditating, catching up on some reading or simply giving yourself permission to do absolutely nothing at all.

Tip 8. Slow down!

Relish in the art of slowing down. One of the causes of stress and an overactive sympathetic nervous system is the fast-paced, multi-tasking-obsessed nature of modern life. We are constantly going from place to place, wolfing down lunch in between errands or meetings, cleaning, picking up the kids, cooking dinner and completing a handful of other things before we can finally collapse into bed at night.

For some people, this works out ok. For others, it can all become too much and make us feel like we have no control. One way to counter this is by purposely slowing down. Simply try picking a few tasks a day and do them slowly. If you notice you’re walking quickly slow down until you’re walking at half the pace. Try eating slower and more mindfully – allowing time to chew your food properly. Really taste and savour it before swallowing.

Our heart rate is a great indicator of how stressed we are – a fast heart rate usually means high stress levels. By slowing our heart rate we can help reduce feelings of stress. How do we do this? With a simple, but immensely powerful tool – our breath! You may have noticed when you’re stressed that you take faster, shorter & shallower breaths. This drastically reduces the CO2 levels in your blood which can cause feelings of anxiety and fear and trigger our fight or flight response. Being mindful of your breath and slowing it down is a way to replenish your CO2 levels and bring your body back toward homeostasis.  When you notice yourself feeling stressed or short of breath stop and take 10 slow steady breaths to centre yourself. It only takes a moment, but makes the world of difference. Try it now. If you have a little more time it’s great to engage in a daily practice of diaphragmatic breathing.

Sit comfortably with the head, neck and spine aligned and relax1relaxed. Take a moment to become aware of the natural breath as it moves in and out of the nostrils. Not trying to change it anyway just observing it. Now inhale and exhale fully and completely. Inhale into the lower, middle and upper lobes of the lungs for a slow count of 4 pause and exhale from the lower, middle and upper lungs for a count of 4. Pause and repeat. Ensure the breaths remain long, slow deep and even, if you feel comfortable you can even extend the count to 5 and then eventually 6. Lengthening the exhalation so that it’s 1-2 counts longer than the inhalation will enhance the level of relaxation. Continue for as long or as little as you like and take note of how you feel before and after the practice.

Give yoga a go. It can keep you grounded in the present moment
and induce feelings of peace and stillness through its focus on breath and body awareness. Spend some extra time savouring savasana (relaxation pose) and make sure you find a style that is suited to you. Many people find yin or restorative yoga to be extra soothing and supportive in times of extreme stress.

 

We hope you found these tips helpful and that you fully embrace the essence of Stress
Down Day! For more information see http://stressdown2015.gofundraise.com.au/


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