Everyone experiences stress from time to time. How can we not, with the fast pace and high demands of our modern lives? Our bodies are designed to adapt to stress but occasionally the overabundance of stressors can result in our coping resources being overwhelmed or not readily available, which in turn can lead to distress. This distress caused by persistent stress can have negative impacts on our health.
Acute stress is easy to identify. It may present physically as increased heart rate, chest pains, dry mouth, laboured breathing, headaches, and/or digestive upset. It may also present psychologically with symptoms of anxiety, depressed mood, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, sleep disturbances and/or poor concentration and focus. And to make matters worse, we may experience a combination of both physical and mental symptoms.
Chronic stress or low-grade stress can be harder to identify. When all of the above symptoms are less pronounced we don’t always realize the levels of stress that we are carrying in our bodies or in our minds. Regardless of whether your stress is acute or chronic, it can be very hard on your health so let’s be proactive to identify and dissipate stress on an ongoing basis.
5 Quick Tips For Dissipating Stress
Meditate: This does not have to mean sitting cross-legged on the floor burning incense, although if that is your jam, go for it. This means quieting your mind. It means becoming an observer of your thoughts and your feelings. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to the present moment noticing everything around you – the sounds, the sensations, the ‘sights’ and just observe without reacting. With practice, this simple exercise allows us to live in a less reactive state and can help dissipate the intensity of the stress that we are dealing with at any given moment. Even a few minutes can make a difference
Get Creative: Pull out your pencil crayons and doodle pad, go bake your favourite loaf of banana bread, grab a chunk of clay and mould it into something abstract, take a picture of something in nature or edit a photo to make it more brilliant. Creative outlets require focus and concentration and are good at taking our minds off stressful situations. The sky is the limit when it comes to getting creative.
Journal: Spend 10 minutes writing in a journal. You can write about how you are currently feeling and how you would like to feel. You can write about your happy place or a memory that makes your smile. You can write down 5 things that you are grateful for. You can write just about anything to experiment with what works for you. This will pull you away from your current state of mind and hopefully allow you to hit the reset button.
Music: Put on some tunes that promote relaxation or a playlist that makes you feel joyful and alive. If you google ‘music for relaxation or stress release’, there is no shortage of playlists that you can access. Use music to help you be in the moment and distract you from daily stressors. And of course dancing and singing is always a welcome addition when we want to change our headspace.
Movement: Physical activity can be a great way todissipate stress.Go for a walk around the block. Do 20 jumping jacks. Do 3 rotations of plank pose for 30-seconds. Jump rope or hop on your rebounder for a few minutes. Do a quick yoga flow. Lay on your back and stretch for a few minutes. The options are endless! When we change our physiological state our mental/emotional state changes. Motion creates emotion. So use movement to help you get unstuck when you are in need of de-stressing.
Many of us feel pressed for time when stress levels are running high, but don’t think of any of these activities as major time commitments. Think of these as practices or skills that you can fine-tune to dissipate stress in a timely and effective way.
Stress is inevitable but de-stressing is optional. “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” Find what works for you.