After the holidays, we all need time for stress relief. Starting the New Year off with a routine of taking time for yourself to unwind is the best gift you can give yourself.
Creating a serene space at home is the best part. If you want to try yoga or meditation, make it a project to clear out a space in a room for just that activity. De-clutter the area; keep it simple, perhaps a candle, an iPod player for meditation music, and a small table for incense or jewelry. Keep the floor clean so that it is inviting to sit there or do yoga. Leave the cell phone out of the room while you are meditating, so that there are no distracting sounds. Even choosing an outside area is a great idea, as you get the fresh air, the sounds of the birds, and the peace of being in nature.
5 Yoga Poses to try
Yoga reduces cortisol and adrenaline, both hormones that make us feel stressed and overwhelmed. But the key to a reduction in those hormones is a steady practice that happens regularly. Try these poses for a deep stretch and a chance to take some deep breaths and relax.
- Standing Forward Bend (holding both your elbows to further pull your upper body downwards) – This is a perfect pose for back pain & for all of those hours spent sitting
- Triangle Pose – stretches so many muscles and brings the heart open
- Downward-Facing Dog – releases the back, stretches the upper back, and stretches the hamstrings. Be sure to raise your butt up as high as you can to release the weight from your wrists.
- Supine Twist – A gentle twist that helps back pain and releases tension
- Low Lunge – a great pose for releasing tension in the hips and stretching hip flexors.
Be sure to not over-stretch as you can cause ligaments to tear resulting in months of recovery. Go slowly and feel the edge of your abilities. Then back away from that edge. Stretching should feel good, not painful.
If yoga is not for you, try a different exercise routine. Even joining a team boot camp can be fun, but make sure it is made for your level of fitness. Dance workouts also are a lot of fun and make the time pass quickly. Exercise is very beneficial for the brain, and has been shown to be just as effective as anti-depressants. Even walking for 30 minutes several times per week gives the same brain benefit as high intensity exercise.
Drink at least 8 glasses of filtered water every day
When you are dehydrated or not getting enough water, your cortisol levels rise in your brain, which causes stress. Fill up bottles ahead of time and put them in the fridge for cold, refreshing water. Try adding bruised lemon slices, cucumber slices, even fruit like raspberries. Make sure to drink water from a good water filter that takes pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and fluoride out of the water.
Take Lemon Balm for stress relief
Extract: 10-15 Drops in water.
Tea: keep the lid on the teapot as the terpenes in Lemon Balm are in the steam.
Lemon Balm is great for relieving restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia. Studies have shown that combining Lemon Balm with Valerian was very effective for anxiety and insomnia. If you are taking medications or are pregnant, consult your doctor before taking Lemon Balm or Valerian.
Read a favorite novel or book
Reading calms the brain and helps us to focus on one thing instead of being distracted. Reading a novel allows us to escape into a fantastical world or just another person’s life. I make it a point to only read books with characters who are good people, who strive to do the right thing, versus books where the majority of characters are evil, intent on causing havoc, etc. I feel stress melt away when I’m reading about good people. I’m inspired by them and hopeful for them!
A study at the University of Sussex found that reading reduced stress by 68%, better than listening to calming music or drinking a hot cup of tea.
Many studies have been done on meditation for stress-relief. The best kind of meditation is one where you are not forcing your mind to be present. But rather, you are noticing how your mind wanders, and you are listening to your breath. Notice the mind wander and then accept it, let it go. Imagine the negative thoughts as a balloon, choose a color for it, picture it in your head, and let it float up into nothingness. Even 5-10 minutes of meditation every day can make a huge difference in your stress levels. Try doing a short meditation at the end of your yoga session and it might be easier to fit in. Or do it right before falling asleep at night. Make it easy and fun, not a bunch of work.
Learn to cook, draw, paint, create a scrapbook, or make a simple piece of furniture. These types of hobbies make you feel like you are creating something tangible and real. Hobbies provide you with “eustress”, a good kind of stress that makes you feel challenged and excited. However, too much eustress (from too many appointments and activities) can turn into chronic stress that makes us go into “fight or flight” mode and burnout. If most of your hobbies involve lots of other people, try doing a hobby that is solo. It will give you the time to reflect. Plus, if you’re doing it at home you can set up your environment for peace and serenity.
Be with people who you love & who make you joyful! That face-to-face time is priceless and it is gone in an instant. Enjoy it now.
Garden or Be Outside Every Day
Time in nature is so important for stress relief. Sitting in the sun with your eyes closed and meditating is a powerful stress reliever. Experiencing the beauty of the outdoors gives us peace. Replace your nightly TV-watching with a walk with your spouse or a friend. A study has shown that watching TV is the same as being low-level stressed whereas heart rates were calm while watching nature out of a window. To be happy and peaceful in life, we need to interact with nature, even if it means smelling a flower or watching ducks at a pond. Make it a priority to take walks during lunch or a nightly walk after work.
Journal 3 Things You Are Grateful for Today
Make it a habit to write down 3 things you are grateful for every day. Your sense of accomplishment and self-worth will increase by doing this. You will feel less of a need to be constantly busy. It will also help you to pinpoint the important things in your life that you might not be focusing on. Or perhaps it will help you see that certain people in your life need to know how grateful you are for their presence and love.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender Essential Oil is very relaxing and calming for our nervous system. Diffuse it into the air or dab a drop on your feet before bed. Try mixing a spray of 50% witch hazel + 50% water + 5 drops of lavender essential oil, shake it, and spray it on your pillow before bed.
Stress relief using natural methods is a great way to gently guide your body into a new year full of happiness and productivity. I am happiest creating things, being in nature, and spending time with loved ones. But sometimes we also forget to make time for ourselves. Take time every day to do something just for yourself, that makes YOU happy. That happiness will radiate throughout your life and touch others.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making any changes to your regimen.
Rosemary Hansen is a published author on Amazon, a Traditional Foods Chef, and a devoted Mama. You can learn more about her Pure Living Course + nourishing tips at: www.RosemaryPureLiving.com
Kahn, PH, Friedman B, Gill B et al. A plasma display window?—The shifting baseline problem in a technologically mediated natural world. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2008; 28: 192-199