7 Simple Tools To Reduce Stress
I used to teach yoga in a small studio in the middle of San Francisco. The space was cozy and calm and when I arrived, I would slowly sweep the floor, spray essential oils, and turn on soft music, preparing for the whirlwind of stressed students that would soon come bursting through the door.
People would careen into the studio, buzzing with stress and energy, pulling off layers quickly, flipping out yoga mats quickly, filling up water bottles, twisting hair into buns, flopping onto their mats, all quickly, quickly, quickly.
I learned to shorten my opening grounding meditation, but even still there was a palpable desire for movement. Students would rush from one pose to the next, eyes glazed over, lost in thought about work, family, travel. When my final bell rang, they scurried from the studio as quickly as they had arrived.
For me, the joy of teaching yoga was absent in these classes. In other studios, my students and I came together in practice. We were present and slowed down. At the end of class, we lingered, we savored each other’s company and the feeling of alertness and connection that one hour of mindful movement brings to us.
Teaching in this studio was a valuable lesson to me about the costs of moving too fast. Yes, we may be able to accomplish more, but at what cost? For me, the joy of life is found in the tiniest of moments, too easily missed when in a frantic state.
If you’re one of the billions of people experiencing chronic stress in your life, it’s an absolute necessity to your health that you find a way to reduce your stress level. Realistically, there are seasons in our lives when we are not able to dedicate much time to a self care routine. Fortunately, there are many ways to incorporate mindfulness, or the act of paying attention, into our daily lives in order to feel less stressed.
Here are 7 ways that you can reduce stress in your life immediately:
1) Stop and smell the roses
No, really! Aroma has been proven to have profound effects on our emotions, and just taking a moment to inhale the scent of fresh flowers and herbs (or essential oils) can reduce stress and promote feelings of calmness.
Breathing fully not only provides your body with energy, but it also tells your nervous system that you are safe, as opposed to rapid, shallow breath, which signifies that your fight or flight response is engaged. There are several free guided meditations and breathing exercises available online or via free apps like Insight Timer.
3) Scan your body
Simply taking a moment to sit or stand still, lower your gaze, and mentally scan your body, from your feet to your head, can help prevent becoming lost in thought and allow you to arrive in the present moment.
4) Practice walking meditation
As you walk, bring your attention to the sensations of each foot as it makes contact with the ground. Even if you’re moving quickly, you can practice this portable mindfulness technique!
5) Create a gratitude list
Rarely do I recommend this to people without receiving an eye roll as a response, but the act of listing things that you are grateful for is one of the fastest and most effective ways to feel more joyful. Plus, in an effort to add to your list, you’ll start to notice the good things in your life more often.
6) Manage your time
I have a mantra for time management, “Don’t live it twice.” If you have a big project on your to do list, ruminating about it for hours, or days, in advance does not actually help you accomplish it. Instead of staying lost in thought about the next item on your list and releasing a steady drip of adrenaline into our bodies, plan your time so that you can pay attention to the task at hand and be open to feelings of peace and joy as they arise.
7) Read spiritual texts
It’s likely that anything causing you stress has happened before, to someone else. Listen to the advice of others who have gone before you, in the form of spiritual or self help books. We weren’t meant to go it alone, and reading words of wisdom by others who know what you’re going through will not only reduce your worry and stress, it might inspire you to reframe your challenges as exciting opportunities.
While the stressful pace of our culture is difficult to escape entirely, these simple practices can help you bring joy into your daily life without a huge time commitment. When you slow down just enough to engage in these techniques, you’ll find yourself enjoying life more, feeling more energized, and connecting with others around you.
About the Author
Lisa Machac writes about the "art of slowing down" through leisure, observation, and remembrance. Lisa is the lead writer and editor for Genuine, a resource that creates inner peace to facilitate outer change. Genuine connects readers to words of wisdom and self care and mindfulness practices to boost confidence, connection, and the desire to serve others.