Here's how you can help yourself to relieve stress
The following is based on my recent research and personal findings of how to relieve stress and anxiety. I had collapsed after being extremely unwell for weeks, when my three kids became overcome with bacterial infections, which meant they had to stay home from school and be cared for. Added to this, we were smack bang in the middle of a complicated house move, right when my husband was having a terribly stressful time at work. As if these weren't enough, there were several other little issues which culminated in one big stress-ball sitting on top of my head. Caring for three feverish, weak kids while being unwell yourself is nearing on impossible, so I had to find a way to cope. Here is what I've researched, most which have been recommended by doctors and therapists. I've also added a couple of my own which have helped me relax.
If you’re really stressed, it may take all of the listed activities to liquefy it. I’ve also included some of the most common symptoms of anxiety and stress at the end of the article.
Gardening can help relieve stress
Even if you’re not into gardening, this is a healthy, workable way of reducing your stress levels. Go out into the garden and pull up some weeds, prune some plants, water the flowers. If you don’t have a garden, drive out to a large garden centre and spend a couple of hours looking at the plants and smelling the flowers. Spend time in the warm nurseries feeling the texture of the leaves or taking a few pictures. If you’re so inclined, buy a little plant or two and plant them in your garden. Nurturing does not co-exist with stress. It’s one or the other. This really does work. I recommend it highly. If you think you haven’t got the time to do this, please make some time. You won’t regret it.
Ask for a hug. Hugging relieves stress
Human physical contact is genuinely healing. Jesus touched people when he healed them even though he didn’t have to. He demonstrated that he could raise the dead by just saying the word. He healed a little girl while in another village far from where she was, by just telling her father she was healed. Yet, on many occasions, he touched even a leper when healing him. Jesus appreciated the importance of human to human contact. Don’t be ashamed to ask for a hug when you’re stressed. Ask someone to wash your hair. Ask them to use their finger tips to massage the shampoo into your scalp. Have someone rub sun-lotion (or any lotion) on your back. Hold hands with someone you love. If you know someone with a baby, take care of him/her for a couple of hours and give them lots of hugs. Human contact helps dissolve stress.
Tap to relieve stress
Anxiety enables the flow of adrenaline throughout the body. If no ‘flight action’ is taken, this excess energy can harm the body and organs like the heart and stomach if allowed to continue over long periods of time. Adrenaline is supposed to give us the extra energy to run away, fight back, or pick up a large fridge if this is what it takes to get out of danger. This stress-induced adrenaline is coursing through your body with nowhere to go, so give it an outlet! Tap your feet or fingers. Really go for it and don’t hold back. Any hard surface is ideal to tap on. Another great device is to tap on the end of each finger twice in quick succession, using the tip of your thumb. Start with the little finger and travel through them all until you get to the forefinger. Start over again and do this for a few minutes. Tapping in this way helps to pull your concentration away from your worry, and point them outwards to your finger tips. If you don’t want anyone to see you doing this crazy jig, just tap your fingers or feet on a hard surface until you get some privacy in the bath or elsewhere. A bout of excessive cleaning also takes the place of tapping. Remember that scrubbing and polishing push your stress outward, not inward as worrying does. Use this and other stress-release devices listed here and you’ll be on your way to a lighter mind.
Talk about being stressed
It helps to talk about what’s making you anxious. ‘Talking through your problem’ has become somewhat of a cliché these days. Many people see this exercise, read it, but don’t believe it. However, talking about what worries us releases the silent hold it has on us. A work colleague may be willing to listen. This works better when the person listening does not have a personal or emotional connection to the actual problem. They do not have to offer any sort of advice or solution. The listening ears are just what you need to enable you to vent verbally, thus emotionally - relieving your stress levels.
Take action to relieve stress
Just do it! You certainly will have to push yourself to do this (and maybe all of the other techniques listed here), but it’s one of the best ways to combat stress. If you’re anxious about an exam, start studying. The stress will be directed to, and focused on learning. If you’re anxious about moving, start packing. That extra energy that’s stressing you out will be poured into frantic packing. If your love life is causing you stress, sit down and tackle the situation with the person involved. The nerves making you shake will be tilted towards talking and solving.
Have a bath to relieve stress
Have a long, warm soak. The soothing water relaxes your body and this is what you need to clear the mind. Your shoulders relax, your breathing slows right down and your heart rate drops. When you’re anxious, it’s impossible to get these conditions right in your body, but this is exactly what you need in order to stop the racing heart and pounding pulse. The body, not being able to relax naturally during stressful periods, needs some artificial help to do so. A warm bath is the best drug- free, artificial remedy to achieve this effect. This is a must. You can also use this time in the bath to tap or practise slow breathing. For added help, you can use Village Naturals Therapy Stress Mineral Bath Soak.
Love can relieve stress
Married people have got an advantage in lessening anxiety. Not only will they have physical contact and hugs on tap, but they have the benefit of love-making, which is a recommended outlet for stress. In this case, it’s a ‘treatment’ that can be availed of, so use it as such, weather you ‘feel like it’ or not. Remember, push yourself to take action to feel better.
Comedy is useful for relieving stress
‘Laughter is the best medicine’ is a very popular phrase, but how many people actually make use of it when they really need to? Anxiety is kept to a minimum when we’re laughing. It’s not just the physical aspect of laughter that’s not conducive to stress. Laughter involves the brain, which sends the initial message to the rest of the body; the diaphragm, which convulses and spasms; the muscles in the body, which stiffen and become out of control; fifteen muscles of the face, which involuntarily open the mouth; and the larynx, which opens and closes with gasps of air, almost shutting out breathing completely. All this add up to produce endorphins into the blood stream. The psychological aspect of laughter is coupled with the body’s involuntary contractions to produce a more relaxed person. When you’re going out of your mind, turn on the TV and saturate yourself in comedy shows. A good few belly laughs, together with the other de-stressing tips we’ve discussed here, will go a long way to lessening your anxiety.
Crying always relieves stress
No, this is not contradicting the above technique of laughter. Rather, it’s complementing it! You need laughter to produce stress relief, but you also need tears to release the hold it’s taking on you. Animals don’t cry. Humans have the gift of crying because it’s a valuable way of washing out pent-up emotions. Crying is not only a way to ‘feel better’ after emotional distress. It’s scientifically proven that tears produced by emotional crying (as opposed to those produced during laughter or physical pain) contain a mixture of dangerous hormones washed from the body. It’s no accident therefore, that we feel better after a long cry. So, after you’ve had your fill of comedy TV, turn over to watch a sad film or one that ends in tragedy. This will trigger your already raw emotions, and if you’ve been holding in the tears, this will help you shed them freely. No doubt, this is a very good thing to do.
Take time off to do something enjoyable
Make time to do things you don’t normally have time to do. Take a half day off work and deliberately do something you’ve been meaning to do, but never have time for. Of course, money is very important. How else would we pay the bills? But when we’re stressed and over anxious we’re acutely aware that health is twice as important. Picnic with kids and watch bugs crawling in the grass. Take yourself away from routine life and go to a place where you can’t get involved in everyday situations. Go watch a film. Take your kids to the park and look under rocks. Take the dog for a swim and just sit on the shore with your feet in the water. You’ll be surprised to see how quickly you can relax, but most importantly, how much you needed that time off.
Combined, the actions above will naturally relieve your stress and anxiety. Because it will be all your doing, you’ll find that you’ll be made stronger - better to cope next time you’re experiencing difficulty. One does not learn strength and patience by taking pills. All virtues are learned by persevering through taxing experiences. One learns patience by being made to wait for things several times. The physical body gets stronger by being put through hours of hard weight-lifting and punishing training routines. Likewise, the mind gets stronger by forging through difficult times by any means necessary. The above techniques are those means by which to teach ourselves how to cope with stress.
Common signs of stress and anxiety
Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
Voices in your head (overworking of the mind)
Constant worrying that something is going to go wrong
Thinking that you’re going to die soon
Trouble breathing or the feeling you’re not taking in enough air into your lungs
Loss of appetite
Going to the bathroom more frequently than usual
Feelings of not being able to cope with everyday things you normally do with ease