By Dr. Nadia Persun, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist (Wheaton & Naperville, IL)
People often complain about feeling tired and stressed out. Many also start feeling depressed, irritable, and anxious. Prolonged periods of stress take a toll on our minds and bodies. Since many of us have busy daily routines, we have to find ways to cope with our responsibilities, but also integrate some daily self care. These mindful self care activities will not take much time and effort, but can bring an enormous stress relief. You will notice the benefits only a few days after doing these simple activities and exercises!
Breathe right for an instant relief! Do you know that when we are feeling anxious, angry, and stressed out, unconsciously we either breathe more rapidly, in short waves, or hold our breaths? Your brain gets deprived of oxygen, getting false signals of danger, or even misreading it as a “death” signs, alerting and mobilizing stress responses in your body. In turn, your brain mobilizes adrenal glans to produce more cortisol, a hormone of stress, which makes you even more stressed out and feeling ill, emotionally and physically. Here are some breathing techniques to help your brain to get more oxygen, and for you to feel relaxed and at ease quickly:
1. Inhale through your nose, slowly, counting till four. Then hold your breath, waiting about four seconds. Repeat this routine four times.
2. Close your right nostril with your right index finger; inhale and then exhale very slowly, using your left nostril. Repeat once or twice. Do the same thing on the opposite side: close your left nostril, allow two to three deep inhales and exhales with your right nostril. Switch sides and repeat this alternating routine once or twice.
3. Think of the two or three negative feelings you are experiencing right now. Then, think of the two or three positive feelings that you would rather feel instead. Inhale slowly, thinking of the positive words, such as “peace, calm, love”, for example. Then exhale slowly, thinking of the negative emotions bothering you: “stressed, angry, unhappy,” for example. This meditational exercise helps to purge the negative and meditate on the positive, while also engaging the healing power of oxygenating your brain through deep breathing.
Create a positive morning routine. Quite often we wake up giving ourselves just enough time to get quickly to our daily chores. How about less stress and more positive feelings to jumpstart your day? Wake up a bit earlier, make yourself a nice cup of coffee and enjoy it, while reading a magazine or a book for ten or fifteen minutes. Listen to some good music, while taking a shower, using a new scented soap or lotion. Spend a few minutes planning and preparing yourself a healthy lunch. Think of other simple ways to spend 10-15 minutes in the morning to do some pleasant and relaxing self-care activity.
Spend more time outside. Go out for 10-15 minutes first thing in the morning. Or walk during your lunch break or after work. If you don’t feel like jogging, just walk. Just walk around the block and enjoy the nature sights. Focus on feeling your muscles working and on breathing deeply and slowly. It will help to rebalance your body and mind.
Unplug and do something slow and relaxing. Find a comfortable and relaxing place, away from noises and distractions. Focus on the peace and serenity of the moment, reminding yourself that for the next five minutes you don’t have to be anywhere or do anything. For five minutes, just sit still and feel your body. Do several slow inhales and exhales. Stretch gently or sit still with your eyes closed. Five minutes can provide a powerful mindful pause to the busyness of the day. Consider doing this simple meditation activity daily. It requires little time and efforts but has powerful relaxation benefits.
Go to bed early. Try to be in bed by 10-11 p.m. as a daily habit. Generally, people who stay up late, spend their time either watching TV or using internet. Rarely will you consider these activities "restorative and productive" the following day. Meanwhile, you will likely be feeling tired and sluggish, regretting not going to bed earlier. Sleeping under 7-8 hours nightly makes us feel tired, more anxious, tense and depressed. Also, some research suggests that staying up late often leads to snacking, causing consumptions of additional calories and gaining weight over time.