While sprawled out flat and receiving a massage, it’s easy to de-stress; in fact, all of the drama of the “real world” can feel like it’s miles away. One may even, in their drowsy, happy state, begin making plans on how they’re going to rearrange their life to prioritize relaxation even more.
But it’s far too easy to slip back into the stress routine, sometimes within minutes of leaving the massage therapist’s office. That reality check can be in the form of an urgent phone call, a commitment we didn’t really want to make, or a to-do list that is completely unrealistic.
The natural response to too much stress in a schedule-prone world is to try to find a large chunk of time to decompress: a completely open Saturday, or that tropical vacation next April. But this often results in built-up stress, which leaves you (and your immune system) susceptible to fatigue, depression, acne, infection, weight gain, heart disease, ulcers, and lots of other undesirables.
Fortunately, stress relief doesn’t have to require eight-hour blocks of time. There are plenty of ways in which one can take a couple of minutes to reach a state of calm; they just require a tactic called “mindfulness,” the way in which we reconnect with ourselves in the moment. Here are some time-tested methods with which we can ground ourselves:
- Stop and take a breath. It sounds hokey, but the health benefits are proven. Practice inhaling from your belly, to a slow count of nine; if that’s not possible yet, choose a lower number. Then exhale to the same count — or even longer, if you’re aiming for extra credit. When a thought enters your mind, put it on hold and go back to counting. You’ll notice your pulse (and your mind) will slow down. This “breath check” is your first line of defense against stress, anger and frustration.
- Laugh. Fake it ‘till you make it. Just like the mood boosting effects of a smile, even a fake one, studies have found that hearty laughter lowers cortisol, the stress hormone that’s responsible for many chronic diseases and displeasures — and also raises endorphins, which make you happy. Find something amusing — LolCats, a fun coworker, or the antics of kids on YouTube. Need a starting point? Search Google for “blood not funny.”
- Connect with a loved one. Call a friend; snuggle your spouse or child; take your dog for a walk; dangle a string for your kitty. Whatever method is available right now, take a moment to link up with someone dear to you. Reminders of what is truly important, in the midst of external pressure, can do wonders for the mind, body and soul.
And for that extra boost of stress relief, make an appointment to see me today!