When it’s around, oh, you’ll know it.
There’s no mistaking the…
- familiar (and uncomfortable) tightening of your muscles
- increasing edginess as the day goes by
- shallow breathing
- inability to focus
- elevated heart rate, and
- gnawing feeling that something just isn’t right in your universe.
All of us deal with stress in different ways.
Some of us call our close friends for long, therapeutic chats (highly recommended). Others crawl into bed and stay there until they feel ready to face the world again. Some of us turn to alcohol or food to numb ourselves from the hard things in life (neither of which have good outcomes) .
I’ve done them all.
And having just started to heal from one of the most stressful periods of my life, I can tell you this: There’s no 10-minute, one-size fits all, one-time solution or magic wand for waving all that stress away.
There is however, one thing that’s been working very well for me as far as getting that constant buzz of anxiety in my consciousness to quiet down, or even retreat altogether goes, and that one thing is this: I’ve created a daily ritual of small, calm-inducing habits that I spread out throughout the day.
Doing this allows me to automatically find pockets of serenity as I go about my day, and takes the takes the pressure off of having to set aside that solid hour of ‘relaxation’ or meditation at the end of the day (which ironically, stresses me out) to deal with my anxiety.
Here’s what that ritual looks like:
I’ve created a relaxation cue that I trigger throughout the day
I love tea—I love its scent, how it transforms plain water into a beautiful, aromatic infusion of leaves, flower petals and spices, and how just drinking it makes me feel like I’m giving myself a shot of self-love.
And because I find it so soothing and calming, I drink it 3 to 4 times a day.
It’s become my go-to, calorie-free beverage since getting over my addiction to soda, but more than that, when I reach for my favorite leaves, it’s an instant reminder to slow down, get up from my chair and go for a stroll as I nurse my cup of tea.
The kind I can’t do without? Green tea.
I have my yoga mat rolled out…permanently
I used to roll up my yoga mat as soon as I was done using it.
But I found myself using it less and less as time went on because taking the mat out of its bag and unrolling it just for a 10-minute stretch felt like too much work (terrible, I know).
The result: Sheer laziness would take over, and weeks would go by before I reminded myself that I needed to stretch or slip a yoga sequence into my day. In other words, not good.
I knew what my obstacle to a more supple, stronger me was, and that obstacle was the ‘chore’ of unrolling and then, rolling up my mat, so I decided to unroll my mat, and leave it that way…permanently.
Now, when I wake up, my mat’s ready for a morning yoga routine. And when the PM rolls around, it’s ready for a nice long stretch. No rolling required.
I make mindful eating a part of my day
If I had to choose the one thing that saved me from the destructive cycle of emotional eating that I felt stuck in for years, it would be mindful eating.
- made friends with the physical sensation of hunger so it no longer scares me the way it used to.
- eat slowly so that I can tune in to my body’s hunger and fullness cues, and…
- stop eating when I’m just shy of feeling full.
As a result, I’m able to truly enjoy my food, use my meal times as opportunities to wind down and nourish my body, and I no longer have to count calories to avoid overeating.
I pamper myself at the end of the day
The old me would head home at the end of the day, reach for the pasta, potato chips and chocolate, and eat herself into a food coma because well, “I earned it”.
Until I found myself 22 pounds heavier, failing to get my jeans past my hips, and unable to say “no” to food without bingeing.
I wanted to turn my night-time stress-relieving ritual around so it didn’t revolve around food. So now, instead of eating, I go for a workout or head to the yoga mat for a deep stretch, and then to the bathroom for a hot shower and a quick, 10-minute, at-home spa treatment—another trigger to slow down and be present in the moment.
I remind myself not to sweat the small STUFF
My 16-year dog Daisy passed away from congestive heart and kidney failure recently, and while watching her body deteriorate rapidly, I started to feel a deep sense of regret—regret from wishing that I’d spent more time with her over the course of her short life.
Her sudden passing was also a crystal clear reminder that life is so fragile and short, and that ultimately, the little things that we’re sweating over, like the bad traffic, crazy deadlines or rude client, aren’t the things that we should be focusing on when it comes to living a joyful and meaningful life.
What should you be focusing your attention on? The things and people who help you get more of that joy and meaning.
As for the rest, it’s probably best to let them go.
Are you going through a stressful patch and want to take better care of yourself, but can’t seem to make any progress? Get started with my free Daily Self-Care Ritual Workbook.
Photo credit: wenkui xiao