How many times have you said or thought "I wish there was a magic pill for this!" _______________ (fill in the blank)
There are many ways to alleviate stress without damaging your body in the process. And it doesn't require pills, drugs, tobacco, sugar or food. I know it seems easier after you are all stressed out to pop some pills or down some wine, and even stuff your face with sugary cupcakes just for the thrill - but I'm going to stop you here.
I know other ways, I have practiced them myself and reaped wonderful benefits and I am going to share them with you.
It's so hard to believe that these 3 activities can actually reduce stress. We are so used to needing more, that we forget that simple activities work too. When promoting the use of self-care activities, in come Negative Nancy and Tacky Tommy. Negative Nancy and Tacky Tommy are both convinced these activities won't work, and have already vocalized all the ways in which they won't. In that time of complaining, one of the three activities could have been exercised, and the conversation never would have taken place because Negative Nancy and Tacky Tommy would already be feeling really zen right about now. Negative and Tacky would be dropped, and Nancy and Tommy would be relaxed. No wine, drugs, pills, tobacco, sugar, food needed. Sounds like bliss right?
The three things I am about to mention I have done. I have done all of them sporadically and I have also treated these exercises as rituals. Can you guess which scenario actually reaps benefits?
Doing self-care exercises sporadically doesn't work. I'll be the first to say I used to be a naysayer, and I used to feel that self-care was a chore. I would do activities here and there and then complain they didn't work and that I didn't feel any changes.
But here is what I noticed. In 2013 and 2014 I did yoga 3-4 times a week. It was glorious, because I actually felt so much better. I felt less stressed and less anxious. And I had major anxiety. But then I got tired of having to make everything a priority and little by little, I did less and less and I let my ego convince me that self-care was not necessary. I can tell you, the only person I hurt was myself. The lack of self-care left me feeling foggy, scattered and really anxious. I had no place to channel my stress and anxiety and instead kept it inside. Internalizing your stress is the worst thing for your body and by mid-2015 I was so anxiety ridden and stressed out that I got diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and was put on Ativan.
When I left the doctor's office, I was handed gobs of booklets on every form of self-care exercise from mediation to Tai Chi and Yoga, even though I already knew that doing these self-care rituals would help me, because I had done them before. I let my body down. I got lazy and stopped. All to realize, it was what I most needed.
Self-Care was missing from my life. And self-care for everyone is a tool used to balance the stress and anxiety (even with the anti-anxiety medication). Like needing water in the desert, our bodies no matter what shape, desperately need self-care to function.
If I had a penny for every person that said they don't have time, I'd be a ? But if we have time to sit in a 20 minute Starbucks line, then we have time to give our bodies what they need. Just like we need cuddles from the boyfriend, compliments from our friends, praise from our boss, we also need love from ourselves.
Bringing all of these self-care activities back into my life has created big shifts. So I would like to share with you what has worked for me, and what has created magic in my life in hopes that you will create loving rituals for yourselves. Remember! You only get continued benefits if you make them rituals.
The 3 ways to alleviate stress NOW are:
1. TAKE A WALK. I am so serious. It doesn't matter what time of day or night, or if it's raining, or snowing (if there is a hurricane or tornado, please disregard this exercise). Even if you are in your P.J's, get your boots on, grab your coat and take a 5 minute walk around your neighborhood. Turn your phone off and don't listen to music. This is not about tuning out. This is about being in the present moment and walking it off. There is something about hitting the crisp clear air that puts everything into perspective and calms the brain. This works for heartbreak, tummy aches, reflux, anger, sadness, frustration, feeling scared, boredom, creativity blocks and even with light food sensitivities and reactions. I believe when we are feeling something is wrong, our anxiety amplifies and makes it worse.
2. STRETCH. Utilize stretching exercises given to you by personal trainers, physical therapists and gym rats. Energy travels throughout your body and one way to alleviate stress and anxiety is to make sure your energy is moving through you. And while you are doing these stretching exercises, you can listen to your favorite relaxing jams. You can use an elastic band from the physical therapists office or a bath towel to stretch. But if you don't have props, do not let that stop you. You can stretch without props. Not only does stretching release energy that's locked inside of your body and mind, but stretching strengthens your muscles and keeps you in the moment and allows you to concentrate on your body. And when you concentrate on the present, you forget about all the anxiety and stress you were so worried about.
3. YOGA. 15 minutes | 20 minutes and even 10 minutes. Even if it's not a class and it's in your own home. Put on the tunes, take your socks off and grab your yoga mat. It can be the simplest moves. You don't have to Downward Dog it the whole time and then finish with Warrior Pose to say you did yoga. Yoga is similar to stretching. It works your body slowly, takes you out of the future or the past and keeps you in the present moment. Yoga gets your body moving and your energy flowing. Yoga forces you to take those big deep breaths through your nose and out of your mouth releasing stress and anxiety that you are holding within. Yoga keeps you focused on your body and not your drama. Try this yoga book by Mandy Ingber Celebrity Yoga teacher (who once was the star in that movie Teen Witch if anyone remembers that 80's classic). It's called Yogalosophy .
Love your body,