For many of us, stress is a constant in our lives. Feeling stressed is burdensome -- no one wants to feel stressed, and yet somehow it has a way of finding us time and again. It doesn't let you think straight, make the right decisions or focus on your work. Running away from it or fighting it isn't easy. But when you feel a surge of emotions taking over, causing panic and anxiety, there are things you can do to calm yourself. Since April is Stress Awareness Month, Spiritual and Psychic Mentor, Dr Madhu Kotiya, talks about a few such ways to cope with stress.

Box breathing: While you might have heard and tried deep breathing, there is a method to it which needs to be applied for the best results. There are a number of deep breathing methods, but one of the most popular ones is the box breathing technique. It is so impactful that the US Navy SEALS practice it to stay calm in extremely tense situations. 

Imagine a box and inhale counting to four, tracing an imaginary line on one side of the box. Then hold for four and trace the next side of the box. Now exhale for four, repeating the mental tracing and then wait for four before starting it all over again. The method slows down your breathing, distracts your mind, and calms the nervous system, ultimately helping you deal with stress.

Progressive muscle relaxation: This is something you can do in the moment when you feel stressed, or practice it as a regular thing before going to bed at night. This deep relaxation technique controls stress and relieves anxiety and also helps with sleep issues. Doctors use it to treat headaches, high blood pressure and even cancer pain. 

How to do progressive muscle relaxation?

The practice requires you to tense up one muscle group at a time and then release it, letting out the pain and anxiety with it. Start with your toes and work your way up to your head. Take a deep breath in and contract one muscle group, such as your feet muscles. Hold for at least 10 seconds and with an exhale release it in a swift motion. Also imagine that as you release the muscles, you are also releasing stressful feelings out of your body. Wait for a few seconds and then move on to the next muscle group.

Visualisation: Imagine your happy place, a place which instantly calms you down and makes you feel happy. For example, sitting on a beach and watching the waves come and go is instant relaxation for many. For others, it might be watching the rain. It could be anything, it just needs to make you feel happy and calm. Now close your eyes and imagine yourself in that environment. Engage all your senses to make the scene more vivid and immersive. This technique is so relaxing that you might just doze off. 

Engage in physical activity: Any activity that gets your heart pumping can reduce stress. Take some time to indulge in an aerobic activity or practice yoga. Getting physically engaged helps your brain release endorphins, the brain's feel-good neurotransmitters. It is also known as a runner's high and you can get that rush from an engaging physical activity, such as playing a sport, like tennis or volleyball. Even a short burst of physical activity, like jumping jacks or jogging in place, can help you get over stress. 

Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the here and now. Focus on the physical sensations around you, such as the feeling of your feet on the ground or the texture of an object you are holding. Notice what you are seeing and feeling in the moment. This connects you to the present and reduces anxiety.

Mindful eating: Talking about mindfulness, how about you savour some delicious food which can also help you deal with stress? Pick up something you enjoy, although nothing too greasy or fatty, and really notice its texture, taste and how you feel while eating it. 

Connect with family and friends: Talking about your feelings is an ideal way to lighten your burden and feel relaxed. A lot of times we reach out to a friend to talk about something that is bothering us, and this miraculously makes us feel better. So if you are feeling stressed, connect with someone you trust and simply let it all out.

Aromatherapy: Calming essential oils like lavender or chamomile are known to relax and soothe our nerves. Light up a diffuser with a few drops of essential oil to create a soothing atmosphere. You can also apply a few drops of the essential oil mixed with a carrier oil, such as coconut or olive oil, to your temples for instant relaxation.

Gratitude: Scientists have established the several benefits practising gratitude has not just on our physical health, but also on our mental well-being. List everything you are thankful for in your life. Go over the list and analyse the role each of those things plays in your life. When you focus on the positive aspects of your life, you gain perspective on what is important and what's not, thus reducing stress.

Laughter: A big laugh can practically cure everything. It leaves you feeling energetic and happy. Laughter is known to lower blood pressure, keep your heart healthy and relieve anxiety. When you laugh, your body gets filled up with oxygen-rich air and increases the production of happy hormones, or endorphins. So laugh your stress away and zen out!

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