10 Ways To De-Stress Your Mind, Body and Soul
We live in a world that demands stress. By necessity we have to build a set of tools we can use to mitigate the effects of this harmful aspect of our culture.
I have noticed the dire need for our society to develop coping tools to deal with stress in the body, mind and soul. Often we will focus on one or two of those three aspects and ignore the other. We need a balanced approach to stress if we are to heal ourselves in a complete way. This is why I wrote out this list for de-stressing and what things will help your body, mind and soul.
#1 Nurture Life
(Mind/Soul) - Tending to life doing things like gardening, keeping pet fish, or keeping a zen garden gives us a sense of purpose and meaning. It is in our nature to want to witness life flourishing and put in order. In Zen teachings we are told that a person’s surroundings reflect their inner state. Outer order can influence inner order and vice versa. If life seems chaotic, find a place that you can create order and calm physically and it will help to cultivate a mental space of calm as well.
Go appreciate nature! Since we arise from nature, we are a part of nature. Cut off from natural elements like sunlight, trees, fresh air and bodies of water mental health takes a huge toll. Find a day to take a hike. Unless you are walking down Sleepy Hollow, nature is a soothing and grounding tool. If a walk doesn’t suit you, stand in the grass for 15 minutes and feel your connection to earth through the soles of your feet. If you do this We are bioelectrical organisms and when our electric wiring gets out of whack, so does our mind. The “Ground” has that name for a reason.
(Mind/Body/Soul) - I am a huge believer in the power of sound in general but the human voice is the closet thing we have to the divine. We have the ability to vibrate and resonate things into reality. Using our voices we plan whole cities, teach curriculums, and sing the praises of the day. This is not my reason to believe in the power of singing though. After over 15 years of singing I have witnessed first hand in myself and others real changes in biology and psychology when singing is used correctly. Not only will it take your mind off of your current stress, (you have to know the words, melody and technique along with breathing to sing which disengages stressful thought patterns.) but it literally changes your mind. When you sing under the right conditions it is always relaxing and happy. This is caused by the release of our favorite brain juices- endorphins and oxytocin. When we sing we feel good because of the physical, chemical and spiritual release.
(Mind/Body) - Admittedly my least favorite, cardio such as running and fast paced sports helps to detoxify your body of stress hormones. There are certain chemicals we have to detox our adrenal glands of in order to keep a good equilibrium. Cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine are the main stress hormones which cause sleep, blood pressure and inflammation problems. These hormones also give us the extra kick we need when we are in danger. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals lead to a myriad of health problems. We experience these chemicals every day and they build up in our adrenal glands. The one tried and true way of detoxing or flushing out the adrenals? Moving around. For many western people, that looks like cardio. But there are other ways of moving…
(Mind/Body)- This is an overarching term for different eastern styles of essentially what is energy work. Not in a woowoo type of way (though you can find that also). Qigong or “Chi Gong” is using conscious intention to bring your awareness into concert with your breath and movement. That means your thoughts, movements and breath are united with intention. There are many schools teaching this kind of work under as many names. Yoga falls under this category as well as Tai Chi and other eastern forms of intentional movement with breath.
#6 name the problem
(Mind/Soul)- Often we are stressed in general and its just “things” that are wrong which we cant quite articulate. That is ok for a time, but naming the problem or fear is one of the best tools for coming to an understanding with yourself and the problem at hand. In every culture in the world a name is a very important thing. You are not a part of humanity until you have a name. Likewise, your problems will always stay your problems until you name them as what exactly they are. It’s not a concept after it has been named. When we do this it brings the information from the reactionary parts in the back of the brain to the executive and reasoning frontal lobe. Once this happens we can tackle a problem from a logical thought process rather than emotional instinct.
(Mind/Body/Soul)- Meditation takes many forms and can be a sitting or walking meditation. It can (and should) be used in concert with other things on this list like nurturing life, grounding and chi gong but is also abundantly useful by its self. Meditation is the act of quieting the mind through focusing attention on breath. There are endless ways to meditate and you can find one that suits you best. For me, I live in a modern world and have developed my own 3 minute less stress meditation which you can have right now when you sign up for my email list. Otherwise there are millions of resources out there to find a good meditation technique. It doesn’t have to be mine but I recommend very highly that you incorporate a meditative practice in your daily routine TODAY. This is so needed. People are too stressed and it is literally killing us.
(Body/Mind)- Acupressure is a system which has been developed and refined for thousands of years. The first pressure point is the Yin Tang- The spot midway between the eyebrows. To activate this spot simply use one finger to lightly rub the spot in a circular motion or to use the tapping method on this area. The second spot- He Gu. This is the area that lies between your index finger and thumb. To activate this spot take the opposite hand, lightly pinch the muscle between your thumb and finger and rub in a circular motion or find one spot to press down on (not too hard) for10-15 seconds at a time. These pressure points not only help to self sooth through touch but brings your attention to these areas to focus on.
(Body/Mind) - Sometimes it really is that simple. I have found myself barely breathing at times because I am in a stressful or anxiety ridden state. It amazes me how little oxygen I can run on if I am not careful. When we are stressed out, everything tightens up, breathing becomes shallow and our immune system is compromised. If we can remember to breathe deep and consistently we can battle against the physical components of stress which in turn affect the psychological and chemical reactions taking place. If you are consciously breathing it sends the message to your brain and body that it is not time to be stressed out. How could it be time to stress out when you’re focusing on something you are supposed to do automatically? In this way we can trick our bodies into calming down.
#10 progressive relaxation
(Body/Mind)- Stress manifests as knots, tightness, nerve pain and all sorts of bunched up energy and places on our bodies. Shoulders, necks and backs are the main places we feel stress although we can feel it anywhere. Identify your main stress areas which are in pain, tight or otherwise uncomfortable and use the progressive relaxation technique. To do this find a comfortable place to sit or lie down for the exercise. There is no need for closing your eyes but it helps. The great thing about this is you can do it at your desk and no one would notice. Starting from the top of your head progressively relax every muscle from top down. Be intentional and conscious to notice the muscle and recognize what state it is in, then relax it. Focus on this muscle until you have relaxed it to your comfort and move to the next muscle all the way down to your feet. Repeat until a sense of calm comes over your body and your limbs feel more fluid.
Cut Out Crap and Drink Water - Stimulants like coffee and different drugs definitely have an impact on how stressed your body is at the moment. At the same time, sugar and junk foods can be just as dangerous to health as drugs and alcohol. If you are stressed out and eating badly or putting certain things in your body, it is making it worse. On the other hand, if you are not drinking enough water that also causes stress and negative biological reactions. Water is what keeps us moving and thinking smoothly. Your joints can not work effectively, you can not digest properly, and your brain will not work right if you lack the water to run it all. In fact your brain is made of over 70% water.