In a world where people are using a plethora of chemicals to stay awake and go to sleep, can natural relaxation still be attainable?
Stress. It’s the worst. After managing to obtain a degree in music performance, moving to the other side of the country, and starting work in an unfamiliar field, I would say that stress and I are well acquainted at this point. After killing myself with Red Bull on and off through my youth, I’ve slowly weaned myself off and moved on to more sustainable practices. Each day it gets better with even better results. The best part is you can do it too. Below are a my tips on how you can naturally reduce your stress. Some I practice, and some have been suggested to me; the point is to find what works best for you!
Meditation has been discredited and overlooked for far too long. Thanks again, pop culture. As one of the easiest and cheapest ways to relax, it will always be the first suggestion I make to my stressed-out friends. A very wise horn teacher once shared his meditation routine with me and I have followed it ever since for its effectiveness and simplicity.
Sit in a chair or lie flat on the floor. Shut your eyes and notice each thought objectively, but let it pass. Then one by one, focus on each of your senses for a minute or so. Make your vision the last sense you check. You are allowed to let your mind wander, but each thought is objective. Let all feelings pass. Finish meditation by thinking about your favorite place and the feeling it gives you. Open your eyes slowly and take a deep breath before standing up again.
After 5-10 minutes you should start to feel calmer and in control of your feelings which in turn tends to give me a better sense of control of my surroundings. For the low, low cost of $0 this one is a quick fix and big winner in my book of stress coping.
Those oils are essential
Who has a favorite smell attached to a memory? For me it’s smelling the fresh cut grass on a summer night while watching the sunset on my parents’ back patio in central Indiana. Why? The olfactory nerve in our noses connect through holes in our skull directly to our brain. This electric nerve is a powerhouse that immediately sends signals to many parts of the brain like the amygdala and limbic systems (controls for your mood, memory, and emotion). These same parts of the brain are also where our fight or flight response originates. Several studies have found that lavender essential oils work like anti-anxiety medicine, calming distress calls in our brain. Read more in this study.
Personally, I have a little $20 oil diffuser I bought at a local health food store. I put it on the minute I get home and refill it before I go to sleep. My oil of choice is a mix of tea tree and sandalwood, however, lavender, yuzu, bergamot, ylang ylang, clary sage, and jasmine are also recommended for relaxation and anti-anxiety. However, there are plenty of other oils and blends for any mood you are trying to create for yourself. Sniff around and find what works best for you and your household.
Feng shui, baby
Whether or not you believe in the power of feng shui, it’s definitely taken over U.S. pop culture. While a flowing ‘chi’ might not bring certain happiness, there is real value to creating a happy space. The top two most important places to focus on: your bedroom and your workspace.
Your bedroom should be entirely sleep focused. Leave televisions out of your sleep space. You’ll see more improvements in the quality of your sleep as well as your communication with your partner. Next, make sure you have soft lighting options. The psychology behind lighting and mood is thick but undeniable in its truth. Take notice of how the bright, fluorescent lights in your office make you feel and rethink your sleeping space. Finally, try plugging your phone in across the room so you’re not tempted to stay up all night (self explanatory!). Although I can’t convince my boyfriend to part with his beloved flat screen in our room, I do love my sweet little paper lamps in the corners of our room as well as leaving my phone to charge by our bedroom door. Nothing like a non-stop alarm 10 feet away to raise you from the dead at 7 a.m.!
Your office space should be as clean and minimal as possible. Part with the gag gift Karen from accounting gave you last December and leave excess trinkets at home for less distraction. Instead put up pictures of family, a motivational quote, an excerpt from a book, a plant, or other static items you won’t be tempted to play with. The largest photo above is a picture from my own desk at Bare Bones HQ here in San Diego. Placebo or not, my healing stones and miniature flower vases bring a smile to my face and remind me that I am in a clean, comfortable environment. That’s a little win in my book.
Tell your tummy to chill out
Did you think I would write a blog post and not talk about food? You sweet summer child… The connection between your gut and mental health is shockingly real, with more evidence emerging every day. Whether or not you subscribe to these beliefs, having a healthier gut certainly won’t hurt you.
Nutrient-rich bone broth packed with system-soothing collagen is the fastest and easiest way to seal your gut and promote its health. As a regular consumer, any of us here at Bare Bones will wax on with anyone for days if you’re interested. Leafy greens are also big stress relievers. These greens are abundant with folates which produce dopamine in your body. Dopamine lowers stress and promotes calmness throughout the body. Foods high in antioxidants are also helpful in crushing stress when it rears its ugly head. Blueberries can help destroy stress-related free radicals and boost protective white blood cells that are vital for immunity. The antioxidants in dark chocolate have also been shown to relax the walls of your blood vessels resulting in lower blood pressure and better circulation. This article has more options if this buffet doesn’t tickle your fancy.
I’m not crying, it’s just sweat
Elle Woods of the movie Legally Blonde once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t.” While we can’t promise a few jumping jacks will reverse murderous intentions, endorphins are nature’s mood boosters. Daily moderate- to high-intensity workouts for long periods of time are the best way to generate these natural happy hormones. Maybe that’s why they call it a runner’s high?
I personally love high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which involves the whole body for a customizable workout without equipment. At my most stressed and busiest time in college I started a variation of the same HIIT workouts I do today. High-intensity interval training is an easy favorite of fitness beginners of all ages due to the accessibility of wonderful plans. Always talk to your doctor before making any major changes in your fitness routine.
Even now, working a wonderful job in paradise with my supportive boyfriend, stress will creep its way in occasionally. It’s only human to have an imperfect life. Look into each day with gratitude towards the little things. Hold open a door for a stranger, write your partner a love note, or smile at a stranger. A grateful heart worries less. ❤︎
How do you relieve stress? Have you tried something else amazing? Maybe you just want to leave a smiley face? Whatever it is, toss it down in the comments and we can chat.