Happy National Relaxation Day!
If ever there were a holiday to get behind, working some more R&R into your life is certainly one of them. We work hard in our personal and work lives, so taking a few moments out of each day to manage your stress levels and get a little “me time” in is well-deserved.
To celebrate a day all about kicking back, we’re diving into ways to stay relaxed so that every day is Relaxation Day.
What causes stress? Before you start resolving it, learning what actually causes stress and the impact it has on your body might help you combat it. Stress can come from endless sources in your life, but it isn’t always a bad thing. On a biological level, stress serves to prepare your body for danger, and if you were out in the woods facing off with nature, you’d be grateful for the response.
We’re typically not staring down a grizzly bear with nothing to defend ourselves but the clothes on our back, so what gives?
Stress is how we describe the physical and psychological response we have to cortisol, the hormone responsible for that tense feeling between your shoulder blades when you sort through bills, the sleep you’re losing the week of a big event, or the rushing in your head when you see four missed calls from your boss. A sudden flood of cortisol can elevate your heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and alertness, which in turn starts to feel, well, not so great. A lot of factors in your life can cause stress—a car swerving into your lane, an illness in the family, losing your job. Short-term stress is a totally normal response, but long-term stress can start to have a pretty rough impact on your health.
Long-term elevated levels of cortisol, chronic stress, can start to become your new norm and you can easily ignore symptoms that your body isn’t functioning as it should. Chronic stress can lead to stroke, heart attack, sleep disorders, or even suicide, so always talk to your doctor if you think you might need help managing stress.
How to manage cortisol levels If you find that you’re feeling stressed out during the day, there are a few things that you can work into your schedule to help lower cortisol levels and melt away tension. You’ll be on your way to relaxing in no time.
Grab a snack There are a few foods that are known to help fight inflammation, reduce cortisol, and stimulate the brain to help distract from stressors. Green tea, dark chocolate, honey, and mango all have chemicals that help relieve stress—and they taste great, too! Chewing gum or snacking on something crunchy can also help minimize stress as it gives you something to concentrate on.
Take a time out Sometimes you just need to remove yourself from a situation to alleviate stress. Grounding, a technique used to overcome anxiety, can help keep you from flying off the handle. Certain exercises can be done without anyone even noticing—listing details in the room to yourself, identifying ten things that feature a certain color, and planting your feet firmly on the ground and pushing through your heels can all keep your mind present and give you something to concentrate your energy on.
Taking five minutes to breathe deeply in the bathroom, resting your head on your desk and counting to one hundred, or meditating can turn your entire day around.
Lunch break benefits If you have an hour in the middle of your day, you might want to take advantage of the time and elevate your relaxation. Go for a walk if the weather’s nice, do a quick 30-minute yoga session, or even stop and get a 30-minute massage. Getting your blood flowing produces hormones and endorphins that can help keep away stress, even if you only have a short break to do so.
Get creative Grab your nearest notebook and start writing your feelings down. Maybe you’re stressed over something that doesn’t have an immediate solution, or you can’t appropriately express your feelings at the moment—writing them down can release the tension and preserve your feelings for future problem solving. Just the act of putting pen to paper can be relaxing for some people, there’s a reason we’re prone to keeping diaries as angsty, stressed-out teens. Listening to music you enjoy and maybe even dancing a little can also relieve stress, though you might need to find a private space as getting caught could be just as stressful.
The next time you’re feeling a little tense, take a moment to employ one of these strategies to move through the stress and keep the rest of your day nice and relaxed.
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