Stressed out? Here are some simple tips to ease anxiety and relax.
The everyday demands of life can be stressful enough. Add a pandemic and things can really get interesting. The good news is that many of the often-suggested stress-reducing tactics will help now —and in the future.
Exercise — even walking — doing puzzles, unleashing your inner-artist and meditating are proven stress relievers. While these activities can initially seem uncomfortable, they can become satisfying, says Lori Desautels, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate programs in the College of Education and runs an Educational Neuroscience Symposium.
“Exercise is critical, taking a brisk walk,” says Desautels. “We know now that doing novel art is very, very calming to the nervous system.” The art can be painting, drawing, needlework, crochet — anything that requires use of your hands.
Music is beneficial too, whether it’s playing an instrument you have mastered or picking up something new. Even cooking or baking can be considered stress-relieving because of the repetitive patterns in activities, such as making bread or noodles.
One type of exercise is breathing, something that’s not normally included in a list of exercises.
“Our breath is one tool that can regulate our nervous systems. So many people take shallow breaths and don’t pay attention. If you take three deep breaths with an extended exchange, it lowers the heart rate and blood pressure.” Desautels says this is beneficial for people of all ages when done twice a day.
She recommends incorporating a stimulus while doing breathing exercises and says something as simple as listening to the sound of birds can be beneficial.
“If you can focus and be mindful on a stimulus for 90 seconds, your body can rinse clear and become clean of negative emotions in those 90 seconds,” she says.
Journaling can also be beneficial. If you’re not a writer, consider drawing.
“The reason most people fail on a diet or exercise plan is not willpower, but the ability to begin a new habit and begin a new way of approach,” Desautels says. The new habit forces people to step outside their usual routines and boundaries as they try new things that in the beginning are uncomfortable.
“But every time you do it you feel more and more comfortable, she says. These changes force the brain to develop new circuits and stimulate new connections.
The most important thing to remember right now is selfcare, Desautels says. That can include sitting quietly, lying down for a short nap, listening to music, being mindful of your surroundings — anything that allows you a brief period of time to incorporate ways to stay calm and regulated.