Stress Awareness Month
Stress. It is a part of everyday life and a natural response of the human body — such as when we’re being faced with a tremendous challenge or if there’s a threat to your well-being. However, our modern lives have brought about a surplus of causes that can lead to increased amounts of stress from day to day. Observed every April since its conception in 1992, Stress Awareness Month aims to call attention to and raise public awareness of the growing stress-related issues people face today — as well as educating people on how to combat stress in their own lives.
Acknowledging Stress in These Uncertain Times
With the uncertainty surrounding the current situation as well as having to spend an increased amount of time in your home and away from others, you may find yourself feeling additional stress, anxiety, or negative thoughts. Or, perhaps you’re simply feeling guilty for being less productive or sleeping more. If there was one thing we’d want you to take away from reading this article, it’d be that these are all completely normal and OK ways to be feeling. Give yourself permission to feel this way. Give yourself some grace. You can acknowledge — even embrace what you’re feeling — and then turn to the ways that work best for you to combat those feelings. There’s no right or wrong way.
As we all work through these unprecedented times, we’ve put together a short list of stress-reducing tips to help make managing stress during these times (and any time for that matter) a little easier. Just because you are currently having to stay in your home, does not mean you need to put added pressure on yourself to organize every room or implement all of the tips below. Even if you’re able to implement just one or part of one tip, it’s a great place to start and we hope you find it helpful.
Give yourself some grace. You can acknowledge — even embrace what you’re feeling — and then turn to the ways that work best for you to combat those feelings. There’s no right or wrong way.
Seven Simple Ways to Reduce Stress
1. Create a Stress-Free Space
Find a space in your home you can dedicate as a place for quiet and calmness — it doesn’t have to be an entire room, even a corner of a room will work just fine. Next, add some elements to the space that makes it comfortable and ultimately serve its purpose for you. Candles, a diffuser, and some pillows are a good start. According to an interview in Forbes with Lisa Melone Cloughen, an experienced meditation room designer, “Natural elements have an inherently restorative quality… any natural element that resonates with you is the ideal choice. Consider shells, river rocks, branches or driftwood, and definitely add a little greenery.” She also notes however, that the space should be free of clutter. “An excess of ‘stuff’ can be unsettling to the eye and ultimately cause the mind to wander.”
More and more research has found that smells can trigger emotions and comfort — having been shown to decrease pain, anxiety, depression, and promote an increased sense of well-being. It also helps to set the mood and tone for what you are trying to achieve. For example, while using citrus essential oils such as lemon or grapefruit can add a brightness to your environment and energize your spirit, oils such as lavender and patchouli offer a sense of calm and relaxation. Add a few drops of the oil/oils of your choice to a diffuser to fill your space with the oil’s aroma. If you don’t have a diffuser, you can add a drop or two to your hands. Lightly rub your hands together bringing them close to your face, and breathe deeply. Many oils can also be applied topically as you would a perfume — roll onto wrists and neck to bring the oils’ positive benefits with you throughout the day.
Whether bringing back a fond memory with a familiar song or creating a calming environment with comforting tones, music offers relief from emotional distress. Music is part of our fabric of being and can reach recesses of the soul that words often cannot. Playing, singing, or listening to your favorite tunes is sure to bring a smile to your face. Nature sounds can also be very calming, which is why they are often incorporated into relaxation and meditation music.
Even if you’re able to implement just one or part of one tip, it’s a great place to start and we hope you find it helpful.
4. Breathing Exercises
If you find yourself feeling stressed or anxious, try to remove yourself. If you’ve created a dedicated stress-free space as previously referenced, try to escape there. According to Calm, the #1 app for sleep, mediation, and relaxation, you’ll first want to slow down your breath. When we become anxious, we tend to take quick shallow breaths, thereby deepening our anxiety. To combat this, inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four. Hold your breath for one to two seconds, then exhale slowly to the count of four and repeat several times.
5. Exercise Regularly
In an article by healthline, exercise is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress. Exercise can also improve sleep quality — another important component to battling stress. Although under the current circumstances you’re unable to head to the gym, there are a number of things you can do in your home to stay moving and ultimately, keep stress at bay. Practicing Yoga-like movements for example, gets the blood flowing while combining breathing exercises, offering body and breath awareness. Also be sure to follow Holland Home on Facebook to tune into the variety of classes streamed live by the Holland Home Fitness Team.
6. Call a Family Member or Friend
Although we’re currently unable to have in-person socialization with family members and friends, it doesn’t mean you can’t reach out in times of distress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, pick up the phone. Talking to someone can help take your mind off of the source of the stress.
Stress relief from laughter is no joke! According to Mayo Clinic, data is mounting about the positive effects of laughter. Laughter not only lightens your mood mentally but when you start to laugh, it actually causes physical changes in your body as well. Such as, stimulating vital organs due to increased oxygen intake and increasing the endorphins released by your brain. It also naturally creates a relaxed feeling due to the firing up and cooling down of your stress response (the increase and then decrease of your heart rate and blood pressure). The increased circulation brought on by laughter can aid in muscle relaxation and ultimately help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress. So, put on a funny movie or show or give that funny person in your life a call to have a good laugh!
Don’t Stress About Stress
The important thing to remember is, when you’re feeling stress or anxiety, remind yourself that it’s normal — acknowledge and embrace what you’re feeling then, you can turn to one or more of the tips above. You also don’t have to wait to feel stressed to incorporate the tips above. Practicing even one of them prior to feeling stress can help to keep stress at bay before it occurs.
Lushing, Margaux. (2018, November 30). The Secrets to a DIY Meditation Space, According to the Experts. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/margauxlushing/2018/11/30/the-secrets-to-a-diy-meditation-space-according-to-the-experts/#1a0fda201048
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019, April 5). Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456
Team Calm. (2019, September 20). 3 simple ways to manage stress during the work-day. Retrieved from https://www.calm.com/blog/calm-stress-free-day-meditation-calm-mind