Last week a dear friend of mine reached out to me feeling extremely overwhelmed and asked for some ideas to help reduce her stress. It made me think that there may be a lot of people that need this guidance. So I thought it would be helpful if I shared my ideas with you as well. I compiled a list of 6 things that I have found to be most impactful to help reduce stress. There is not a “one-size fits all” solution. Different practices resonate with different people and they help at different times of our lives. The challenge is that we aren’t really ever taught how to manage stress and it’s difficult to navigate through life without the skills to do so. I encouraged her, just as I’m encouraging you, to think of the following list as your Mindfulness Toolkit. Pick 1-2 of the tools that resonate with you and give them a try for one week. After a week, if you don’t feel any relief, then try something else the following week. This list is very detailed and I did that purposefully because not everyone is as acquainted with these practices. Plus when you are feeling overwhelmed your brain is not performing as usual so it really helps to have step-by-step instructions.
I hope you find one or more of these tools helpful to reduce your stress levels. And please forward on to anyone you know who can benefit from this Mindfulness Toolkit too!
Your Mindfulness Toolkit
1 – MEDITATION
Science has proven that mediation calms the mind and the central nervous system which helps relieve most types of stress. So much credit is given to this practice. It sure makes me feel better! Here are a few tips to get you started with a basic meditation practice:
- Start slowly– Start with 10 minutes each day, preferably in the morning, when your mind is most clear. Over time, increase your time.
- Get comfortable– Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted and sit in a comfortable position. I sit in a chair, with my feet on the ground (flat footed) and my hinny towards the front of the chair so my pelvis can tilt slightly forward. This allows the spine to elongate and protects your lower back. Some people like to sit cross-legged, but my feet fall asleep!
- Set a timer – Set your timer for 10 minutes and commit to meditating for that time. Force yourself to stay put. You are creating a new habit, so it may take a few tries before you are able to settle down. Also, I use a meditation app, Insight Timer (see below), for my timer because it has pretty bells and chimes and tracks my progress.
- Just breathe – Softly close your eyes and just breathe. Direct your focus to your breath and feel the sensations of inhaling and exhaling. Begin to count silently to 4 on both your inhale and exhale. Repeat this counting throughout the meditation.
- Be patient –Your mind will wander and this is okay---that’s what they do. So don’t get frustrated. Just gently redirect your attention back to your breath and continue with your practice.
You can simply start with the practice above, which I recommend. If you are interested in trying some other meditation techniques here’s a list of 3 Meditation Techniques to try. What these methods have in common is that they give your mind a little task to do. It keeps your mind busy, which tends to help it from wandering to other thoughts.
Also, guided meditations are a wonderful way to get started with a meditation practice. Again, I use the Insight Timer App. It has a ton of free guided meditations and I also use it to time my meditation.
2 - BREATHING PRACTICES
Controlling your breath in certain ways is another great stress reliever that helps calm your nervous system. It’s really powerful! The following breathing practice is a great way to start your day or to use anytime during the course of your day when you feel stress and negativity. This simple method can help stop the negative thoughts:
Step 1 - take 5 long breaths (count to 4 both on your inhale and your exhale);
Step 2 – then mentally list 3 things you’re grateful for---for example: 1) your friends, 2) your health, 3) your beautiful heart.
Repeat as often as necessary!
Doing some form of exercise 2-3 times a week is not only key to your physical health, but it is also essential for your mind and spirit health. There is something very special and powerful about the physical practice of yoga. I attribute this practice to many positive changes in my life. It helps me reduce my stress, ease off of the negative self-talk (I can be really bad at that) and allows me to feel with my heart more versus thinking I should do or not do something. I truly believe yoga helped me make the decision to leave my stressful career and start a business I am passionate about and, more importantly, I believe it helped me to marry the man of my dreams.
4 – POSITIVE SELF TALK
This is key!! Listen to the way you talk to yourself. If you notice it’s negative, try to flip those thoughts to a more positive approach. Be kind to the way to talk to yourself. Be compassionate and loving to yourself and what you are going through. Find one or more mantras and repeat them to yourself several times throughout the day. I subscribe to Abraham-Hicks Daily Quotes and they always inspire me to have a positive mindset.
Also, try to focus on solutions, not the problem itself. That is a more positive approach and will help you feel better faster.
5 – HEALTHY DIET/VITAMINS
My recommendation is to simply focus on a “clean diet” consisting of organic, fresh foods when possible and try to stay away from processed foods. The goal isn’t to be 100% vegan or paleo or anything special, it’s just to eat more good stuff. For vitamins, B, C and D are great for moods. I have been taking a supplement called EMPowerplus Advanced for years and it has made a noticeable difference in my stress levels and happiness. I recommend it to all my friends! (Please note I don’t receive any benefit from promoting this product---just the joy of seeing it help my friends!)
6 – COUNSELING
I am a big believer in counseling and have always had one to turn to when needed. Counselors are so helpful with giving us a safe place to share our feelings and provide additional tools and support to help handle stress---they are professionals! Here’s a website that can help you find a counselor near you: Good Therapy