Overloaded with responsibilities, trying to keep up with deadlines, spending hours in crazy traffic, a full-time job, managing a home, taking care of little ones. It sometimes seems like too much to handle, and it certainly is.
We’ve all suffered from stress at one point or another. But we should worry when it becomes part of our daily lifestyle. Stress is considered an epidemic in our modern society. The advancements in technology and communications have brought both wellness and struggle for people, demanding our almost immediate response to endless stimuli.
Our bodies developed biological strategies to cope with life-threatening situations. Stress is a combination of those strategies. Although we see it as a constant, long-term state, stress is actually useful for short, fast reactions that will help us, well, stay alive.
Blood moves from our center organs to our limbs, making us able to run or fight. Adrenaline levels rise, as so our heartbeat. Breathing becomes shallow and fast. Your brain becomes more focused and tuned to spot possible dangers. You’d think it makes you super-powerful, but when held for long periods of time, this state can be toxic and seriously damaging to your body.
High blood pressure, gastrointestinal diseases, brain fog, memory loss, weight gain, anxiety, depression, and heart attack are some of the ghosts that show up and hunt you if you play with stress longer than you should.
But through the darkest times there’s always a way, and here’s one. My very own Stress Relief Formula that helps me successfully lower my stress levels and get me back in flow. Each step is easy to follow once you get used to it and usually gets no longer than ten minutes.
To stop stress on its tracks, you first need to be aware of its presence. You need to listen to your body and learn to perceive the first symptoms as they show up. It may vary from person to person, but you may feel highly distracted, forgetful, in a bad mood, getting angry easily, sweaty hands, short breaths, etc.
Take five deep breaths. As you breathe in repeat the mantra “slow” and as you breathe out repeat “flow.” You may use your own words for this, as long as they are short and put you in a state of calm and ease.
The most important aspect of this step is to keep your exhale as long and slow as possible. Slow and long exhalation tells your brain that it’s all fine and stops the release of stress hormones, promoting relaxing and happiness hormones.
You’ve probably heard that the present time is all we have, the only reality we can experience. But, when we’re stressed, our thoughts constantly insist on taking us to the future. We’re anticipating catastrophic scenarios trying to protect ourselves from the worst possible outcome. This behavior drains our energy and keeps us spiraling with stress.
Focus again on the one task you must accomplish now. If you’re not sure what this task should be, decide based on what will make you feel more relieved. We’re not looking for massive productivity here; we just want you to get back on track and feel better.
Think of a Plan B.
Leaving the present moment is not all bad if you do it with a clear intention. When you’re falling a victim of stress foreseeing possible outcomes helps you create a plan B. Alternative solutions to problems calm you down because they bring a sort of certainty. If things don’t go as planned, at least you’ll know what to do next.
WARNING: this is a step you quickly get in and out of. Dwelling too much on planning may prevent you from taking action in the present moment. Also, don’t get into drama imagining tragic, very-unlikely-to-happen outcomes that will waste your energy. If you think you won’t be able to handle it, avoid this step altogether.
It’s the best medicine, some people say. Well, I’m one of those people. And it’s true. Laughter makes your brain release all the good anti-stress hormones, makes you happy and works your abs (way to go for the six pack, don’t you think?).
The good thing is, laughter is just a click away. Watch a short video from your favorite comedians or cute kittens doing silly stuff on your phone. Call a friend that you know makes you smile. Even looking in the mirror and doing silly faces to yourself will help.
My dad used to play this short Mexican video with cartoon eggs making jokes about eggnog over and over again, and he laughed every time. My husband gets home from work to watch Seinfeld for the 70th time every single day. I used to think he was lazy; now I think he’s genius. I hardly ever see him stressed. Laughter is his therapy.
Let’s face it: most of the things that cause us to stress are not a matter of life and death. Even big challenges such as financial struggle, heartbreak, or unemployment are not going to kill you.
Remember: your pain is real, but your fears are not.
You’re not the first, nor will you be the last to deal with this sort of issues. If others succeeded, so can you.
So, take it lightly. At least just a bit. Remember all the other things that work out just fine in your life. Be grateful for them, and they’ll multiply. What you focus on, expands.
Carrie Fisher, one of my favorite people of all time, said something memorable at the end of her stand-up act, Wishful Drinking. In this show, she makes fun of her tragedies. After describing all their family drama to her laughing daughter she said something like this: “Honey, the fact that you know all this and you’re able to laugh about it, is going to save your life!”
If you want more tips on how to stop stress and live in flow, subscribe to our list!