Waging a battle against stress doesn’t make much sense and it’s a sure way to increase the stress. Mindfulness lets us interrupt the stress cycle and let in some space and air. Here are 10 easy ways to take time for what matters and put stress in its place.
1. Take a walk
Modern life seems designed to make us stay in one place—sitting, standing or lying down—for long periods of time. Many people don’t even remember a time when you had to get up to walk across the room and change the channel on the TV or go over to the bookshelf to consult the dictionary. Moving has gone out of style, and the balance of mental to physical energy expended can get way out of whack. Find an excuse to use muscles that are feeling lonely and neglected. Raise your heart rate a little. Your body, and mind, will thank you.
2. Eat lunch somewhere pleasant
Taking lunch at your desk ensures your mind will stay in the same frame of reference while you’re eating, particularly if you’re checking email or doing work at the same time. Go somewhere else to have lunch, hang out with co-workers, let go and enjoy. Then come back to work a little refreshed.
3. Relax your muscles with a body scan
Progressive muscular relaxation can help you notice where you’re holding stress. It doesn’t take long and it’s simple to do: Lie down comfortably on your back with your legs straight. Close your eyes. Start by tensing muscles in your feet, then relax. Work your way up your body doing the same thing in sequence from your feet to your head. Often it’s only by experiencing muscle tension and letting it go that we become aware of just how much tension our bodies are retaining.
4. Minimize multitasking
Sometimes it’s necessary to be doing several things at once (or at least in rapid succession). But too much multitasking, jumping around from one thing to another to another—in a constant state of partial attention—is exhausting, inefficient and highly stressful. Instead of checking emails, planning supper, writing a report, and texting your sister, try giving full attention to one thing at a time.
5. Get your face out of your phone
Your phone is your everything, all-the-time, go-to, distractor device. It’s like having someone nudging and nagging you all day. It constantly steals your attention. Set some boundaries on when, where, and how you will use it. Beware letting it dominate during social occasions. Try putting it away completely during meals and parties. Pick a few places—doorways, elevators, in line at the store—where you can make a mental note to avoid it and take those moments when you’d be deep in cyberworld to follow your breath instead.
6. Look at something green
Are your sightlines constantly filled with brick, concrete, glass and carpet? How about spending a little more time where things are growing, breathing, giving off fragrance, swaying in the wind and glistening in the sun? Nothing like a little nature to slow you down and show you the big picture.
All work and no play…and yes, that means you. Playing isn’t restricted to children. Playing simply means doing something that has no purpose, plan or aim. Wander the streets, play cards, go bowling, read for pleasure. The surprises that come from letting yourself go can exhilarate and refresh.
8. Read something out loud
A good piece of writing or poetry read aloud can have a very soothing effect. That’s why children love to be read to. If you’re not a fan of your own voice, try listening to an audiobook.
9. Listen, really listen, to a piece of music
Sit or lie down and listen to an entire album, symphony, opera, rock or whatever suits your taste. You may feel yourself twitching or reaching for your phone at first, but soon you’ll sink into the sounds.
10. Take a break
Only around half of the nation’s workers use all of their paid holiday time, and people with higher annual incomes take the fewest days off. Definitely not a good way to avoid stress and its harmful effects. Time off actually makes you a more productive worker. Plus, your family will appreciate it and you’ll have time and space to really take care of yourself.