8 Simple Ways to Decrease Your Stress

 
 

Here I am, fresh back from a glorious 10-day trip to Italy with my husband, and just wanting to check in and say “hey, I’m back!” I also wanted to share some wisdom I picked up along the way.

I don’t know about you, but travel is always so inspiring to me, and such a great time for reflection. Taking myself out of my every day, really helps me with perspective, and especially when traveling internationally, I love to learn from how other people live, what’s relevant in their cultures, and how they live in our world.

While I love to see sites and witness monuments that have been known throughout history, one of my favorite parts of traveling is the slower quieter parts. The times sitting on a bench people watching, in a cafe soaking in the surroundings, or even in a bustling train station. During one of our transit experiences (we witnessed several Italian train stations on this trip!), I saw these flyers that had been distributed around the station, laying all over the benches. They had the image of a computer, and in Italian said “uninstall your stress,” with a code you could scan. According to my travel partners more familiar with the area, this was probably for a religious group, whose website you would be taken to if you scanned. Regardless of the purpose, the message totally hit home! It didn’t get me to scan the code (i’m a little hyper-vigilant about the dangers of the internet), but I can totally see how it would resonate with A LOT of people. 

If we think of stress as a program that’s been loaded onto the computer that is our brains and nervous system, who wouldn’t want to “uninstall” stress?? I know I would! Since there isn’t an “uninstall” button for our brains, what can we do to start re-programming? 

This is truly one of my very favorite things to work on with clients. And with myself. There is always room for improvement, and I am always learning, and benefitting from, new ways to reduce the mental load I allow stress to take. So, I thought I’d share with you today a few of my most favorite ways to “uninstall" some of those stressors that have been programmed into our brains. Hope you enjoy this souvenir I brought back just for you from Italy!

  • Meditation (it doesn’t have to be fancy!) set a timer on your phone (start with 3 or 5 minutes), close your eyes in a place where it’s safe to do so, and bring your attention to your breath. Either focus on your breath throughout the meditation, or choose a mantra to repeat to yourself. Pick something simple like “I choose peace” or simply “thank you God/universe” or “I am calm.” Don’t worry if your mind wanders, but use your breath or mantra as a hook to bring you back in.

  • Yoga - because it teaches me to return to my breath when tension arises in my body or mind.

  • Gratitude Journaling - it’s as simple as doing a brain dump before bed, jotting a few things you’re grateful for from the day.

  • Calling a friend who makes you laugh and smile.

  • Looking at pictures that will make you smile - maybe from a favorite location, of a pet, child, or other loved one.

  • Taking a few deep breaths - I can literally feel my body calm as I do this.

  • Stretching my body.

  • Taking a walk and noticing my surroundings.

Stress and calm invoke opposite parts of our nervous system, which can’t be activated simultaneously. While it’s unrealistic to think we’ll never feel stress, even for a day, it IS so so possible to CHOOSE to access the “relaxation response” through exercises like those I’ve listed above. The more and more moments of our days we proactively choose joy, relaxation, and calm (thus activating our parasympathetic nervous systems) the less, automatically, we spend in our stress response….little by little reprogramming our default setting. 

It’s not about deciding to wake up one morning and become some peaceful meditation guru. It’s much easier than that….one (baby) step at a time and you’ve got this. I promise!