As we plunge further into the change and uncertainty that 2020 is bringing, I have found the need to upgrade my stress management strategies because my usual tactics of avoiding and ignoring don’t seem to be cutting it anymore. As the year has gone on, I can feel the effects of stress building up inside me and taking a larger toll on my physical and mental well-being. So, in the interest of walking my talk, I decided to prioritize my health by focusing on how to manage stress so that I don’t get to the point of overwhelm and exhaustion. Below is a list of the top 5 things that work well for me. I try to do one or two of them every day in order to keep myself from reaching the point of frustration and frazzled-ness.
I would like to especially highlight one of the books I mention below because I think it’s a must-read for anyone who is finding it hard to cope right now. Burnout, by Emily and Amelia Nagowski is a practical and easy to read breakdown of why stress affects us adversely and how to break the cycle of constantly feeling run down and overwhelmed by the stressors in your life. It’s the book I didn’t even know I needed, but once I read it, I had a much greater understanding of how the stress cycle works and what I actually need to do to keep stress at a manageable level in my life. Sometimes there isn’t much we can do about the things causing us stress, but where we do have a say is in how much we let those stressors affect us. I highly recommend this book as essential reading for anyone who is finding it hard to manage their well-being right now.
So here are my top 5 techniques for completing the stress cycle and shifting the body and mind into a relaxed state of being.
5 Techniques to Release Stress
- Wim Hof Breathing
This is a simple and effective breathing technique that can bring about relaxation, endorphins, and a general sense of well-being in 10 minutes or less. It’s also a very effective way of turning off your stress response and signaling your body to relax. I find it’s one of the few breathing techniques I can do even when I am feeling highly anxious and have trouble taking a deep breath. I like to use this video to breathe along to.
- Yoga Nidra Meditations
Yoga nidra is a relaxation technique that guides you to focus on different body parts one at a time so that they can relax. The overall effect is a gentle shifting of your body from a stress state to a relaxed one. I often use this to go to sleep at night or I will do a short 10 or 15 minute one that wakes me up at the end to increase my energy when I’m tired in the afternoons. It’s like a guided power nap that energizes and relaxes me. My favorite yoga nidra meditations are by Jennifer Piercy or Nids Nidra on the Insight Timer app. This is a free app that contains hundreds of free guided meditations. If yoga nidra is not your thing, you can find many other options to experiment with.
Reading has been an outlet for me since I was a child. I find it consistently soothing and restorative, especially when I get my hands on a book I can’t put down. Although I do love fiction, non-fiction has been my go-to lately, with a focus in particular on navigating the stress caused by uncertainty. Here are my top 3 favorite finds:
- Walking Outside
On a really good day, I will actually do a workout and really break a sweat, then stretch it out. Realistically though, I am lucky to make time for a walk most days (and it’s usually on the way to the park with the kids). However, I have found that walking outside is really good for my mental health, especially if I take the time to really be present in my body. So, while the weather stays warm, I have made an effort to notice all the things I love about this time of year when I am walking to the park with the kids after work or dinner. It’s usually a short walk – 10 or 15 min – but if I make a point of noticing how beautiful the trees look, or how clear and blue the sky is, and how good it feels to be outside on a warm fall evening, it’s easier to get out of my head and let go of all the crazy-making thoughts that crowd into my brain by end of the day.
- Listening to Podcasts
This is something I love to do while cooking dinner or when I’m in the car driving alone. Occasionally, when I’m not on bedtime duty, I will go for a walk after dinner by myself and listen to a podcast as a way to de-stress and get out of my head. My favorite podcasts are ones that are either inspiring or informative, and I choose between those depending on what I’m in the mood for. I find most of my non-fiction book choices from these podcasts as well!
- GOOP – so many interviews and such a great variety of topics and guests. This is my overall fav0urite podcast.
- Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations – this is my go-to if I need uplifting or inspiration.
- Bulletproof Radio – this one is more informative, and it’s especially great if you want to learn more about health and wellness.
- Unlocking Us with Brene Brown – another one I turn to for uplifting or encouragement.
- This American Life – this has been a favorite of mine for a long time. Sometimes hearing other people share stories about their triumphs and hardships is just the thing I need to get a better perspective on my own life.
I hope that in sharing this list it may inspire you to add some new tools to your coping toolbox. If you feel you are so overwhelmed that you can’t even find the motivation to get started on anything new, consider booking a virtual or in-person visit so we can chat. Sometimes you need support to feel better before you can add more tools to your toolbox. There are many things we can do to help you feel better, from supplements to vitamin shots for sleep, energy, and mood balance. Give the office call to book your appointment if you feel you could benefit from any of these options.
By: Dr. Michelle Marcoux, ND