Even though many people are inseparable from stress on a daily or weekly basis, making them painstakingly aware of its paralyzing effects, April is the official National Stress Awareness Month. Mental health, life priorities rebalancing acts, and inevitable stress management practices, are finding a more prominent place in the media, doctors' offices, and overall society, taking away the stigmas once associated with sharing, listening and participating in the conversations around mental and soul health. However, when the problem of living with continued stress and its impact on achievements, as well as emotional, mental, and physical health affects a large number of the population and workforce, the conversations rightfully belong out there, everywhere. One thing no one is denying? The negative effect of stress on the quality of our lives.
Prolonged stress, in short, is a thief of life's joy. Dr. Janine Mahon explains: "The way we experience joy is deeply individual. We can all remember times we were filled with happiness but feel stuck when trying to feel it now. Stress builds upon itself and wears away our resources making it more difficult to find relief. We all know that stress affects our vulnerable areas first, physically and emotionally. If you have a tendency towards fear, stress creates more fear. Let's not focus on that, it really isn't helpful. What can we do to break away from this pattern? I would like to offer you a few ideas that have helped my community of patients." Let's try, shall we?
Image courtesy of Dr. Janine Mahon
Break out of your routine
If you normally walk or drive a certain way to the store, take a different path. You will still get to where you are going, but your mind and body will notice new things creating new patterns. It is simple and very effective. Order a different drink, choose a vegetable you have never cooked with before or a new flavor; if you always prefer products with rose, try vetiver. Even if you don't feel it, your body will feel a change. The pattern has broken.
Image via Victor Dyomin/Getty
Take a Neutral Pause
When feeling overwhelmed, pause, don't make an effort. Pretend everything is moving in slow motion and you have space and time to find your balance. Pushing against stress makes it worse. A few deep breaths in a tense moment will create more space, and with more space come more options.
Image via Delmaine Donson/Getty
Practice Mindful Meditation
When you are in bed, either before you go to sleep or when you wake up, place one hand on your chest and the other on your lower abdomen. Breathe in while imagining the lower abdomen under your hand filling with a soft calm energy. This will feed the kidneys, which are connected with the emotion of fear; as you breathe out allow that energy to rise to the heart feeling it swell under your other hand. When our hearts are out of balance we feel anxious. When the heart is full it can give from a place of abundance that won't deplete us.
Image via Tetra Images/Getty
Eat Foods that Naturally Reduce Stress
Try adding in a few of these foods to shift the patterns of stress and rebalance the heart-mind connection. Oats with red Chinese dates and a little honey, for example. Add some of these to a soup: cabbage, celery, leeks, garlic or ginger. Sip tea with chamomile, hibiscus, or licorice.