Stress is a part of life, and actually not all forms of stress are bad. Short-term, moderate, or low-dose stress can be beneficial - it helps us to stay focused, improves our mental function, and signals our immune system to protect against illnesses. On the other hand, chronic or prolonged stress lowers our immunity, increases inflammation, causes depression, insomnia, hypertension, and heart issues among others. While stress is unavoidable, the key is to learn how to relieve stress before it hurts us.
Deep breathing is an integral part of such ancient practices as meditation, yoga, and others. But it is also an excellent method of managing stress situationally. Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and starts the process of relaxation in your body. This slows down heart palpitations and helps you feel calm. If you need to relieve stress quickly, take 10 deep breaths, focusing on the breathing process itself and not on what is happening around you.
Today, science has fully proven the benefits of meditation for stress relief. Moreover, this practice helps to cope with stress-related conditions. One study showed that meditation reduces the stress-induced inflammatory response, which in turn leads to symptoms such as sleep disturbance, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and chronic fatigue. In another study, meditation played an important role in treating irritable bowel, a common stress symptom. So if you are looking for proven stress relief activities, start with mindful meditation for 10-20 minutes every day.
Find a quiet and secluded place without crowds and noise.
Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
Focus on the present moment: what you are doing, what you are thinking, what you are feeling.
Pay attention to every thought and feeling, accept it, and breathe it out thus letting it pass.
Be aware of your breath and body movement with each breath: your chest rises, your lungs expand, your stomach retracts - this helps anchor you in the present moment.
Allow your awareness to spread throughout your body and relax it.
Be Physically Active
In TCM, stress contributes to the stagnation of Qi and the deterioration of blood circulation in the body, due to which not only our mental but also physical health suffers. Physical exercise, in turn, unblocks the flow of blood and Qi, thereby reducing the negative effects of stress. From a scientific point of view, physical activity is also one of the best ways to deal with stress. So a 6-week experiment showed that exercising twice a week reduces stress and even depression. Besides, the gradual introduction of sports into the daily routine copes with such markers of a sedentary lifestyle as all the same stress, bad mood, and sleep disturbances. TCM recommends gentle exercises such as Tai Chi, yoga, or Qigong because, in addition to physical activity, they include breathing practices and meditation that are effective in dealing with stress.
Spend Time in Nature
Unity with nature plays the most important role for our mind, body, and spirit in TCM. Therefore, practices performed in nature have a greater healing effect. This advice is also supported by modern research. One of them revealed that being in parks and forests is a healthy way to deal with stress. Just 10 minutes of communion with nature improves psychological markers of happiness and well-being. It's great if you have the opportunity to exercise in a natural setting, but if not, then a typical 30-minute walk will be enough to reduce daily life stress.
Take Care of Yourself Regularly
With the modern pace of life, we often forget about small pleasures such as taking a bath, getting a massage, putting on a face mask, or reading a book. Meanwhile, the lack of self-care threatens us with a high risk of stress and burnout. You do not consider refueling a car a waste of time, because you know that without fuel, it simply will not be able to move on. The same goes for our mental health. Self-care and these little pleasures are the fuel that reduces stress and improves the overall quality of life. Therefore, if you are puzzled over how to handle stress, just do what brings you joy.
The American Psychological Association reports that 45% of people who are already stressed in everyday life feel even more stressed if they don't get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation also leads to symptoms such as irritability, chronic fatigue, and trouble concentrating. So the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep will help you a lot in overcoming stress. TCM encourages us to go to bed between 11 pm and 1 am as this helps our bodies reset after the day and allows us to wake up refreshed.
Lighting incense is also meditative and helps clear negative energy. Studies show that this practice significantly alleviates the stress symptoms after 3-4 days. In addition, aromatherapy promotes sleep and improves its quality. This is very important given that stress contributes to poor sleep quality in 42% of adults. That's why we recommend adding a few drops of calming essential oils to your humidifier. For example, Douglas fir oil. Alpha-pinene in its composition helps deal with stress and anxiety, and limonene copes with mood disorders. This practice will give you a sense of peace and harmony.
Drink Herbal Teas
There are several recognized herbs in TCM that have helped calm the spirit for thousands of years. All of them are strong adaptogens that increase resistance to stress and help our body adapt and survive under stress. Ginseng alleviates the effects of stress such as depression and anxiety, reishi mushroom fights fatigue and improves quality of life, and rhodiola is effective for a variety of mood symptoms.
9. Try Acupuncture
Acupuncture is another proven way to deal with stress. It restores the flow of Qi and Blood damaged by stress and acts on the already mentioned parasympathetic nervous system, thus putting the body into a mode of rest and relaxation. Studies have shown that traditional acupuncture not only handles stress but also maintains its effect for at least three months after completion of therapy. However, if you choose this stress-dealing method, be sure to consult a qualified acupuncturist for a safe and effective treatment.
10. Perform Gua Sha Massage
If you are not yet ready for acupuncture or cannot find a suitable specialist, choose Gua Sha massage for fighting stress. This scraping technique also has a positive effect on Qi and blood circulation and, like acupuncture, can affect the parasympathetic nervous system. But you can do it yourself and at home:
Take 10 deep breaths before and don't forget to breathe during the ritual
Apply a few drops of essential oil or moisturizer to your skin to protect it from damage.
Place the Gua Sha tool on the chest area and move from the heart to the shoulders. Perform 8 movements on each side with light to medium pressure.
Move the Gua Sha to the back of the neck and make at least 8 smooth movements towards the shoulders.
Massage the area behind each ear with gentle circular motions
Massage your temple area in circular motions 10 times on each side.
At the end of the massage, try to avoid any physical activity for at least an hour. Instead, treat yourself to a cup of herbal tea or aromatherapy. Since your body is relaxed, it is important to maintain a calm and harmonious atmosphere around you.
We can't always prevent stress, but we can manage it. Fortunately, most of the anti-stress techniques are very pleasant and simple. This means you will have more incentive to do them. So keep calm and cultivate your well-being!