It is no News Flash to reveal that 100% of your stress is self-created. Pain is just pain; clouds are just weather; a badly-behaving boss is just that. Stress comes not from the stuff – it comes from the story you tell yourself about it (for more on “Suffering” and stress, see my newsletter edition 51).
Small amounts of stress help us improve productivity, meet deadlines, and take action. Too much, or for prolonged periods, and that stress starts to take a physical toll. Sleep suffers, the body starts to break down, and as stress takes permanent root, happiness and joy disappear from your life as illness replaces wellness.
I’ve written extensively about working with your head to shift your stress, but that’s a tough road &nash; your brain constantly Time Travels, obsessing on the past and dreading the future. So let’s take another path – through the body.
Stress works like a balloon – it keeps getting bigger and bigger till it pops. When you train your body to release stress, it’s like releasing air from the balloon. Each time, you recapture some of your capacity.
Try one or two of these practices several times daily for 30 days, and I promise you’ll notice a difference in your stress levels. Enjoy!
19 Amazingly Simple Ways to Release Stress and Be Fully Present
- Notice Your Feet. Uncurl, unfold, uncross, and place them flat on the ground to create a sense of being rooted and grounded and in the Now.
- Drop Your Shoulders. You hold so much stress there. If they will not drop, scrunch them up close to your ears for a few seconds, then release. Ahhh!
- Follow Your Breath. For the next 3 breath cycles, simply watch it go in and out. In that moment, you are present.
- Breathe Deeply. Purposely shift your pattern. E.g. Pull the breath deeper, into your core, or imagine you are breathing through the soles of your feet.
- Smile With Intention. Put one on as you walk and notice how others mirror it back.
- Let Your Body Move to the Music. Whether it’s tapping your fingers or moving your entire self, feel the rhythm and go with it. (Tip: this is a great one in the car.)
- Watch a Child. Small children do not yet understand how to Time Travel. Join them in THIS moment.
- Watch Clouds. Just look up and drift with them for a moment. Enjoy the colors at sunrise or sunset.
- Sit In Quiet. What do you hear that is normally “invisible”? A ticking clock. The creaky door. Traffic. The hum of ventilation. Your own heartbeat and breath…
- Go To Black. Place the palms of your hands over your eyes and let your eyes relax for 60 seconds. Observe how all the muscles in your head and upper face release themselves.
- Pet Your Pet. All Kitty or Rover care about is…Now. Bend over and pet them, or pick up and rub behind the ears. Let their calm emotional state wash over you.
- Let Gravity Win. From when you arise until you retire, you fight the force of gravity. Lie down – on a bed, a couch, or the floor – and for a moment, let gravity support you.
- Melt. Sit upright with your back fully supported, feet flat, arms on your lap. Allow everything about you – bones, muscles, breath – to feel heavier and imagine you are melting like chocolate on a hot day.
- Relax Your Jaw. Using your three middle fingers, find the place just below your ears where your lower jaw hinges. Massage that for a moment, as you let your lower jaw open slightly. Notice how this releases your neck, shoulders, and breath.
- Go Barefoot. Take off your shoes and sit or walk in bare or stocking feet for 5 minutes.
- Stand On One Foot. The dynamic tension in your body will shift. Now, stand on the other foot. Hold each side for a few seconds. Bring your attentionto how differently your body holds itself when you return to both feet.
- Shift Position. No matter how you are sitting or standing, take a moment to notice centers of tension, and adjust one part of your posture to release the tension (e.g. unlock your knees, lift your chin, open your shoulders, or otherwise unfold, uncurl, or unclench).
- Lengthen Your Spine. Access your full height. This subtle shift releases tension and increases confidence whether you are sitting or standing, (“I have a backbone!”)
And with a nod to the brain, remember you can still:
- Change a Thought. The judgment you hold about a person or situation contributes more to your stress than anything physical. Let go of the “story.” (If your reaction to that is, “easier said than done,” refer to 1-18 above.)