“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
― Lao TzuSome days, I feel calm and collected – almost like I rolled into the right side of the world, where stop lights shift in synchronicity while birds chirp in time. Other days, which as of late have been more and more frequent, I seem to wake up wired for awkwardness at every turn. A misstep here, can’t find my flip flops there, where did I ever misplace my keys – laptop – headphones – charger – brain, how did I end up on this side of town. Let’s be honest, those last few can become a never-ending, choose your misadventure tale where I invariably end up with a good story but never a dull moment. But, isn’t that the point of life: to smell roses on walkways that you’d never intended to be on.
My step-mom always said ‘Everything in it’s place and a place for everything’ – but I don’t think she was speaking to my mental faculties. You know those friends that keep a ridiculous amount of tabs open on their web browser? That’s basically what the inside of my brain feels like on the daily. Lists for this, that and the other thing; and potentially even a list of lists I need to make which is usually followed by a general onslaught of compounded, potentially circular, curiosities.
It might not frequent you as often as it frequents me, but stress has invariably become a part of my everyday routine. I’ll be the first to admit that most of it is self sustained, which walks that thin line between stress and anxiety. Whether it’s stress that I’m underperforming at work, or not pulling my weight in a friendship, the fear of fumbling at the most basic of tasks, not spending time with the right people and not focusing on the right passions and pursuits – let me tell you, my mind flips on it’s head nearly a thousand times a day.
Just because stress exists in the periphery of your life (and trust me, it will!), there’s no need to internalize it! Often referred to as the ‘silent killer‘, people who mismanage their stress levels can suffer from crippling complications that go far beyond social scenarios. Stomach problems like ulcers, illness, raised blood pressure, cluster headaches, insomnia and depression are all indicators that your cortisol levels are through the roof. Sometimes you’re the bug, and sometimes you’re the windshield – but I want you to be the 409 that cleans up the mess and makes it crystal clear for the driver; namely: you. So, when life gives you lemons, find a friend with vodka and have a drink. And then read these surefire stress tips, set to calm your nerves and soothe your shaken and stirred soul.
I didn’t fully grasp the power of meditation until I ventured out to Arkansas for a work trip a few years ago. Yes, you heard me right – I was in Arkansas, but not voluntarily. If you’re wondering what’s out there, not a whole hell of a lot besides Wal Mart headquarters in Bentonville and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I’ll let you guess which one I was forced to go to and which one I volunteered to see; but the end result is I saw my first Warhol and Rockwell paintings in person, and for a week straight I was deadpan sober. Now, let me say that there’s nothing wrong with being sober – but I was in the mood for a head change, and meditation offered just that at a fraction of the cost of a hotel bar drink. And to boot, the change lasts longer and is by and large much more beneficial to your health. Through meditation, the rest of the world melts away while you’re left in the purity of the moment, the chaos around you clamoring while your mind stays at ease.
For meditation newbies, every few months, Depak Chopra offers a new, 21 day free meditation course through his website, focusing on a core emotional tenant – love, career, family, relationships, etc. Delicately, you’re guided down a pleasant path towards relaxing your mind and focusing on your intentions. Sure, you don’t need someone to tell you breathe in and out while focusing on your heart beat in an unstated but wholly felt rhythm – but it definitely helps. Soon enough, you’ll find you can tune out the world on your own as you slip into sweet, meditative bliss.
There’s a saying around my house – If you’re having a bad day, grab a cat! – but this goes far beyond your preference for feline friends and K-9 companions. Cats and dogs have a proven ability to boost the immune system by lower blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol level. Cortisol is a hormone your body excretes when it is in duress. Meaning, lower cortisol levels lead to lower stress levels and all around better vibes – increasing your general happiness and sense of well being.
The idea of caring for another creature curates an instinctual sense of altruism. If you’re looking to get active, having a dog in your life will get you outside for daily walks and into dog parks where you can meet like-minded individuals – and potentially even snag a date! Cats, while not being as inherently social, have a novel scientific affect on the human body – the cat’s purr resonates with a natural healing vibration. Cat’s purr at a range of 27 Hz to 50 Hz; the Root Chakra is effected by vibrations between 20 and 60 Hz while a vibration at 25 Hz stimulates the growth of mitochondria. a vibration at 32 Hz is pleasant on the nervous system while a vibration at 45 Hz has been proven to regenerate bone growth!
For anyone who grew up in the 90’s, you have to remember this scene from Legally Blonde. And let’s hand it to the gal, Reese has an excellent point – Exercise does give you a boost of endorphins. One thing that’s tried and true: these neurotransmitters are proven to elevate your mood while they kick stress to the curb by simulating the effect of an opiate like morphine or codine. Good news for you – you can get high on your own supply; literally!
Go for a jog, get out and shake your groove thing at the club, meet up with some friends and get your yoga on in the park. Take a walk around the neighborhood and fully immerse yourself within your community. Websites like Meetup.com are amazing for curating small groups of like minded individuals.
You might be sitting here saying ‘…but money can’t buy me happiness…’ – but it can buy you a new pair of shoes, that shiny new gadget you’ve been eyeing or a stellar new hair-do. Truth be told, when I’ve felt down and out – a few minutes of online shopping while ruffling through my favorite stores on ETSY seems to absolutely do the trick of turning my frown upside down. Now, everything in moderation (..including moderation): you don’t need to go bonkers and buy the whole store or get an incredible luxury item that doesn’t fit your lifestyle. But a lovely trinket here and there to remind yourself that you’re lovely and loved surely can’t hurt!
How many times have you heard the phrase “Food is the way to my heart…” – but did you know how much validity it held? The simple fact of the matter is that over 90% of your body’s serotonin receptors sit in your digestive tract. When you’re stressed, you just don’t eat as well – and being malnourished plays a huge factor in mood! The next time you feel like you’re not eating your feelings, just remember that a few bites of excellent food might be all you need to go from a zero to a hero.
Expand Your Horizons
You don’t need to paint or make music to be considered creative, crafty or artsy; it’s 2015 and there are hundreds of ways that you can purge your inner emotions and use them as a creative catalyst for something greater. Head on down to Michael’s, JoAnne Fabrics or your local Arts and Crafts haunt and roam the aisles in search of your new muse. There’s an infinite amount of endeavors to try your hands at – from making jewelry and candles, to wood work or planting your own herb garden. The best part for at the end of the day you’ve created a unique and share-able masterpiece that’s all yours! Now, that’s something worth getting excited about
Last, but certainly not least – just reach out and touch someone!
Hugs are my favorite form of currency, because by giving one – you’re automatically giving one! A perfect 1:1 ratio if you ask me. By in large, human contact is one of the best ways to irradiate the blues – whether it’s a friend that you’re comfortable sitting in silence and doing nothing with, or your crew’s Chatty Cathy, chances are the simple effect of another sympathetic ear will help boost you back into happiness. And the hug? Well, as it turns out a good 20 second hugs reduce the amount of cortisol in your system by feeding your body oxytocin – commonly referred to as the ‘cuddle’ hormone – and stimulating your brain to reduce dopamine, known as the ‘pleasure hormone’.
What’s your favorite way to kick the stress of everyday life?
Let me know in the comments below!