Our lives are filled with constant stress. As kids, it was about grades, bullies and the future. As adults we worry about our jobs, our kids and our parents. Then we become the elders who worry about savings, health problems and loneliness. How do we get away from all of it?
Exercise: This is one of the most important regular activities you can use for stress relief. There are three reasons it’s helpful. It releases hormones that help make us feel better. They’re often referred to as “the runner’s high.” Exercise also tends to get us away from where the problems are located. Whether it’s on a hiking trail or the treadmill at the gym, this is “you” time. Third, while those problems haven’t gone away, the concentration on the exercise at hand lets the back of your mind work on them. I can’t tell you the number of times a solution to a particularly stressful problem has occurred during or just after exercise.
Creative Outlet: This works much the same way as the last part of the exercise segment. Whether it’s cooking, drawing, painting or playing an instrument, the front part of your mind is working on the task at hand. The back part is working on the problems you’re facing. The pride of accomplishment also benefits in boosting our ego.
Breathing: Not all stress relievers have to take a lot of time or activity. Some of the stress we feel can be attributed to shallow breathing. Check yourself. If you aren’t concentrating on your breathing, chances are good you are only using the top ten to fifty percent of your lung capacity.
The brain uses more oxygen than any other organ. If we aren’t getting enough air in, it isn’t getting enough to work with and it sends out stress signals. Ten deep breaths may be all it takes to stop some of the effects of stress.
Meditation: This is not about religion per se, though it can be. It can be anything that brings you peace when you concentrate on it. Because I grew up on a farm, I use the 23rd Psalm. I can feel the grass, hear the water and appreciate the Psalm in depth. Any passage or piece of music can be useful.
Belief: Not everyone has a belief in a higher power. This isn’t to say you should, but if you do believe, I can tell you from my own experiences that this belief is the greatest natural stress reliever I’ve found. It tells me I have a purpose, that my problems will have solutions and that death is not the end.
There are times and stressors that may not respond properly to these self-help solutions. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t be ashamed to talk to your doctor. Stress is a medical condition and can be treated with medications should they be needed. The most important thing is to find the solution that is best for you.