These Short- and Long-Term Lifestyle Tips Will Help You Navigate Every Stressor
We can wax poetic about it all we like, but the fact remains: Staying calm in the face of stress is easier said than done. Sometimes, we feel woefully unprepared to deal with the aftermath of a challenge, which makes re-establishing equilibrium that much more difficult. Still, there are a few in-the-moment and long-term tips and tricks to help you calm down. Read on and discover how to unwind in a matter of moments, regardless of the circumstance—plus, discover which lifestyle shifts can actually prepare you to wrangle anxiety down the road.
Press Self-Soothing Acupressure Points
Dr. Josh Kantor, a kinesiologist and chiropractor, explains that the best self-soothing neurovascular points on the body, first identified by Terrence Bennett, are "located above the center of each eye, one inch above the eyebrow." Hold these points down with one or two fingertips for three minutes, he says, while sitting or lying down. While holding the points, think of something peaceful and relaxing; for an added dose of calm, use a flower essence, such as Rescue Remedy ($16.68, amazon.com), which can help reset a blown "stress fuse."
Though obvious, it makes a huge difference. Typically, we breathe 16 to 18 times a minute, but those breaths are shallow, says Dr. Michael Gelb, co-author of GASP!: Airway Health—The Hidden Path To Wellness ($17.95, amazon.com). The remedy to this? Become more aware of your breathing and make sure to pull air from the diaphragm. Dr. Kantor suggests practicing deep-breathing exercises for three minutes a few times per day. "Take some deep, slow breaths, allowing your abdomen to relax and expand (allow your belly to stick out when you breathe in)," he says. "Do this for an inhale count of two and an exhale count of four with a pause in between. This will relax you and lower your heart rate and blood pressure."
When you are feeling out of whack or suddenly anxious, a couple of stretches can help. Stretching increases blood flow, relaxes tense muscles, and provides an opportunity for deep breathing.
Try Fulford Exercises
This is Dr. Kantor's trusty relaxation sidekick and his most recommended tip for feeling at ease, stat. Start by sitting upright in a chair with your thighs parallel to the floor; the lower part of your legs should be at a 90-degree angle. Bend over, placing your elbows on the inside of your knees and your hands between your feet; turn your palms away from each other and tuck your fingers under the arch of each foot and your thumb over the top of the foot. Let your spine fully stretch in this position. Breathe slowly and fully for five minutes. Do this once per day and you won't just feel instantly calm—you will also notice that walking comes easier, you can stand up straighter, and your back is lighter.
Go to Bed and Rise Earlier
Early to bed and early to rise: Dr. Kantor recommends this lifestyle change as a proactive approach to combatting stress. If you experience a stressor while you are well-rested, you're more likely to recover faster. We all know the unfortunate impact exhaustion has on those bad days—it compounds them, intensifying our negative reactions and magnifying residual stressors.
This is a must, especially if you typically forget to eat while you are stressed—hunger can actually trigger anxiety. "Skipping breakfast is not a good way to start the day," says Dr. Kantor. "When your blood sugar levels drop, your body becomes stressed. Your brain is first on the list for fuel. Feed your body and refuel your brain. That cranky feeling you get when your blood sugar drops is incredibly stressful on the body—and that's why we get 'hangry.'"
When your body is confronted with the fight-or-flight response (which often accompanies an event or conversation that incites us), it produces cortisol, the primary stress hormone. Adding caffeine on top of that endocrine action makes you jittery and anxious, which can prevent you from making level-headed decisions. Limit yourself to one cup of coffee or tea a day if you're currently working through a challenge.
Take a Daily Supplement
Oats milky seed extract, L-theanine, Valerian root, magnesium, kava kava, chamomile tea, and passion flower are all known to usher in calm. Try adding one or more of these supplements your daily regimen to develop a more Zen-like attitude towards stress.