Stress, or anxiety, is a response of the sympathetic nervous system ('fight or flight'), which is active 90% of the time... That's right, 90. And it actually results in a lot of negative physiological effects, making mitigating the level of activity of our sympathetic nervous systems incredibly important--albeit, quite difficult.
In layman terms, we need to stop stressin'. I know full well that it's way easier said than done.
Admittedly, I used to be incredibly high-strung and suffered from severe and crippling anxiety. As an aside, becoming a publicist (ranked the sixth most stressful career path) and then starting a company on my own may have added to the mix, but... It's a long and ongoing effort and practice ('abhyasa', in yogic philosophy) to let go (known as 'vairagya', or non-attachment). So, along the way, I've picked up some techniques on how best to reduce and prevent stress:
- Make lists! Write absolutely everything down. This serves a dual purpose, whether it's all the tasks on your never-ending to-do list, or negative emotional thoughts, purging on paper allows you to a) keep track and stay organized and b) clear the clutter and create headspace.
- Make more lists! But rather, a list of things that make you (just you!) genuinely happy. For example, my happiness list includes: running, yoga, reading, cooking, listening or playing music, coloring, etc. I defer to this list whenever I find myself in a 'funk', and need to relax and reconnect to my present self.
- Not a list, but along those lines... log your anxiety levels. A huge, major factor in my "road to recovery" was to journal. I logged my anxiety levels when I woke up (mine was always worse in the morning), throughout the day and before bed. In the same entry, so to speak, I'd make sure to recognize and include one thing I did that day to make myself happy, as well as...
- Three things I was thankful for, just for that day. Gratitude is proven to correlate to happiness, and thus less stress, which is a primal instinct associated with fear, doom and sadness. Recognizing some of the graces in our lives each day, in other words, having a mindfulness practice, will help to prevent stress. Know that at times, things may be bad, but there is always good that exists and a higher power governing each situation for a particular reason.
- Meditation. It's not at all easy--that doesn't mean you can't do it--but a consistent, ardent meditation practice is so often proposed as a solution or prevention of stress. We're challenged to focus our attention, quiet our minds and sit with ourselves in stillness. I could go on and on about the benefits of having a meditation practice, really. My favorite app is Calm.
- Movement. If you're like me, this is necessary on a daily basis. Whether it's yoga, jogging, walking, or whatever you're into... make moves. Release endorphins, refocus your attention, and let go of some of the tension you're holding both physically and mentally.
That said, how better to sign-off than to leave you with a flow to let go--a quick yoga sequence of fluid movement that promotes a circulation of fresh, light energy. Namaste*
* Namaste means 'the divine light in me honors, reflects and respects the divine light in you'.