3 Simple Things You Can Do to Reduce Stress Today

We all get stressed. Life these days moves at incredible speeds with not a lot of moments in the day to slow down and get our bearings straight. So often times we push the stress we feel each day deep down and move forward forgetting all about it.

But what happens when we do that day after day, week after week, month after month? For most people, that stress finds a way to rear its ugly head. This can be in the form of getting sick, feeling tired, blowing up at our loved ones. Our methods of coping can be just as harrowing. We eat or drink or stress away, numb our minds in front of the tv or drown ourselves in work. I personally have done all of these things. 

But this isn’t sustainable over the long run without dire consequences. Our health suffers, our sleep suffers, our relationships suffer. So what is the alternative?

We’ve found that taking a few minutes each day to allow the world around us to slow down is incredibly powerful and that we benefit greatly from these daily moments.  Think of these daily moments as ways to reduce the pressures of stress to manageable levels.

A great analogy is a balloon. If you continue to blow a balloon up without letting any of the air out it will eventually pop.  But if you blow the balloon up to a certain point, and then let some of the air out, it maintains its shape and maintains hours of fun (it’s the simple things in life right).

So here are a few things we personally use day in and day out to reduce the harmful effects of negative stress.

1. Go For a Walk

Walks are amazing. Short walks. Long walks. They provide us with countless amazing benefits. We get to breathe fresh air. It clears our minds of endless thought cycles most of us have on loop every day. It gets the blood flowing in our bodies. We get to take in Vitamin D from the sun (assuming it’s daylight out). We get to look up at the sky and remind ourselves of how vast the world really is. 

This I believe personally is one of the best benefits of all. I find myself having a much easier time dealing with difficult situations when I remember that the world is so much bigger than what is going on in between my ears. Get out and walk today for 5 minutes or 30 minutes. It’s going to help either way.

2. Breathe

When was the last time you paid attention to your breathing? Most people will answer “Never”, and that is completely normal. But our breathing can help us fight off daily toxic stress in mere minutes.  For an easy to follow 3 minute breathing exercise, check out the Harper Douglas “Find Your Steady” web app that you get free access to with any of our candles. Short on time or don’t have any of our products nearby? 

Try the following one minute exercise:

  • Sit down in a comfortable position. Try to sit up relatively straight if you can.
  • Close your eyes and focus on any areas of your body that feel tense. If you find any, try and purposely relax those muscles.
  • Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.
  • Breathe in for 3 seconds through your nose if you can, mouth is okay if you can’t. Pause for one second, then breathe out for 3 seconds. Pause for one second, now repeat.
  • Which hand is rising and falling? If it is the hand on your stomach, great. If it is the hand on your chest, see if you can focus on breathing deeper down into your belly so that the hand on your stomach is the one rising and falling. 
  • Repeat this for one minute, or however long feels comfortable.

3. Write Your Thoughts Down

Have you ever found yourself so consumed with the thoughts running through your head you start to feel stressed out or overwhelmed? If the answer is “yes”, congratulations, you’re human. This happens to everyone, whether we realize it or not. It is basic human nature. The human brain focuses best on one thing at a time. So when we’ve got fifty different thoughts in our head at the same time, our brain can’t compute.

Try writing stuff down. Whether this is in the morning to start your day, or at night to braindump everything that happened throughout the day. The simple act of writing our thoughts down helps get them out of our head.

Don’t know where to start? Here’s a great exercise:

In the morning get a sheet of paper or a journal or notebook. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you can write on it.  Start off by writing down one thing you are grateful for. This can be a person, an event, a current situation, anything. Now take 2 to 3 minutes to write out why it is you’re actually grateful for it. This is the most important part as it allows to truly feel grateful for whatever we’ve written down.

Next, write down one or two things that you want to accomplish that day, no matter what. These are often called your “intentions for the day”. These are things that are the most prioritized items of your day. That if you get these done by the end of the day, you can sigh a breath of relief and sleep well at night.

By doing one or all of these things each day, you should start to see a noticeable improvement in your stress levels. Don’t feel like you need to do them all at once either as that can simply add one more thing that stresses you out. The most important thing is that you pick at least one and work on building up consistency with doing it each day. When it has become second nature, add one more in. These daily practices, albeit simple, are the keys to finding your steady.

(image credit: Ketut Subiyanto)