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How to Relax Your Mind and Reduce Stress Quickly

Four simple ways to make yourself feel better when you become overwhelmed, anxious, sad, or upset.

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Does anyone else think they need a survival guide for life right now? The current state of our world is making most of us feel as though we are suspended in a strange dream, scrambling to wake up.

I believe in personal development and wellness in general, but now more than ever, I think it’s critical to know how to effectively practice mindful self-care.

Between the COVID-19 pandemic, the extremely volatile political climate, the uncertainty around the job market, and social unrest due to racial injustice, even the most well-adjusted person could benefit from knowing a few quick tricks for remaining emotionally and psychologically buoyant. It is possible. We can all shift to a state of peace in the present moment, no matter what is happening around us.

The key is to remember that you are not your thoughts. You just experience them. Therefore, you have the power to decide what to do about them. You can choose to be calm and reconnect with a more intentional disposition. You just need the tools to do it.

These versatile tips are great for work and home life, as well as people in any age group.

1. Smile

Yes smile, no matter how you feel. Science has shown that the mere act of smiling can lift your mood, lower stress, boost your immune system, and possibly even prolong your life.

Smiling releases the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin, pain-relieving endorphins, and reduces the stress-related hormone, cortisol.

So, the next time you feel like you need a quick pick-me-up, I encourage you to simply crack a smile for 30-seconds. You will be amazed at how rapidly you feel that spark of joy come flooding back.

2. Mindful Meditation

Just five minutes of meditation can have a significant impact on your physical and emotional wellbeing.

The hand position, or mudra, you use during meditation will determine the flow of energy you receive throughout your body.

So when life feels chaotic or you are in a heightened emotional state you should opt for your palms facing down. This is the mudra for calm, which will help ground you.

This action represents the motion of rooting yourself, enabling you to re-center your sense of strength and control. I find this incredibly helpful during these stressful and uncertain times. 

3. Recognize and Release Your Fearful Thoughts

Planning for the future is important, practical, and normal. But sometimes we go beyond actuality and become emotionally trapped by our fearful “what ifs.” Our minds race, and we start weaving a web of emotional undoing, imagining what will or won’t happen, spending a lot of energy and time on things that aren’t even real.

The problem is the brain doesn’t know the difference between what we think and feel and what is actually happening, so we cause ourselves to suffer unnecessarily. This can trigger your body’s natural reaction to danger called the ‘flight, fright, or freeze’ response. It’s the body’s way of allowing you to act quickly so you can protect yourself against harm. The issue is that it can also be stimulated by stressful events in your life, psychological threats, not actual physical endangerment. And when you enter this state, you become emotionally reactive.

What happens is, the brain’s amygdala receives a signal and either passes the information along to the prefrontal cortex for processing or takes action instantaneously. Positive situations tend to make their way to the prefrontal cortex. But when something causes us to feel fear, the amygdala tends to react immediately—putting your negative emotions in the driver’s seat, reducing your ability to think clearly and make good decisions.

When you start to feel overwhelmed, one of the best ways to invoke a sense of relaxation and turn off your emergency response system swiftly, is through your breath. By breathing in slowly through your nose, you trigger your parasympathetic nervous system, which calms you down. It helps on your out-breath to imagine all the tension and stressful thoughts leaving your body.

If taking a few deep, nourishing breaths doesn’t work, take a moment to pause and witness your thoughts without judgment. If they are unpleasant and affecting your mental wellbeing, try speaking to the opposite of what you are thinking. Shift to focusing on what is going well in your life and let those thoughts rest in your consciousness for a bit.

Both techniques, deep breathing and taking the time to observe your thoughts, allow your prefrontal cortex to take over and put you back in control of your emotions. Letting you choose a more positive and beneficial response to your current circumstances.

4. Self Soothe

The skin is the largest organ in the body and is rich with nerve receptors, petrochemicals, and immune modulators.

Peptides closely related to antidepressants can be found in the skin, which explains why massage often induces an elevated mood.

Massage also taps into your Mammalian Care-Giving System, which releases endorphins and oxytocin, generating feelings of safety and peace.   

When your skin is stimulated by loving, therapeutic touch, it releases many healing chemicals that enhance immune function, improves circulation, and promotes restful sleep as well.

The best news is you don’t need anyone else to enjoy the benefits of this restorative remedy. You can apply these invaluable motions whenever you feel you need to calm down.

Try these self-soothing techniques to help you find relief from any stress you are feeling:

•Spend a couple of minutes massaging your entire scalp.

•Massage your forehead, temples, cheeks, and jaw in a circular motion, always using an upward movement. Ensure you massage your ears, especially your earlobes, which are home to essential marma points and nerve endings.

•Use long strokes on your limbs (arms and legs) and circular motions on your joints (elbows and knees). Always massage toward the direction of your heart.

•Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, cyclical motions. On the stomach, follow the path of the large intestine, moving up on the right-hand side, across, and then down on the left-hand side.

•Finish by spending at least a couple of minutes massaging your feet. They are an especially important part of the body housing the nerve endings of essential organs.

You might not be able to control the world or your initial reactions to it. But by using any of these techniques, or a combination of them, you can bring yourself back to the present moment and reshape your initial response to stressful events. You can’t govern the wind, but you can adjust your sail – and that is where your true power hides.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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