Our daily lives find us pummeled wildly by whatever: emails, conversations, news, events, demands, that are going on around us. Our minds become a constant deluge of thoughts dwelling in the past, worries of the future and distractions pulling us in every direction. A spiritual approach to living does not make you immune to stress. However, … choosing to practice spiritual awareness can shorten the time in which you experience seeming moments of pressure or tension.
Life challenges you to evolve and transform into the healthy, happy and empowered being that you are meant to be. It is true, when we are in a happy and satisfied state of mind, personal and spiritual development are only minimally increased. We need to be uncomfortable and/or stressed, to experience personal and spiritual growth. The rate of expansion can be overwhelming at times. Experiencing various degrees of stress is a necessary part of the human experience however we can make a conscious choice to perceive reality as a set of experiences working together for our good. Go through it and grow through it.
Stress has long been associated with increased risk for illness including serious health problems such as heart disease. The reason? Stress, particularly if it is chronic or prolonged, can weaken the immune system. It can also lead to decreased productivity, depression and a lower quality of life in general. While a certain amount of stress is inevitable (and to some degree, it can be argued, a positive force for motivation), healthier lifestyle habits — such as regular exercise, a nutritious diet, adequate sleep and strong social connections — can help you to manage dangerous levels of stress.
Yoga and meditation work wonders for improving coping skills. But who can take a moment to chant or meditate during a job interview or a disagreement with your spouse? For these situations, you need something more immediate and accessible. That’s when quick stress relief comes to the rescue.
The key to practicing quick stress relief is learning what kind of sensory input helps your particular nervous system find calm and focus quickly. Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so an awareness of your preferences is essential for reducing stress. Let’s get real. It’s not easy to remember to use our senses in the middle of a mini—or not so mini—crisis. At first, it will feel easier to just give into pressure and tense up. The truth is, quick stress relief takes practice, practice, and more practice. But with time, calling upon your senses will become second nature. The speediest way to stamp out stress is by engaging one or more of your senses—your sense of sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or movement—to rapidly calm and energize yourself.
Use the following exercises to identify the sensory experiences that work quickly and effectively to reduce stress for you. As you experiment, be as precise as possible. What is the most perfect image, the specific kind of sound, or type of movement that affects you the most? For example, if you’re a music lover, listen to many different artists and types of music until you find the song that instantly lifts and relaxes you. The examples listed below are intended to be a jumping-off point. It’s up to you to hone in on them and come up with additional things to try.
Sights. If you’re a visual person, try to manage and relieve stress by surrounding yourself with soothing and uplifting images. Here are a few visually-based activities that may work as quick stress relievers: Look at a cherished photo or a favorite memento. For example bring a family photo to your office to take you away momentarily and give you happiness. Or enjoy the beauty of nature–a garden, the beach, a park, or your own backyard or bring the outside in to enliven your space. Or surround yourself with colors that lift your spirits.
Sounds. Are you sensitive to sounds and noises? If so, stress-relieving exercises that focus on your auditory sense may work particularly well. Experiment with the following sounds, noting how quickly your stress levels drop as you listen: Sing or hum a favorite tune. Listen to uplifting music. Or tune in to the soundtrack of nature—crashing waves, the wind rustling the trees, birds singing. Or hang wind chimes near an open window.
Smells & Scents. If you tend to zone out or freeze when stressed, surround yourself with smells that are energizing and invigorating. If you tend to become overly agitated under stress, look for scents that are comforting and calming, such as: Light a scented candle or burn some incense. Or lie down in a bed with scented sheets. Or smell the roses—or another type of flower.
Touch. Experiment with your sense of touch, playing with different tactile sensations. Focus on things you can feel that are relaxing and renewing. Use the following suggestions as a jumping-off point: Pet a dog or cat. Or hold a comforting object (a smooth stone, a favorite memento). Or soak in a hot bath. Or give yourself a hand or neck massage.
Taste. Slowly savoring a favorite treat can be very relaxing, but mindless eating will only add to your stress and your waistline. The key is to indulge your sense of taste mindfully and in moderation. Eat slowly, focusing on the feel of the food in your mouth and the taste on your tongue: Indulge in a small piece of dark chocolate. Or sip a steaming cup of coffee or tea or a refreshing cold drink. Or eat a perfectly ripe piece of fruit.
Movement. If you tend to shut down when you’re under stress, stress-relieving activities that get you moving may be particularly helpful. Anything that engages the muscles or gets you up and active can work. Here are a few suggestions: Run in place or jump up and down. Or dance around. Or stretch or roll your head in circles. Or go for a short walk.
NOTE: Repost from my Capital City Hues newspaper column from October 2013.