Stress is an epidemic that is a side effect of the modern civilization and hectic schedules. With the cutthroat competition, responsibilities at work and at home, stress has become a partner in life.
Stress commonly refers to a response of the body to handle situations that the mind perceives as threat to survival. In ancient times it was coming face-to-face with a tiger; in today’s world it is financial stress, family responsibilities, demands from the work environment etc. Though none of these factors actually threaten our survival, yet the demands they make on us give us a feeling of impending doom if not fulfilled.
In response to any of these factors, the body releases stress hormones that increase the heart rate, blood pressure, contraction of muscles etc. In effect the blood moves from the visceral region (chest and abdomen that holds all our vital organs) to our limbs to prepare us to fight the threat or run away from it.
The problem is not stress, but sustained stress without any relaxation. If, due to stress response, the majority of our blood stays in our limbs away from the vital organs, it weakens the functioning of organs like heart, stomach, liver, lungs etc. This makes us more susceptible to diseases like heart problems, liver disorders, migraines, digestive system disorder and so on. It also makes us more prone to addictions to alcohol, cigarettes, drugs etc. because they may be one of the ways to deal with the sustained stress we are facing.
The most often known methods of dealing with stress are meditation, physical activity and taking vacations. But given the hectic lifestyle and busy schedules, it becomes difficult to be consistent with anything. Here are 5 tips on how to handle stress that you can use even with your hectic lifestyle with ease.
Meditation does not necessarily mean sitting for an hour and trying to make an effort. That defeats the whole purpose of meditation. Finding a few quiet minutes in the day can work like magic. There are many different ways to meditate. Pick one that suits your style and is comfortable.
(i) Follow your breath
You don’t have to have your eyes closed for this process so you can even do it while travelling to and fro from your office. Focus on your breath moving in and moving out from your nose. Keep your attention on the breath. This is the best form of meditation and helps you get centered and calm.
(ii) Watch your thoughts
Sit in a quiet place for a while and watch your thoughts. The important thing here is to just be a spectator. Its like sitting in a stadium or theatre and watching the things happen on the screen. Let the thoughts flow without getting involved in it. If you find your mind drifting away, gently bring it back and continue. This helps you get clear in the head, calm down and get rid of excessive thoughts.
(iii) Awareness meditation
Whenever you are doing any activity, become completely aware in that moment about your actions and whatever is happening. Get totally involved such that you are not in your head, you are not in your thoughts, in past or in future. This is something you can do anytime of the day, anywhere, doing anything. It is a form of meditation and also helps you excel in your work.
Remember to breathe. During stressful situations, we sometimes forget to breathe deeply. It adds to the stress in the body. So whenever you remember, take a few deep breaths and exhale through mouth. It also helps you take your mind off work for a few moments so when you come back to work, you mind is fresh and ready with new ideas and solutions.
Grounding means getting centered and coming into the present. It is easy to get lost in work or duties. Because of this we lose touch with the present moment and stress can catch us off-guard. Grounding is simple and easy, helps you have a sharper and clearer mind and releases excessive thoughts. The whole process takes about a minute.
To ground yourself, sit comfortably, imagine roots coming out from the bottom of your feet and going deep into the earth into its core. All this while, breathe deeply imagining the breath going into your roots.
Next part is optional – imagine all your stress, worries, negative energy, excessive thoughts etc. going into the roots out of your body into the earth clearing your body and energy.
4. Thumbs up approach
Gently wrap the thumb of your one hand with the other hand (like a baby holds your finger). This is a technique from Jin Shin Jyutsu where the thumb represents the attitude of Worry. Holding it harmonizes the body and releases stress.
5. Look for miracles – How can this get better?
Miracles don’t have to be big incidences. It can be as little as finding a good seat on the bus, finding a good parking space easily and so on. To find miracles, expect miracles to happen. When things are not going as per your plans, repeat this statement out loud or in your mind – “How can this get better?” It directs your energy in the positive direction and opens up opportunities for something good to happen.