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Stress is all around us. It ebbs and flows with the obstacles, big and small, that we face every single day.
While insurmountable at times, stress is unavoidable. It is an integral part of our nature that allows us to get out of difficult situations, turn up cognitive function, and push to improve.
The challenge, of course, is when levels of stress remain consistently high over weeks, months, and years. For our longevity and our sanity, it’s vital that we learn how to manage stress.
Modern life moves so fast and demands too much from us. There is noise, pollution, people, schedules, deadlines yelling at you from every direction. We say to ourselves, “I have to do this and this and get this and this done.” The pressure piles up. Then, even worse, we internalize all of that information and the stress becomes, “I have to do this, or I’m not good enough. I’m a failure. I’m letting this person down.”
When it reaches that point, it can be extremely difficult to get out. We can’t all just drop everything and take a year off from normal life to live on a tropical beach. We need coping mechanisms that will help us here and now under the current circumstances.
Here are my 5 best tools to manage stress and anxiety that are simple and easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
DIFFUSER + ESSENTIAL OILS
One of the best tools to manage stress and anxiety at home is to practice aromatherapy using a diffuser with a few drops of essential oil.
Inhaling aromas from essential oils helps to stimulate the limbic system of the brain which has effects on emotions, memory formation, behavior, breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Lavender is by far the most well-known of the essential oils and for good reason. Its sweet and dry floral scent can be very powerful at calming the body and reducing nervous tension.
Personally, a diffuser with essential oils is my favorite tool to combat stress.
Even though a diffuser is nowhere near powerful enough to add moisture to a whole room like a humidifier, I keep one on my desk while I work to combat my dry sinuses.
Because of my history of respiratory issues, I find comfort in adding a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint to invigorate my senses. I feel a greater sense of calm knowing that I can breathe with greater ease.
A diffuser with essential oils also adds a nice touch of decor to any space while being functional!
ACUPRESSURE EAR SEEDS
For a more medical approach, self-treatments using acupressure ear seeds can be an effective and simple tool to reduce stress, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep.
Acupressure is a common practice in East Asian medicine to treat a variety of illnesses and promote overall health.
Auricular or ear therapy, in particular, has been widely studied in both the Eastern and Western medical communities for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and drug addiction.
The ear is recognized as a microsystem of the entire body and, when stimulated at pre-determined points, has the potential to increase natural opioid levels to reduce sensations of pain and stress.
As a former acupuncturist, I observed, first hand, the positive effects of ear therapy. I would frequently treat patients using ear acupuncture at the clinic and then send them home with ear seeds to prolong the effects of the treatment until their next appointment.
Once the ear seeds are placed, all you have to do is press them throughout the day for a minute at a time. It is super easy and you will feel a greater sense of empowerment knowing that you are playing a starring role in managing your stress levels.
For any questions about placement or frequency of use, always consult your local acupuncturist.
Do you remember those classic stress balls made out of foam with a giant imprint of a smiley face?
If you are that person who needs a bit of physical activity and needs to squeeze the life out of something to reduce tension, stress balls are still 100% relevant.
The simple act of gripping and releasing a stress ball promotes blood circulation and allows muscles to relax. As an added benefit, stress balls also aid in the treatment of a variety of hand injuries such as arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
For more of a pick-me-up, my two favorite stress balls are a handmaid crocheted polar bear and a fluffy monster critter. Sure, I can squish away when I need to but they are so darn adorable that they just bring a smile to my face when I look at them.
MANDALA COLORING BOOKS
Tap into your inner child and learn how to manage stress by coloring! That’s right! Coloring, and coloring mandalas, in particular, might seem like a trivial activity but it can be a powerful tool to heal and relax the body.
The word mandala comes from Sanskrit and means circle. They are powerful and sacred symbols that have been used for centuries in religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism to facilitate meditation.
Coloring the symmetrical form of mandalas has the ability to calm the mind and organize thoughts. The use of fine repetitive movements allows you to stay focused, encourages self-awareness, and allows you to live in the present moment.
By focusing on the simple act of coloring, your body can experience a true state of relaxation with lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and lower level of stress hormones.
This is true art therapy! All you have to do is pick a color to start with and let your instincts tell you what to do next.
Another simple tool to learn how to manage stress is a gratitude journal. I find that it’s often too easy to dwell on the feeling of being overwhelmed and other negative thoughts. So why not turn the page and focus on positivity?
While you could use any notebook or journal, a gratitude journal includes specific questions on each page to guide you in your answers and intentions.
We all have something to be thankful for and we just need a little push to remind us every once in a while.
Knowing what I’m grateful for helps to put the daily chaos of life into perspective and calms me down when I’m stressed out.