Are you stressed out because of the crazy high-speed world we’re living in? If so, you need these tools…
Before we dive into these stress-busting hacks, let’s quickly chat about what’s happening to society. Technology surrounds us. It’s supposed to simplify our lives and make things easier.
But there is a dark side too. Many of us have become ramped-up stress monkeys. We’re living with continuous interruption and crazy full schedules. The promise of spare time hasn’t happened and our busy lifestyles are destroying our mental and physical health.
We have a hard time living in the moment and appreciating true human connection of the family and friends right in front of us. Instead we’re thumb-texting while driving and drowning in social media. We rush to appointments and feel the need to be accessible day and night. It’s far from a fountain of youth, and there is no end in sight.
The effects of overload on our health are scary. Studies show that stress makes almost all disease worse. Our immune systems get weaker, our blood pressure rises, and we become more vulnerable to a health problems like ulcers, heart disease and cancer. We also suffer psychological damage such as anxiety, irritability and depression.
We have become the most medicated, maladaptive people in history.
That’s the bad news. But here’s the good news:
The good news is that while it’s difficult to eliminate many of the stressors, there are some really simple and effective ways to turn down the volume on stress, and reclaim your health and peace of mind. That’s what this blog post is all about. Apply one or more of these proven methods. You’ll quickly notice that you CAN control stress before it gets out of hand.
Stress Hack Number One – 7/11 Breathing
Although this is an extremely simple solution, it is one of the most powerful. When you deliberately change your breathing, everything changes. Martial artists, yoga enthusiasts, Chinese Qigong and Tai Chi practitioners, and athletes of all kinds have known about this for over 1,000 years.
It’s been said that today’s human doesn’t completely empty and fill his lungs more than once every ten days, resulting in stale, bacteria laden air, trapped in the bronchioles. Conversely, by smoothly filling and emptying the lungs for several minutes, the body and brain are oxygenated.
By ensuring your exhalation is longer than your inhalation, you stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which deals with relaxation and will actually lower blood pressure. Here’s how:
Gently breathe in through your nose for a seven count, filling your lungs, and letting your abdomen expand. Relax and exhale for a count of eleven. You may find this easier to do if you gently purse your lips on the exhale, controlling the speed the air exits your lungs.
Although the technique is ancient, it is based on sound science. By slowing the exhale and making it longer than the inhale, your nervous system will respond. You’ll feel calmer and more relaxed in just a few minutes.
Stress Hack Number 2 – Head Hanging
Tension is a tourniquet. If you, like me, carry muscle tension in your neck and shoulders, this hack can make a big difference in how you feel. The key is to catch the tension early. As soon as you notice the stress building up in your neck and shoulders (unless you have just eaten a big meal) immediately do the following:
Sit in a comfortable chair and bend forward, placing your hands so they lightly touch the floor. Carefully maintaining your balance, let your head hang down between your knees. Relax…allowing the weight of your head to gently stretch out the muscles of your neck.
Continue to relax, and slowly turn your head from side to side. After a minute or so, slowly sit back up again. Repeat as needed.
Stress Hack Number 3 – Stop the Old Tape Loops!
It is human nature to frequently review the things that are bothering us. That person that pisses us off, the argument we should have won, the raise or promotion that should have been ours. But this kind of replay is counterproductive, as we continuously drive old neural-pathways ever deeper into our brains.
We need to let go of the old patterns that rile us, and develop new neural-pathways that are more useful and productive. Here’s how to do it:
Shut down the pattern as soon as you notice it. The earlier you interrupt it, the more effective the treatment will be, and the faster you’ll be free of the pattern.
As soon as you realize you’re replaying old stuff say “Stop!” and use your hand to push the old programming away from you. Then define it, and substitute something useful, like “That was before. I’m living a good life now!”
By continuously utilizing this simple method from neuroscience, you will let the old pathways atrophy and die out. At the same time, you’ll build in something much more resourceful. In time, you won’t have to do it at all, as that old issue will not enter your mind anymore.
Be consistent, and stop the patterns as soon as they begin. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the old stuff stops stressing you out.
Stress Hack Number 4 – The Muscle Clench
This is a great one to use to quickly eliminate muscle tension. It’s actually rather paradoxical, because it uses tension to create relaxation. Most of us hate it when we’re told to “Just relax!”, because in a stressful situation, it can be very had to do.
The muscle clench intentionally causes muscle tension throughout the body and brings it into our conscious awareness. By increasing the tension first, it becomes easier to let it go. Here’s how:
Sit comfortably and notice where you are feeling muscle tightness and the physical effects of stress. Breathe slowly and deeply. Do not hold your breath. Lightly clench your teeth and press your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Make tight fists, tighten your butt and curl your toes against the soles of your shoes.
Keep breathing and tighten everything. Hold for a ten count and suddenly relax completely, letting all the tension go.
Repeat as needed. This hack works really well when alternated with Head Hanging.
Stress Hack Number 5 – Laugh on Purpose!
Laughing hard is one of the healthiest things we can do. It causes our brains and bodies to tap into its own medicine chest of pharmaceuticals that are more powerful than anything your doctor can give you. We all love laughing long and hard by watching comedies or listening to jokes. And it’s good for us!
But you can also just decide to laugh for no reason at all! That’s what Laughter Yoga is all about.
You don’t need a reason to laugh. There are no laughing police who will stop you. If you’re out with friends just start laughing out loud and notice what happens. Laughter is contagious. In just a few seconds, the forced laughter will turn into the real deal. You’ll quickly be soaked with all the stress relieving chemicals you could ever want.
If you’re alone it still works. Just start laughing on purpose. Do it congruently as if something is hilarious. You’ll feel amazing within just a few seconds and there are NO bad side-effects unlike the anti-depressants that everyone seems to be swallowing these days..
As Dorothy Parker said:
“Life is bad enough, without being bloody miserable!”
So mix it up a bit. Experiment with these stress hacks. Notice how much better you feel.