When your workload or personal life is too much for your mind to cope with, you become over stressed. Mild symptoms of stress can drive you to work harder and face issues you’ve been avoiding, a positive benefit. But if the stress is too severe, negative thoughts can take over your mind and hamper both your personal and professional lives.
High stress shouldn’t be embarrassing. Treat it like you would a physical injury by facing it head on to prevent it from becoming much worse. Like an exterior wound, stress will evolve – get bigger, more pressing and more difficult to treat – if left unattended. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to destress your mind, like the 10 mental relaxation techniques outlined below.
- Guided Meditation
Plenty of people swear by this age-old practice. It exists in many forms and is practiced in different ways all around the globe. The end goal is simple: Block the external world and clear your mind. Typically, you would visit an accredited specialist to practice guided meditation (hence the “guided” part), but it’s also something you can practice on your own once you learn how.
Meditation is an archaic tradition with research and statistics still in infancy stages. Some data suggests regular meditation reduces blood pressure. The younger a person starts, the more positive the effects. Consistent meditation may also ease anxiety, reduce pain and improve your immune system.
Regular aerobic exercise does more than keep you in shape. It can also help you to focus and enjoy a more positive outlook on life. Healthy bodies promote healthy minds. Getting your heartrate up keeps your stress levels down. You don’t need to be a gym buff to enjoy the benefits of working out. Choose an activity that you like, such as the elliptical or jumping rope, and stick with it several days a week for at least half an hour each time. Gentler forms of cardio, like swimming, can also be good if you have joint issues. You may really have to force it during the winter. Many people don’t realize the degree of their lethargy when it’s cold and dark.
- Rhythmic Breathing
The mind and body are linked. They work together and rely on each other. Each day, take a moment to slow down and focus on taking deep breaths. You might not believe that taking deep breaths will do anything but make you lightheaded, but over time, you can learn to control your breathing. It’s a common technique practiced along with yoga, and it works to slow your heartrate, relax your mind and give you a chance to recharge. Plus, rhythmic breathing can be practiced anywhere, whether you’re at home or taking a quick 15 at work.
- Soft Classical Music
Music is a common tool in therapy that works by redirecting your thoughts away from problems. Some doctors even use music to help relax patients before and after surgery. It’s also utilized to help children with anxiety and stress. As the effects of music therapy are more understood, therapists continue to adapt this therapy technique for both adults and children. The right music offers a distraction from the tribulations of the daily grind. Put on soothing music when you’re feeling overly stressed.
If you ever feel down on a cold, cloudy day, you’re not alone, especially in winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder, a diagnosable condition that affects about 20 percent of the U.S. population to some degree, can interfere with your mind and mood. The reason for seasonal mood problems? Lack of sunlight, for one thing. Your body needs and craves vitamin D, and while many foods contain this essential nutrient, the best and most readily digestible source is the sun.
Spending 15 minutes outside in the sun each day gives you all the vitamin D you need, but getting sunlight in the winter can be tough and impractical. If you can’t go outside, use an interior light box to simulate the UV light given off by the sun. Tricking your body is easier than you think with these devices. You may find that getting more light will lift your spirits and relax your mind.
- Building Positive Relationships
Why spend time with someone who complicates your life? Friends are supposed to be a source of joy and relaxation. Surround yourself with people who have a positive impact on you, and limit time with or cut out altogether the time you spend with toxic people. Reducing personal conflict frees up room in your mind to deal with other areas of your life. Plus, building a strong support system will help you when life feels particularly overwhelming.
- Saying No
Do you aim to please? Viewed as a positive trait by many, being a “yes person” can sometimes go too far. Having friends that can count on you for a favor is good feeling, but it can get out of hand. Toe the line with this practice because overloading your schedule can happen before you realize it. Learning to say no is a great skill because, in most cases, people respect those who set boundaries and stick to them. It might seem counterintuitive to nix plans with friends or decline offers for extra assignments at work, but you need to strike a balance between being a good friend (or worker) and overloading your plate. You can’t say yes to everything, so choose the things you want to focus on, and devote your mental energy there.
- Editing Your Thoughts
Dwelling on past mistakes is a vicious cycle that can dominate your life and steal happiness from the present. Not only are you focusing on things you can’t change, you’re ignoring present-day issues as well. Chances are that you’ve created many successes to focus on instead. Edit out your regrets routinely. After a while, it’ll become second nature.
As a practice in meditative therapy, yoga has existed for thousands of years, but the poses themselves – what you might associate with the practice – have only been around since the 1800s. Nevertheless, this popular activity continues to help people all over the world gain peace of mind and a sense of calm that other exercises and routines might not. Yoga is considered by some to be physical meditation as well.
Breathing exercises are the first phase of yoga practice before it gets into more intense physical exertion. In 2016, an estimated 36.7 million Americans practiced yoga regularly, representing about 15 percent of the population and an increase of over 16 million since 2012. Women are more likely than men to practice, but about 10 million men also regularly attend yoga classes. If you’re not comfortable signing up for a class, try out the poses at home first. You can find lots of videos to guide you through./li>
- A Balanced Diet
A surefire way to improve mental wellbeing is by eating well. Any machine runs better when it’s being powered by the right source. Your body is no different. When you feed your body the right foods, it runs more efficiently, and that extends to your brain. Avoid excess sugar in particular because an abundance of sugar leads to a slew of medical – and mental – problems.
These 10 techniques are a great start for alleviating mental stress. Some, like eating right and taking deep breaths, don’t require a huge investment or significant time. Take small steps at first, then gradually increase to the levels that reduce your anxiety. If these methods don’t work or you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, seek help. Talking to a professional, such as a counselor or psychologist, can help you get back on track. The key is to nip stress in the bud so it doesn’t overtake your life.