8 Healthy Ways to Lower Your Stress Levels
By Phoebe Lapine
If twenty minutes of meditation or journaling isn’t in the cards for you, here are some of my other favorite tools for breaking out of emergency mode, detoxing your mind, and feeding your spirit.
1. Create a micro–morning routine. There are always days when, despite all our well-groomed habits, we are more harried than usual. Rather than skip your morning ritual, do an abbreviated version. For me, that was five minutes of meditation, writing down three things I was grateful for, and doing five sun salutations or pelvic-floor exercises.
2. Practice everyday mindfulness. Apps like Headspace are great for grounding you on the go. You can use them to tune in to your mind and tune out the subway or the office. Or, you can simply choose one activity and focus on being present. Brushing your teeth, showering, getting the mail. . . anything. Instead of thinking of dishwashing as a chore, I now try to use it as an opportunity to push other thoughts from my head and, instead, focus on the water, the soap, and the feeling of getting crusted quinoa off a pot left in the sink.
3. Create affirmations. These written intentions allow you to imbue the day with the power of wishful thinking. If you’re a planner like me, simply take five minutes at the beginning of the week and think about what you’d most like to accomplish. Write down your goals in purposeful language and read them to yourself every morning. For example: “I will finish my chapter on stress by the end of the week, and the process will be joyous, not stressful.” You can also focus on a more long- term goal, or simply read an inspiring quote to remind you of your purpose.
4. Wear a complaint bracelet. When my friend Sarah went through a dark period, her mother gave her a red bracelet to snap her out of her own negativity. Every time Sarah complained, she had to switch the bracelet to the other wrist. A fitness tracker band can work well for this. Include harmful self- talk or internal monologues of doubt as reasons for switching. It’s a good physical reminder to pop your balloon of pessimism before it has a chance to slowly suffocate your spirit.
5. Perform a random act of kindness. Perhaps because it’s a sister quality to gratitude, generosity is strongly associated with better mental health and longevity. In fact, volunteering has a bigger positive impact on well-being than exercise. Studies on financial happiness find that people who give some of their money away are much happier than those who spend it all on themselves. The amount you give is not proportional to the emotional return. You can make small acts of kindness a part of your every day. Leave a love note in a public place. Pay a stranger a compliment. Do your boyfriend’s laundry for him when he’s out of boxers.
6. Care for something. Like other acts of generosity, taking care of another living thing can be centering and rewarding and give you a sense of purpose. This applies to pets, of course. But it can even be accomplished with something as simple as a flower. In one study, nursing home patients who were given the responsibility of caring for a plant had a much lower mortality rate. Plants are also great for your microbiome, so long as you manage to keep it alive.
7. Turn off phone notifications. The constant stimulation of our modern world puts more stress on us than we comprehend. But on a more tangible level, we all know the feeling we get when our phone is buzzing or beeping off the hook with demands from others. Switch your email settings to fetch manually, turn off social media notifications, stop checking your feeds every five minutes, and designate some time in the morning and evening for leaving your phone on airplane mode.
8. Cook comfort food. Despite all of my wellness experiments, my own answer to the One Big Question remains the same: home-cooked food can give you the emotional and physical fuel you need to live a healthier, happier life. It allows you to put your own definition of nourishment in a bowl to share with others and, more important, to give to yourself. For me, that soul gasoline involves soup and noodles, and especially, noodles in soup.
Reprinted from THE WELLNESS PROJECT by arrangement with Pam Krauss Books/Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2017, Phoebe Lapine.