Editor’s Note: Post written by Albert van Zyl of Headspace.
The blogosphere is awash with advice on how to destress and relax. How do we know what to believe and what is just recycled and repackaged from previous posts? Jesus’s advice was that one should judge the tree by its fruit. So we should judge the value of advice by the state of the person giving it. But the web doesn’t allow us this luxury.
So we have to find other ways of judging the value of advice on how to destress. I decided that there must be some truth in numbers and did a poll of which destressing advice comes up the most often. To save some time, I only consulted top ten lists. This informal ‘survey’ consulted 13 top ten lists of how to beat stress. Mail me if you want to know where to find the sites. So which bits of advice came out tops? The number of votes each of these got is indicated below.
Breathing to relax: 8 votes
The folks at Mind-Energy advise that you lie down or at least sit comfortably. Close your eyes and concentrate your attention on your nostrils, where air enters the nose. Take a slow and deep breath in through your nose. Notice how the air is cold, entering your nose. Hold your breath for a seconds holding your attention on the same spot. Breath out slowly and quietly through the nose. Notice how the air is warm on your nostrils on the way out. Do this for a few minutes, until you let disturbed thoughts go and feel relaxed.
Sleep: 7 votes
Paula Quick rolls out the familiar opinion that for most people seven to eight hours of sleep is ideal. Of course, some people can function well with fewer hours depending upon their makeup. The key thing is to know when you clearly aren’t getting enough and to make adjustments. Sleep is the time that our bodies use to rejuvenate itself. It is hard to feel relaxed when we’re exhausted from a lack of sleep. For my money an afternoon nap is better value for money. Short, sharp and very relaxing.
Get some exercise: 7 votes
Stress-and-relaxation.com argues that stress causing hormones – like cortisol and norepinephrine. The way these chemicals work in promoting a feeling of euphoria is debated, exercise obviously has a mood elevating quality. All you need is 20 to 30 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 to 5 times a week. Find something that you like and do lots of it. Whether it is Yoga, aerobics, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, walking or jogging, exercise helps in releasing stress.
Meditate/Pray: 7 votes
According to Jenny Stamos Kovacs at medicinenet.com meditation doesn’t only mean twisting your body into an uncomfortable position and uttering “oohs” and “omms”. Any repetitive action can be a source of meditation: this includes walking, swimming, painting, knitting—any activity that helps keep your attention calmly in the present moment. When you catch yourself thinking about your job, your relationship or your lifelong to-do list, simply let the thought ‘escape’, and bring your mind back the repetition of the activity.
Have fun: 6 votes
Candledance.com’s advice is to have physical fun. When we are told we SHOULD do something we get rebellious, and we resist doing it. So rather tell yourself that you COULD. You COULD go for a stroll after dinner. You COULD join a tap dancing class with a friend. So give yourself permission to choose, and life becomes more fun and stress free.
Visualization: 5 votes
Elizabeth Scott at stress.about.com recommends that you imagine yourself achieving goals like becoming healthier and more relaxed, doing well at tasks, and handling conflict in better ways. Also, visualizing yourself doing well on tasks you’re trying to master actually functions like physical practice, so you can improve your performance through visualizations as well.
A few of my favorite stress busters didn’t get many votes, so I thought I would sneak them in anyway.
Have a cuppa Tea:
Even though it has the same amount of caffeine, black tea has a curiously settling effect. And then there are the secondary advantages of the tea break as well. Lifedev recently reported a study that found that the morning tea break ritual provided time, space and an environment where nurses can ventilate their feelings and gain each other’s support.
Ronnie Nijmeh at argues that clutter makes us feel disorganized and out of control, which stresses us out. Take a weekend, or even a couple of hours, to get rid of the things you no longer need and organize your home or office.
The Art of the Bath
Paula Quick at laments that taking a good bath has given way to the quick shower for many people. But nothing can beat a long, hot soak for the ultimate in quiet time, reflection, and relaxation. Light some candles, diffuse some essential oils, put on some relaxing music and simply go “ahhhhh.”
Be grateful each day
The folks at abundance-and-happiness.com advise that we take out a piece of paper and make a hand written list of the things that you can think of that you are grateful for. Think deeply about each area of your life and begin to write in detail the good things that come to your mind as you write. Make sure that you are finding and writing things that you are sincerely grateful for. If the emotion isn’t there, the result won’t be either.