Ah summer, there's something special about this time of year. I can't help but be nostalgic for those carefree days of lazing in the backyard, picking raspberries while freshly washed clothes hang to dry - not to mention multiple trips to the beach and gatherings with friends. However, with the ongoing work and school day stresses many of us face, it can become easy to get caught up with "things we have to do" that we forget about the simple pleasures in life. It's important to take time to relax and breathe and just enjoy the moment.
Though stress is kind of inevitable, it's important to learn how to handle it so it doesn't get the best of us. Long term stress can have just as negative an impact on our health, if not more, as other poor lifestyle habits. One may experience anything from skin break outs, to restless sleep, to weight gain, or to digestive issues. Long term chronic stress can even play a role in some major illnesses such as cancer. Though there are many methods of de-stressing I find it's interesting to look at why we get stressed - and a big source of stress is usually just taking on too many things. Personally, I believe one of the easiest ways to help de-stress is to simplify things.
1. Make some "me" time.
Even if it's just 10 minutes a day, find some time to pamper yourself - enjoy your own company. Loving ourselves is just as important as sharing that love with others. This can be as simple as having a relaxing shower/bath, making a delicious meal for yourself, going for a bike ride, partaking in a hobby, reading a good book, or watching a movie. Find something that makes you happy and do it! If 10 minutes a day seems too much to start, then try it every other day, or pick 1 day a week to enjoy 30 minutes of me time. You deserve it!
2. Take deep breaths.
If you ever feel tense, take a few deep breaths by breathing from your belly - or diaphragm - allowing it to expand. Try breathing in through your nostrils, allowing your belly to expand out, and then breathe out of the mouth allowing your belly to compress. When we breathe from our chest we're not maximizing the amount of air we could be getting, and though it's common to breathe this way it's actually not the natural way of breathing. If breathing from your belly is new to you, try lightly putting one of your hands on your stomach to help signal this motion.
3. Find your inner child.
If you watch children, they live in the moment and allow themselves to feel and express themselves. When we grow up we're often told not to express ourselves and to hold back tears; I understand it can be really difficult to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, but it can also be very liberating at the same time. There is definitely a fine balance, as it probably wouldn't go over too well to let your emotions take over in a work environment or other places of business, but it's important to remember that there is nothing wrong with crying, or feeling fed up - or emotions that we often label as being negative. It's completely natural and healthy to feel and express yourself - it's just important to look at it as a release vs a grudge. Have you ever noticed in most cases how at one moment a child is crying and then as soon as they calm down it's almost as if nothing happened.
4. Find your inner artist.
Whatever it may be, writing, dancing, painting, photography, acting, singing, etc - find a medium that speaks to you and express yourself. Art can be very therapeutic. It's not about excelling at it and winning an award but about being in tune with what is going on around you. Who knows, you might even learn something about yourself, or find a hidden talent.
5. Make time to socialize.
This one can be one of the most difficult things to make time for, especially if you've got your days filled before you even wake up and finding the 10 minutes alone time is daunting enough. I know, I'm guilty of this one myself, but nothing can replace real relationships. Our society is so digital that it's easy to Facebook each other and text - and while yes, that's better than nothing -it's not socializing. Make it a priority to hang out with people you enjoy being around - if time is an issue, try incorporating daily activities with socializing. Perhaps taking an exercise class together, or going out to dinner - or better yet hosting a potluck (it can even be at a park or nearby beach).
Learning to deal with stress can be hard, a lot of times it's easier said than done - but by working on doing things that make you happy and spending it with people you love, by enjoying the simple things, over time it'll be easier to handle.
Alison Klektau is a Nutritional Muse. She is here to inspire and guide you to live your life optimally, through incorporating simple, practical and most importantly, holistic lifestyle choices to release that incredible being within each of us. Alison is currently studying at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition (IHN) where she is working towards being a certified holistic nutritionist. Prior to enrolling at IHN, she earnedher BFA in theatre and film studies from the University of Victoria.