Let’s talk about stress. First, let’s not use the word stress. It has been shown in scientific literature that you will not be able to make a new pathway in the brain in response to stress unless you call it something different. Call it what it actually is, label it with the emotion you may really be feeling. But here’s the other kicker. Don’t use the words "I am _______". That means you are attaching to it and owning it and giving the illusion the feeling will be permanent. Feelings and emotions are fleeting and ever changing, use phrases such as "I am feeling ______" to give them room to leave just as quickly as they come. The goal is stressors will not be leaving your life, but how resilient can you become? How can you train your brain and your emotions to respond to stress in a different manner than right now?
Create a morning ritual, which often includes 5-10 minutes of breathwork and meditation. If you say you don’t have time for this, we need to have a serious talk. There are many ways to have a short ritual in the morning, including meditation, body movement practices, journaling, reading devotions or poetry or several others. The key is to pick a couple and do them over and over again. The repeated action begins to rewire the brain pathways in response to emotions and stress.
The best neurological breathing pattern has been to:
breath in for 5 seconds
breath out for 5 seconds.
Do this 10 times
Want to take it a step further?
Breath in 5 seconds
hold your breath at the top for 5 seconds
exhale for 5 seconds
hold your exhale for 5 seconds
repeat 10 times
Want to take it a step further because your brain is acting like a monkey?
Say a mantra during each step
Have it short and sweet to fit in 5 seconds, such as: "Reveal the truth", "I act with integrity", or "Allow me peace"- and a billion others!
During 5 second breath in you say in your head "I act with integrity"
During top holding breath for 5 seconds repeat "I act with integrity"
Exhale for 5 seconds while saying "I act with integrity"
Hold the exhaled breath for 5 seconds while repeating "I act with interity"
Keep that mantra/ phrase you have chosen for 30 days. Science has shown a new brain pathway can be built with that level of repetition.
Walk in nature. You’ll be getting fresh air and deep belly breaths, grounding with the earth, and your skin exposed to the sunshine for vitamin D. Even better would be to add a friend and enjoy the walk together.
Take care of someone or something else. Help a fellow human being or take care of a pet. Looking outwards and helping others may pull away from thinking so much about what is going on inside your head. Going inwards is sometimes not very helpful and can feel too heavy. Write a letter, send a card, make a phone call.
Get a chiropractic adjustment or massage. This therapy has been proven to help your system reset and downregulate a hyper responsive nervous system. We see it happen everyday, and maybe a little more pronounced lately. If you feel pretty relaxed after an adjustment, and sometimes it seems a bigger response than others, that is the level of difference in your nervous system from being in a balanced state.
Seek out herbal remedies for comfort and stress reduction. Drinking a cup of herbal tea or golden milk at night could be just the thing to set up an evening ritual to help your system prepare for a good night sleep. Lavender, turmeric, ginger, spearmint, lemongrass, and lemon balm are just a few of my favorite herbs lately for achieving not only a calming effect but can also boost digestive abilities. And I don’t have time to sit with a book or relax every night, but even while washing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen, or folding the laundry you can enjoy a warm cup of tea and be present while you are doing that chore. One of my favorite sayings from Thich Nhat Hanh is "while you are doing the dishes, you are just doing the dishes" (from his book Peace in Every Step). A couple of our favorite tablets or encapsulated herbs lately are lavender (Lavela by Integrative) and Ashwagandha (by Mapi herbs or Banyan Botanicals). There are dozens of different herbal combinations you can use for various responses to stress. A lot of times it just takes a few questions to consider what type of responder your brain is to help you out. Herbs can be helpful!
The picture you see with this post is from Glacier National Park. One of the most gorgeous places I have been yet. Maybe it was the long 5 mile hike in and up (and knowing back out again and down the mountain!), or maybe it was just the repetitive breathing and taking one step at a time not knowing and not exactly needing to know what my destination was going to be that made this place feel like a slice of heaven. But I do know while sitting in that field of wildflowers looking at one of the last remaining 30 glaciers in the park, a sense of peace. And that sense of peace can be repeated through the day in your day to day life, it doesn’t have to be only on vacation or during a dedicated self care time frame. Repeated ritual and practice can do that every day. Right there as I had my seat on the rock in the meadow, it finally hit me it was that simple, but hard to show up and do each day. Practice every day. You owe it to yourself.