The internet will overload you if you’re trying to find ways to self-care during stressful times. Just searching the phrase will yield somewhere around 650 million results. But if you are serious, you want serious results. And not all “tools” are suitable for everybody.
But you know what is good for everybody? Some fundamental, easy-to-do self-care steps that actually work, and you won’t have to drive to a farm or a gym to do them.
Here are the facts. There are many different types of stress, some good and some bad. You can read a million articles and blogs about the different kinds of stress and what they mean individually, or you can simply follow these seven steps to self-care during stressful times:
1. Pay Attention to Your Body
Is your heart beating really fast? Are your breaths shallow or rapid? Are you tense somewhere? Is your jaw locked?
“Check-In” with your body to recognize your tension. Once you recognize it, its effects are reduced.1 If you’re tensing up, your physical body sends chemical signals to your brain that something tense is happening. Next thing you know, your body is dabbling in its own drugs, trying to figure itself out, which is stressful on all your systems.
2. Be Present in Your Mind and Breathing
Look at your feet. How do they feel? Are your shoes uncomfortable? Now count your breaths in and then out, three times.
Take it from our Veterans, being present and breathing is a combo self-care tip that packs a punch when consciously reducing stress levels. It works for the little annoying stressors and the great big ones too. You’ll want to keep this in your self-care toolbox.2
3. Stretch Every Inch of Your Body
When was the last time you extended your limbs as far as they could reach? Get that circulation flowing!
For many reasons, stretching feels good, but that does not mean you have to join a yoga class or “find time” to “stretch your legs” on the couch. Take a moment and stretch each joint. Get that limbic system to calm down!3
4. Sunlight. Find it. Get in it. Close Your Eyes
You don’t have to spend miserable hours in the hot sun to properly self-care when it comes to sunlight.
Open the shades, find a window, find that ray of light and let it hit your face. Think about how good it feels to take in the Vitamin D your body needs.
5. Laugh At Anything
Fake or not, laughter matters. When was the last time you laughed? What caused your laughter then? What makes you laugh now?
Similar to aerobic exercise, a hearty laugh involves contraction and relaxation of facial, chest, abdominal and skeletal muscles, easing muscle tension and spasms that create chronic pain.4
6. Listen to Calm Music
Believe it or not, the sounds around you affect your cognitive functioning. Literally, right now, it is happening.
Calm rhythms and sounds are proven to soothe our nervous system when stress levels rise.5 Find some music that soothes you, or find a way to surround yourself with nature like a park, a field, or even a balcony or parking lot.
7. Sleep Where You Are Comfortable
Where are you sleeping, and how much sleep are you getting? Chances are, if you’re stressed, you’re not getting much.
Getting good sleep is one of the most rewarding things you can do for your body and mind. Your mattress is more detrimental to your health than many people realize, and the small investment now is worth a lifetime of better health.6