If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that stress can be triggered by so many different aspects of life: work, family, finances, social life, unforeseen global crises – the list goes on.
And this past year may also have reminded us that there are ample unhealthy, and unproductive, ways to deal with stress. That ranges from excessive food and alcohol consumption, to taking it out on the people in your life, to panic-scrolling through social media.
The good news: there are plenty of ways to deal with stress naturally as well, through healthy approaches that involve self-care. Here are five methods to keep in mind this year:
Daily (or almost-daily) exercise
It’s a shocking number: less than five percent of American adults carve out time for 30 minutes of daily physical activity. Which means 95 percent of our country’s population is also missing out on an opportunity to support their mental health. Just five minutes after a person engages in moderate exercise, they can experience a mood-enhancement effect. Research indicates that physical activity can have a biological effect on the brain that helps lessen people’s responsiveness to stress.
See if you can move for 30 minutes most days – and don’t be afraid to change it up. Walk the dog, go for a hike, take an online yoga class; whatever inspires you to get your heart rate up and your mind clear. You can always top off more rigorous workouts with Compression Therapy. NormaTec™ inflatable attachments inflate and deflate with compressed air to reduce tissue repair time. That means less downtime for you so you can keep up with your regular, stress-reducing fitness routine.
Yogis have known it for centuries – practicing breath control is a quick way to stress reduction. Research shows that the practice, which involves concentration and stilling the mind, can also bring benefits such as improved alertness and a boosted immune system. In theory, controlled breathing is capable of altering the autonomic nervous system’s response to stress.
One simply variation of the practice is a regulated breathing technique called ujjayi breathing. Clearing effects can be felt in just a few minutes. Simply find a quiet seat and close your eyes. Take a deep inhale through the nose – count to three silently – and exhale through your nose as you count to three silently. Repeat this for at least 10 to 20 rounds of breath and notice the calming effects.
Salt Room relaxation
Feeling a more passive approach to stress reduction? Simply kicking back in a comfortable lounge chair for 45 minutes in a room coated in Himalayan salt from floor to ceiling can provide strong relaxation effects. The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of the salt surfaces as well as the dry salt aerosol being released into the room are responsible for helping to reduce stress. This detoxifying practice is called halotherapy.
One of the most simple approaches to stress reduction is one that so many people have trouble actually executing: getting enough quality sleep at night. Sleep-related issues affect as many as 70 million people in the U.S. Technically, you’re considered to be sleep-deprived if you get less than six hours of sleep in the span of the night. A key cause of chronic sleep deprivation is this era of demanding lifestyles where “doing it all,” from career accomplishments to busy social lives to extracurriculars, are held as top priorities.
Establishing a dedicated sleep ritual is one step to take toward better rest. For example, make a point to stop looking at screens by 9:30 p.m. and take a hot shower to signal to your body and mind that the day is winding down. The heat of the shower can help lower your core temperature, telling your body to produce melatonin in order to help you get to sleep.
One more passive approach to try when you want to ease up the tension in your body and mind: hanging out in an Infrared Sauna for about 45 minutes. One of the best parts about this version of the sauna experience is the absence of intense heat in the room. Instead, you’ll be able to comfortably unwind while washed in infrared waves emitted by infrared panels. This increases your core body temperature by a few degrees to create a healthy sweat at the cellular level. The overall effect is the release of bodily toxins to alleviate stress and establish deep relaxation.
Choose any of these ways to take better care of yourself – and your stress levels – this year. There’s nothing better than clearing tension in your body and mind so you can focus on what really matters in your life.