We are all feeling tense and stressed out for many reasons. Some of the stress-causing factors in your life have existed for a long time, while others might have been brought on by recent events including the pandemic.
Stress will reduce your quality of life and cause health issues such heart attacks.
Kevin has done some research on ways to reduce stress because he was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure. Besides medication, his doctor actually prescribed meditation and other stress-reducing activities.
Please try a few of these relaxation techniques to reduce your stress and improve your quality of life. Lower stress can even help you live longer so you have more retirement years to enjoy.
1. Aroma Therapy
Many spas will offer aroma therapy to get you in the mood for your spa treatments, but this is also something you can easily do at home.
More specialized spas might also offer an Aufguss ritual (inhaling steam infused with oil) or Hamam treatment (hot air breathing).
We went to Hot Snow Spa in Winnipeg with 4 different types of saunas and the oils and aromas in the air really calmed us down and even made our skin really soft.
2. Create a relaxation space in your home
Some people just need a place to read a book or do their social media and web browsing in an environment that feels relaxing and pleasant.
Our son has a lava lamp in his bedroom that he finds very relaxing before bedtime.
Here are some ideas for your relaxation space:
a. Japanese theme room- Try Japanese decorations, banzai trees, music, candles and/or incense, and bubbling fountains.
b. Garden room – Relax while surrounded by colourful and aromatic flowers and plants. Maybe add some forest or jungle sound effects.
c. Spiritual healing room – Create a place with all the items needed for your spirituality. For some people this mean practicing an organized religion like Christianity and involves prayer and reading holy texts. For others, it involves healing crystals, reiki (energy healing using spiritually guided life force energy), sound healing, reciting mantras, and chakra balancing.
Hobbies and other time-intensive, but mentally challenging activities can distract you from the negative thoughts flooding your mind.
That might explain why adult colouring and paint by numbers books are more popular than ever.
Many people spend hours on end doing jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, word finds, or Sudoku.
Even young people are learning to knit and cross-stitch. The repetition of motion is almost like meditating.
Another great hobby for keeping busy and using your brain is Scrap-booking. You get to be creative and also memorialize some positive memories.
Reading books and magazines can be a great mental escape. We highly recommend reading as it also keeps you mentally sharp.
If you are more creative and talented, perhaps you can start drawing, painting or writing as a creative outlet. You’ll feel a positive sense of accomplishment when you create a work of art or writing.
There are many apps for your cell phone or tablet that can distract you and pass the time. Some applications are specifically for relaxation and meditation. There are many games that are addictive and fun, like Bejewelled. Other games claim to be designed to keep your mind sharp, many by creating words out of jumbled letters. You can also play Sudoku or card games on your device.
Kevin used to collect comics as a teenager and young adult. He has periods where he gets back into that hobby. He has spent a lot of time going through his collection and keeping track of what he has, but it doesn’t seem like work. Reading a comic book brings back nostalgic feelings and good childhood memories. Kevin has now started to sell some of his duplicate comics and buy some issues he wants.
4. Eating for lower stress
Kevin’s high blood pressure used to make him feel like his head was pounding and about to explode. It wasn’t like a headache, but he could feel the pulse in his temples, which was very stressful.
High blood pressure and stress don’t go well together.
So you should eat healthier and lose weight to reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol.
One quick way to lower your blood pressure is to reduce your fat and salt intake.
Avoid caffeine because it increases your stress hormones and increases your heart rate. It makes you feel like you have excess energy with no place to go. It also makes it harder to sleep, which is important for a healthy life and to manage tension and anxiety. Instead, drink hot chamomile and caffeine-free herbal teas.
Also, try to avoid sugar. When you have a sugar rush, it is similar to caffeine because it gives you a lot of energy and makes you feel stressed if you can’t burn off that energy. Even the crash after eating too much sugar does not feel relaxing.
However, it is okay to eat chocolate in moderation, especially when you are feeling particularly stressed. Many of the health benefits of chocolate are from flavonoids, which help lower blood pressure, act as antioxidants, improve cognition, and balance certain hormones. Polyphenols in chocolate improve your mood and make you feel calmer and happier, possibly due to the effects on you endorphin and serotonin levels.
If you have a significant other, ask them to give you a back rub. You can purchase wooden rollers and other massage tools to help.
You can purchase vibrating massage chairs or vibrating foot massagers that do wonders for some people.
Tina purchased a flexible metal spider device with long wire prongs so she could give us a scalp massage. The device almost looks like a whisker, but it is open at the top. It really makes our head tingle, like scratching an itch you didn’t know you had, and then we feel relaxed.
If it is safe, you can hire a masseuse to come to your house or go to a spa where they offer massages. There are different types of massages, so try a few and find the one that relaxes you the most.
Some places have a unique type of massage where you get zipped into a plastic bag and high-pressure water jets shoot out and move all over your body. We have even seen these in shopping malls.
Meditation comes in various forms.
I like to think of it as “mind over matter”. If your brain is calm and filled with positive thoughts, your body will react and become relaxed.
Some people think that guided meditation is a bit like hypnosis. A calming voice will tell you what to think about to help you relax.
The voice might tell you to focus on various parts of your body and feel them relax as the tension is released a bit at a time. This is called progressive muscle relaxation and you can do it yourself without the instructions once you know how to do it.
The voice might walk you through some deep breathing exercises to help clear your mind. With deep breathing meditation, you focus only on the process of your breathing. Try not to move. Inhale through your nose. How does it feel when air flows through your nose? How does the air feel in your lungs? Notice how and when your breath transitions from inhale to exhale.
Guided imagery is slightly different from guided meditation. Guided imagery involves focusing on an array of senses in order to access your subconscious mind, reach a trance-like state, reset your neural networks, and generate well-being for the mind and body.
The guide will help you generate mental images that simulate the sensory perception of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, movements, and touch (texture, temperature, and pressure) that could lead to strong emotions because the corresponding simulii are missing.
It could be as simple as visualizing positive settings like a beautiful beach or a peaceful meadow.
One goal of meditation is to reach a mental state of mindfulness, in which you are extremely focused on and aware of the present moment (not past or future events that cause you stress). You will calmly acknowledge and accept your feelings, thoughts, surroundings, and bodily sensations without reacting or feeling overwhelmed.
A mantra is a word, phrase, or sequence of words that are silently repeated in your mind or sung or chanted out loud during a meditation session. Mantra is Sanskrit for “release your mind”.
Repeating mantras is very much like praying. Mantras are a form of positive reinforcement and manifestation.
The most universal mantra is probably Aum (pronounced “Ohmmmm”), which means “It is or will be”.
We laughed really hard at a Seinfeld episode where George and his father yell out “Serenity now!” when they are feeling upset. Their mantra did not work because they clearly didn’t grasp the concept behind mantras and meditation.
Repeating your mantra in your mind will shut-out the outside world, immerse you completely in an idea, and bring you closer to your goal.
A dark room can help you relax, but is not necessary. Try lighting some incense and candles to set the mood for meditation.
Music really impacts you physically more than you probably realize. When we are younger, we listen to music all the time. It feels like the soundtrack to our lives at the time, but it probably lowering your stress by letting you enjoy the music and get enveloped by the instruments and lyrics. We would forget about life’s problems and sometimes sing loudly to lyrics that are particularly meaningful (like a mantra).
When you meditate, most people don’t want to listen to loud or upbeat music. You probably don’t even want any lyrics in the music you hear while you meditate. There are countless songs and soundtracks available that are designed specifically for relaxation and meditation. Some are new age electronic, some are like classical music, and others are simple melodic songs by talented guitar or piano players. Try them all and find what works for you or just mix it up with a different style each time.
Most meditation websites and applications will use soothing sounds to take your mind to a pleasant place or repetitive sounds to calm your mind. Popular sounds include animals in nature such as birds and crickets, waves crashing on the shore, wind chimes, and the sounds of a rain storm like rain, wind, and thunder.
You can get limited access to content on several meditation apps for your cell phone. Some apps are free or have limited free content available.
To save money and have more control, you can download the sound effects and create your own “mix-tape” of MP3s & MP4s to play on your phone into earphones when you are meditating.
7. Motivational Media
One fast way to change your mood and reduce your stress is to watch uplifting, inspirational, or motivational video. You can also get similar content strictly for audio so you can listen with your eyes closed.
Kevin likes to read motivational quotes and advice from great writers and inspirational people.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. This content often helps you realize that everything changes with time. It takes many steps to reach your destination, but you have to start walking now if you want to change your life.
This type of media content often makes you feel like, “if these people can overcome their difficulties, so can I.”
They say that laughter is the best medicine for a reason. Laughing out loud and smiling are contagious and they change your mindset. It also feels like a physical activity that relaxes your body. Smiling and laughing will lift your mood and likely subconsciously lower your stress hormones, heart rate and blood pressure.
Thus, we recommend that you listen to or watch the best comedians and force yourself to smile and laugh out loud (even if it is forced and fake sometimes).
Without the burden of mental dread, you allow your body to relax.
The unconditional love from a pet is something special.
If you can commit the time to care for a pet, then having a pet is a great way to lower your anxiety.
Pets can also reduce feelings of loneliness for people who live alone.
Taking your dog for a walk is a great excuse to get some exercise.
However, you will appreciate how your pets reduce your stress when they cuddle up with you on the sofa while you read or watch TV.
9. Physical activity
We find that the best way to physically relax is to do regular exercise. Your body burns a lot of excess energy and the feeling of fatigue after exercising is quite relaxing. You will find you even sleep better.
If you can get outside for a walk, you’ll burn some energy and calories while getting some fresh air. The beauty of nature is always calming to us.
Some cities have businesses that offer you a way to release your stress and anger in what I would best describe as a rage release room. Get your frustrations out by hitting a mannequin with pillows or foam noodles, smashing plates, or smashing other objects with a sledgehammer. We wouldn’t try this, but some people say it works.
Another way to burn energy is to bang a large drum. You can do this to whatever beat you choose or even do it to the beat of a song you love. The physical act of hitting the drum will exert energy and cause you to feel relaxed when you stop and the repetitive sound can help you meditate at the same time. We even read that the beating of a drum at a certain pace can change the pace of your brain waves and put you into a sleep-like state or trance.
Squeezing a stress ball or using a gadget spinner is a good way to burn energy and distract yourself when you are feeling tense.
Even the simple act of chewing gum can help reduce stress. Give it a try when you need a quick way to de-stress.
10. Sensory Deprivation
A newer type of spa, called a float spa, has popped up on the past 5 years.
You lie in a pitch black chamber and float in water to achieve deep relaxation. You can choose to have silence for total sensory deprivation or listen to various types of music that you enjoy. However, this is fairly expensive.
You can achieve deep relaxation at home by creating a dark room with no sounds at all. Put on a sleep blindfold if it helps. Most people sleep this way at night, but it has a different effect if you can do it during the day for 20 or 30 minutes. You will find your mind wandering and processing the day’s events at a higher rate with no distractions, so be sure to focus on positive thoughts.
11. Thermal Treatments
Some spas offer a hot & cold stone massage. This ties into a time-tested method of relaxation and physical healing called Thermotherapy. Thermea spa in Winnipeg offers this treatment with hot tubs, pools and saunas. The thermal cycle works by going from hot to cold and then resting and repeating that cycle.
At home, you can use a heated blanket, thick heavy blanket, or heated neck wrap to feel extra cozy and relaxed. It works even better if you first put on comfy clothes that are soft on your skin such as a silk robe.
12. Vitamin D
Some people get depressed and stressed out in the Winter months when there is less sunlight each day and they don’t get outside to absorb sunlight. The sun’s ultraviolet B rays provide energy for vitamin D synthesis to occur in cholesterol in your skin cells.
Vitamin D plays a role in mood. Lower vitamin D levels lead to a worse mood. If you are deficient in vitamin D, you are more prone to depression.
You can purchase ultraviolet (UV) lights and bright white lights, also called sun lamps, that give you the vitamin D you need. You might find that you feel happier after this light treatment.
If you can’t get enough UV light, then you should consider ingesting vitamin D supplements or multivitamins.
We want you to have a long and happy life (especially after you retire), so please take steps to de-stress using some of the suggestions above.
Please leave a comment below to let us know which relaxation and stress reduction techniques work best for you or if you have some suggestions that we did not mention.
Kevin & Tina
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