This wasn’t the post I had planned for the end of this week, but with recent events in the U.S., it would be completely irresponsible of me to not acknowledge how our country is feeling right now. So instead, we’re going to pause for a moment here today and talk about how to be good to ourselves and each other. I also wanted to share my personal intentions that I’m currently practicing: slowing down, sharing kindness and compassion, and being present (especially in moments that feel uncomfortable where in all honesty, I’d rather tune out). We need to be good to ourselves and each other more than ever right now.
Now, I’ll be the first one to admit that my self-care practices are not perfect, and like anything else, self-care only gets better with more practice. Throughout my life I’ve struggled with emotional eating and my natural reaction in times of stress is to use food as a source of comfort. Along with that, I can also tell you just how productive that is (surprise: it totally isn’t). However, over the years as I’ve tried to connect with my body on a deeper level, I’ve learned some ways to ease stress and anxiety that actually work. Bonus: most of these are pretty easy and accessible (you definitely won’t see expensive spas listed below!)
1. Deep breathing or meditation
It doesn’t get much simpler than focusing on your breathing. I personally like to practice “Breath Counting” where you simply allow yourself to breathe naturally and then count each time you exhale. Once you reach five, you start over. (It’s pretty easy to tell when you have lost touch with your breath if you suddenly find yourself counting past five.)
I also love listening to guided meditations and Tara Brach’s website is a fabulous resource for free meditations and podcasts. Side note: Tara is one of most kind and genuine human beings on this earth and I cannot say enough wonderful things about her. I attended her weekend workshop last year and am so grateful I had the chance to meet her in person.
2. Practice EFT or Tapping
Have you heard of EFT or Tapping before? If not, this really will change your world (although you might think I’m a little crazy at first.)
EFT (or Emotional Freedom Technique) involves tapping on specific meridian points within the body while you focus on particular situations or stresses. The idea behind it is that the tapping helps to calm the nervous system while you are also rewiring your thought patterns. Tapping has been shown to help with a variety of situations – everything from chronic pain to certain phobias to even addiction!
I first heard about tapping about seven years ago and it honestly took me two years before I would even try it because I was so skeptical if it would even work. (News flash: it totally does and I wish I hadn’t waited so long!) If you do not have the time to complete the entire tapping routine, I’ve found that even tapping the karate chop point on the side of the hand can help with calming stress in a tense moment.
Nick Ortner and his sister Jessica Ortner have lots of free resources to help you get started on their website. If you’re curious about learning more about EFT, I also highly recommend Nick’s book The Tapping Solution and Jessica’s book The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss and Body Confidence.
3. Aromatherapy and essential oils
Aromatherapy is one of the best ways to ease stress and anxiety, relax the body and mind, and/or uplift your mood. Some of the best scents for anxiety and stress-relief are:
- Lavender: calms the mind and decreases anxiety
- Chamomile: calms the mind and decreases anxiety
- Frankincense: creates calming and tranquil energy
- Orange: supports a positive mood
- Clary Sage: removes negative energy
Try using essential oils in a diffuser in your home, mixing a few drops with a carrier oil (like coconut oil) and massaging over skin, or adding a few drops to a bath or shower!
4. Herbal Tea
Herbal tea is a great way to relax and unwind, especially if you’re trying to calm anxiety and stress before bed. Look for an herbal (caffeine-free) blend that includes chamomile, lavender, catnip, and/or passionflower. Some of my favorites are: Organic Chamomile, Nighty Night, and Chamomile with Lavender.
5. Herbal Tinctures
Tinctures are a great alternative to teas, especially if you need something convenient and don’t have the time or ability to brew water. A tincture is a liquid extract made from herbs. Typically the herbs are extracted in alcohol, but I’ve also seen some blends that use vegetable glycerine. To use a tincture, follow the specific directions on the label. (Typically they are added to water and taste like a strong herbal tea.)
One of my favorite tinctures is Herb Pharm’s Nervous System Tonic. I’ve been using this for years and it works really well for me during the day if I’m stressed at work. I also like their Anxiety Soother and Relaxing Sleep tincture to help me wind down at the end of the day before bedtime.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional so please check with your healthcare provider before using any herbs, especially if you are pregnant or have a medical condition.
Magnesium is a mineral that you can find in sea vegetables, dark leafy greens and green vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and cacao. However, due to mineral depletion in our soil and cooking/heating our food, most of the magnesium in our food supply is minimal by the time it reaches our bodies. (And, if you consume coffee, sugar, or high amounts of protein, this can also deplete magnesium levels in the body.) Magnesium deficiency has been linked with depression, fatigue, PMS symptoms, headaches, constipation/IBS – along with stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
I’ve used a magnesium supplement for many years now and have noticed a huge difference in my ability to sleep. I really like the Natural Calm magnesium supplement, which mixes easily with water and creates a sweet bubbly beverage. Another option is to use a magnesium oil or cream on your body as it can be absorbed through the skin.
Exercise is one of the most well-known ways to ease stress and anxiety. I also believe that finding a way to move your body that you actually enjoy factors into this. So, if you don’t like going to a gym, try something else! Here are some ideas:
- Walking outdoors
- Jogging with a group or your dog
- Swinging kettlebells
- Jumping Rope
8. A hot bath or hot towel scrub
Is there anything better than a hot bath to ease away anxiety? Baths are definitely one of my go-to’s during times of stress, however, I don’t always have the time or ability to take a bath. This is where a hot towel scrub comes in. Trust me, this feels amazing!
All you’ll need is a wash cloth, sink with hot water, and some essential oils of choice (optional).
- Fill the sink with hot water and add 1 – 3 drops of essential oil (if using).
- Place your washcloth in the water and then wring it out.
- While the towel is still hot, begin to scrub the skin gently starting with your arms and working your way up to the shoulders and neck, then down your back and the rest of your body.
- Continue reheating the towel often by dipping it back into the hot water after scrubbing each section of your body.
9. Being in nature
Being in nature is incredible for relieving stress and calming anxiety. Even if you’re not a fan of the wilderness, just being outside can help you connect with nature and calm your nerves. Try sitting in a garden, park, or simply walking outdoors.
If you aren’t able to go outside, bringing bits of nature indoors can also help. Try adding more plants to your indoor space, opening the windows for fresh air, or displaying paintings or pictures of nature.
10. Connecting with others
We’re social creatures and even those of us who are introverts (guilty!) need quality time with other people. In our age of technology and our fast-paced living, a lot of us have replaced human interaction with online interaction and we’re definitely seeing the effects of this as a society. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, try talking with a loved one, spending time with friends (bonus points if you go outdoors), or being out in your community. If you’re looking for ways to meet new people, Meetup is a great way to connect with others in your local area who share your interests, hobbies, and passions.
What are your favorite ways to ease stress and anxiety? Leave a commend below!
Wishing you health and happiness!