“You cannot buy peace; you must know how to manufacture it within, in the stillness of your daily practises in meditation.”
Sometimes it is necessary to step back and realize how stressed we are. If we are not careful, stress can creep up on us and we will become unhappy without realizing it. However, once we are aware of how stressful our lives are, then we can take steps to reduce it. Nothing is as valuable as inner peace; but, it is not something we can buy – it is something we have to cultivate ourselves.
1. Relaxation Exercises
The state of your body will have an effect on your mind and vice versa. If you body is tense, it is reflection of your stressful mind. Learning to relax the body can be a helpful way to reduce stress. A very simple relaxation exercise is to tense and relax your muscles. Concentrate on a particular area and tense the muscles. Then let go of all tension and try to feel as relaxed as possible; feel all the stress and tension leaving the body. Try lifting up an arm, if it drops with a thud this is a sign that you are relaxed; if there is resistance this is a sign of tension.
2. Physical Exercise
We were not built to spend 15 hours a day sitting in front of the TV, driving a car and sitting at a desk. If we do no exercise and are lethargic, life becomes unbalanced. Taking physical exercise gives great relief both mentally and physically. Exercise releases different chemicals which contribute to a feeling of well being. It is also an opportunity to clear the mind and concentrate on something completely different. Often when we are stressed, the idea of exercise doesn’t sound appealing; it is easy to think of excuses like “I don’t have time”. But, here we are making a mistake; we need to make time and once we try we will definitely appreciate the benefits of exercise.
3. Deal with One Thing at A Time
When we have several demands on our time we feel stressed. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by demands placed on our time. The secret is to deal with one problem at a time and do what we can to improve the situation. When we have taken the necessary steps we can forget about it and move on to the next thing. Either take appropriate action or leave it. But, don’t just worry helplessly.
Most people who are stressed feel that they are indispensable for many different things. Often, there is a desire to be in control of many situations and this is what produces stress. Let go of the need to control and delegate to other people. If things don’t happen exactly as you want, don’t worry. It is important to be able to delegate and give up a feeling of indispensability.
5. Spending Time in Nature
There is a lot to be said from escaping from the pressures of city life. It can even be in our own back garden. Our surroundings have an important impact on our state of mind so we need to cultivate a sense of calmness in our surroundings. Even the addition of pot plants to our office can help a positive calming influence.
6. Step Back from the Rush of Life
We need to spend time to cultivate our inner resources. If we are constantly dealing with external issues we will gradually feel worn down. If we take time out to read, meditate and be alone, we can cultivate some inner peace and detachment. It is this that gives us a fresh perspective and helps to deal with problematic issues. We need to make the time for ourselves, if we don’t, we won’t be able to cultivate inner peace and avoid stress.
7. Breathing Exercise
Another excellent exercise for relieving stress is a simple breathing exercise. This can be practised anywhere, although it is better if you can be alone so you don’t get distracted. Good breathing exercises should be quite natural and spontaneous; there should be nothing forced.
- Breathe in. As you breathe in, feel you are not just mechanically breathing in. But, feel it is new life and real energy.
- Hold the breathe momentarily. When you hold the breathe be aware of a moment of stillness and silence.
- When you breathe out, feel you are contracting all your muscles and expelling all the tension in the body.
- Concentrate on this contraction for 10-15 seconds, putting all your focus and attention on the relaxation that ensues from releasing the tension.
Another tip for simple breathing exercise is simply to be conscious of your breathing and try to keep it calm and relaxed. If you feel particularly stressed, you can just silently focus on these exercises. They can be practised anywhere and will provide real relief from stress
8. Don’t Magnify Problems
Sometimes our mind can magnify problems and make small issues appear big. This is a sure way to needlessly create stress. Don’t worry excessively, keep a check on your thoughts and avoid creating needless anxieties. If we can keep our thoughts in perspective and avoid a negative mindset, we will be effective in minimizing our stress levels.
Make sure that your priorities are not skewed. If you spend all your time worrying about meeting work targets you are probably living an unbalanced life. Give work related targets their due place. Don’t overrate them; remember the important things in life; if you miss your earning targets it’s not the end of the world. Don’t stress over relatively unimportant things.
The greatest tension reliever is to laugh. If you life is joyless and without humour, it will be a dour affair. When we are serious, we are inevitably stressed. Laughter or even just smiling can relieve stress. Don’t take life too seriously; search out people who are happy to look on the bright / funny side of life. Avoid being surrounded only by people who have ambitious goals for you to achieve.
Tejvan Pettinger lives in Oxford where he writes on issues of self improvement and self development. He updates a blog Sri Chinmoy Inspiration. Recent blog posts include: Five Ways to Reclaim the Energy You Waste Every Day. Images by Stiickler and Mode.