How to Reduce Stress | 4 Natural Stress Relief Options

How to Reduce Stress: 4 Natural Stress Relief Options

Everyone experiences stress. Taking steps to manage it is the key to a happier and healthier life. After all, research has shown that stress can manifest as physical and/or mental health conditions, as well as changes in your mood and behavioral patterns.

While it’s impossible to eliminate stressful feelings entirely, there are ways to keep them at bay so you don’t get too overwhelmed. Try these simple, natural techniques next time you’re going through mental battles. You may be surprised by how effective they can be!

Meditation

Meditation is a wonderful short and long-term solution to stress. Sometimes, all it takes to calm down is a quick meditation session. You don’t need to do anything fancy. Simply find a quiet place, close your eyes, and try to free your mind of whatever intrusive thoughts are stressing you out. Even just a quick 5-minute break can work wonders in soothing the mind.

The beauty of meditation is that it becomes more and more powerful the more you do it. Over time, you’ll learn to recognize and observe your thought processes. You can focus on what’s causing stress and then stop those intrusive thoughts before they become too intense. Regular meditation helps you to understand yourself better, empowering you to change.

How to Meditate

While a quick meditation session on your lunch break can help to reduce stress, you’re going to experience more relief if you do it right on a consistent schedule. There are many ways to meditate as a beginner. Here’s the simplest method to get you started:

  • First, find a comfortable position that allows you to relax without getting tired. Sitting cross-legged is the most common position, but some people prefer sitting upright in a comfortable chair. Either way, make sure you keep your posture upright. This helps to keep you feeling awake throughout the session while also preventing soreness during longer meditations.
  • Next, you want to relax your body and facial muscles. Allow your eyelids and jaw to droop. Gently close your eyes, but don’t squeeze them shut. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply, allowing your entire body to relax.
  • Now, your goal is to find inner silence. This is the part that takes some practice. When your inner monologue starts, gently shush it. Over time, you’ll be able to recognize an incoming thought and stop it intuitively. This can be quite difficult, so try not to get discouraged.

That’s it — you’re meditating! Start with a quick 5-10 minute session, and then try to go longer next time. You may want to set a timer to keep you on track. Eventually, you should start to notice that there’s more and more ‘silent’ space between thoughts. Eventually, you may want to look into other forms of meditation as you improve your technique.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Bullet Journaling

Stress is often caused by too many thoughts that lead to overwhelming feelings. Your mind is rushing with thoughts about a work project you need to finish, what’s for dinner, house repairs you need to make, and everything else under the sun. Journaling helps you to make sense of that jumble of thoughts, bringing clarity and introspection to your life.

Simply writing a to-do list can be quite effective, but many people are falling in love with bullet journaling. The system was started by Ryder Carroll, a designer from New York. According to him, the goal of bullet journaling is “to help you track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.” In other words, it’s kind of like a to-do list, a planner, and a diary all-in-one.

How to Bullet Journal

Bullet journaling isn’t just effective — it’s also a whole lot of fun! The basic idea is that you use specific symbols that keep you on track, rather than just traditional bullet points. Here they are:

· A dot represents a to-do task

x An x means the task has been completed

< A less than sign signifies a task that has been scheduled

> A greater sign means that the task has been rescheduled and migrated to a new list

A dash is used for quick notes and minor tasks

O An open circle is for major events

The system may seem complicated on paper, but in practice, it’s quite easy. Once you get the right tools and learn how to bullet journal, it will become a fluid process that just makes sense. There are plenty of bullet journal themes that you can use to personalize your process, too.

For example, there are not-so-artsy layouts or minimal layouts for those who prefer simplicity. If your main goal is to reduce stress, you may find that using a layout to manage your mental health is the perfect solution. If you don’t have the time or resources to create your own bullet journal, you can always hire someone to make a bullet journal for you.

You can check out the listing below to view the various bullet journal options I offer!

Exercising

Exercise stops stress. Even a quick jog around the block can work wonders for your mental health. Have you ever heard of a “runner’s high?” When you’re active, your body produces endorphins that naturally boost your mood and stop stress in its tracks. Exercising also takes your mind off your worries as you focus on the single activity at hand.

Exercise is, of course, great for your physical health, which naturally manifests as a positive mindset. Working out helps you to feel more confident in your skin, which boosts your overall mood and demeanor. While you can use exercise as a tool as needed when you’re feeling stressed out, a better approach is to develop a consistent exercise routine.

Exercise Considerations

If it’s been a long time since you’ve been active, you may want to talk to your doctor before you dive in. In general, the best way to start is just to start. You don’t need to immediately start with an intense 10-mile run or anything crazy like that. Just getting your heart beating a little faster is the first step. Eventually, you can work your way into a more intense routine.

Exercise can be (and should be) fun. If you feel like you’re forcing yourself to be active, you’re just not doing the right exercises. Try to find a hobby that forces you to exercise. You could join a sports league, go to a rock climbing facility, or explore your local hiking paths. 

Once you start incorporating exercise into your hobbies, it becomes part of your overall lifestyle, rather than a one-off activity you force yourself to do from time to time. If possible, ask a friend to become your workout buddy. You can hold each other accountable, motivate each other, and just have a blast with it.

Photo by Volha Flaxeco on Unsplash

Cleaning

It may sound counterintuitive but cleaning is good for you. Your surroundings often dictate your mood. If you’ve ever gone on a major cleaning spree, you know that feeling of bliss when you get to sit down and relax in your newly revitalized environment. Too much clutter around you can be a major cause of stress, especially if it’s a big mess that feels so daunting to tackle.

Just like exercise, the key to maintaining a tidy house is to start small and turn cleaning into a habit. You can use your bullet journal to set small, attainable goals. Once your surroundings are clean, maintaining them is a breeze. Eventually, you’ll wonder how you ever lived in a messy space! The trick is to take it bit-by-bit, rather than overwhelming yourself with a massive project.

If you’re struggling to get started, you may want to look into Marie Kondo’s approach. Her Netflix series does a great job explaining how to get rid of clutter that doesn’t inspire joy. Her approach is fun and inspirational, and it may help you to improve your environment in a way that doesn’t add more stress to your life.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Take Care of Yourself

Everyone is different. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to stress. These four natural methods will get you started, but it’s up to you to determine what works best. Sometimes all it takes is just taking a few moments out of your day to sip a cup of tea or read a chapter of a book. 

If you’re suffering from stress, little changes can lead to big results. When you embrace new, stress-relieving habits, your life is naturally transformed for the better. The goal is to be kind to yourself. Recognize that you deserve to feel good

Finally, try to understand that stress is going to happen. Stress is a necessity. It’s your mind telling you that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. The trick is to acknowledge and accept that necessary stress without letting it take over. It’s not always easy, but facing your struggles head-on is the key to reducing their impact on your life.

Meet the Author

Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness, but also enjoys covering the fashion industry, collaborating with industry insiders and designers, getting insight on the latest trends.

Improve Your Sleep | Why You Do Not Sleep Well

Not getting a good night’s sleep can be extremely frustrating indeed. Waking up still exhausted won’t set your day off to a great start, and all that tiredness could follow you to the office. You will feel very fatigued throughout the whole day, and your concentration and productivity could be affected as a result. So, it’s always important to try and get enough good-quality sleep every night.

Finding it hard to improve your sleep patterns? You might be making the same mistakes that other poor sleepers are making. Here are some of the main reasons people find it hard to get to sleep, and what you can do about them!

Your Bedroom Is Too Hot To Sleep

Are you sure that your bedroom is the right temperature? More often than not, people have it too warm, which can make it difficult to fall asleep. Ideally, the room needs to be between fifty-five and seventy-four degrees Fahrenheit. If you think the temperature is regularly above this, consider changing your thermostat. If the radiator is difficult to control, you could always leave the window open for an hour or so before you go to bed.

You Are On Medication

Some medications can make it very difficult to fall asleep. For example, some painkillers including Midol contain levels of caffeine. Even if your medication doesn’t contain caffeine, there might be other chemicals and hormones in it that could make it difficult to fall asleep each night. If you do have trouble, you should speak to your doctor to see if there are any alternative medications you could take.

You Need A New Mattress

Do you always toss and turn in bed? If so, there could be a problem with your mattress. Even though you don’t realize it, an old mattress that has developed lots of lumps and bumps could be making it quite hard for you to get enough zzzs each night. So, it’s worth visiting a couple of mattress stores to see about getting a new one. Make sure you lie down on a few to test them out before you decide which one to buy.

You Exercised Too Late To Sleep

Exercise is an incredibly important part of life and something that we all need to try and fit into our daily schedules. However, it is possible to work out too late in the day. Exercising too soon before you go to bed will energize you and make it difficult to fall asleep. Your mind will be racing, and all the adrenaline in your body will make it almost impossible to unwind!

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You Use Your Phone In Bed

You also need to make sure that you aren’t using your smartphone just before bed too. That’s because the screen emits a blue light which can make your mind a lot more alert than what it should be at bedtime. Keep all your screens out of your bedroom, and you should find that this greatly improves your overall quality of sleep.

Hopefully, all of this helps you sleep a lot better from now on!

This post was written in collaboration. Collaborative writing means that while I have contributed to this post and edited its content and formatting, I am not its original author. By posting this content on my blog, I receive financial compensation. Want to guest post for Jihi Elephant? Learn more here



Why You Are Not Sleeping Well

10 Happiness-Promoting Practices and Quotes

What is happiness? Happiness is a phenomenon, emotion, or state of being we all strive to achieve. Here are 10 ways to promote happiness in your life.

What is Happiness?

There are a million ways to define happiness.

“Be happy. Be bright. Be you.”

The dictionaries define happiness as

Delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing; OR Characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy (Dictionary.com).

OR

A state of well-being and contentment; OR A pleasurable or satisfying experience (Merriam-Webster).

Being happy is the greatest form of success

Others define happiness as fully enjoying all that you are and that is around you.

Despite the definitions, everyone experiences happiness differently. Some might become giddy or feel bubbly inside. Others might experience overwhelming emotions or even tear up. Others simply smile or feel joyfully content. There is nothing wrong with experiencing and expressing happiness your own way!

But, you’ve come here looking for ways to be happier. So, without further ado…

“Being happy never goes out of style.” – Unknown

How to be Happy

Happiness is as much a choice as it is an involuntary emotion. Let me explain.

You might often feel happiness without choosing to. For example, if a friend surprises you with something you love, you would most likely feel happiness automatically. You probably don’t have to remind yourself to be happy about the surprise.

There are so many beautiful reasons to be happy

However, you can also choose happiness. During trials and difficult times where you would automatically become sad or frustrated, you can instead choose to feel happy. I am, by no means, saying that you should feel happy instead of these other emotions (because it’s healthy to let yourself feel these emotions too), but it’s an option.

“Don’t let the silly little things steal your happiness.” -Unknown

Take Breaks

Taking breaks is so important. These days we are so busy that we completely neglect to allow ourselves some good old-fashioned downtime. Feeling depressed, overwhelmed, sad, stressed? Take a break, treat yourself! You deserve it.

Taking breaks is so much more important than you realize. Taking some time out allows both your body and your mind a reset or reboot. If you are constantly going and jam-packing your body with caffeine, your body, and your mind will eventually give out.

If I do not take time off of both work and blogging each week, I burn out mentally and end up sick. This is no fun. But if I take some time to myself and practice some self-love while I’m at it, I feel refreshed and energetic!

You just can’t go wrong taking a break.

image credit: Ivory Mix

Not sure how to fit downtime or self-love into your busy schedule? Check out my 30-day self-love challenge that incorporates quick and simple self-love practices into every day for 30 days straight!

“There is sunshine in my soul today.”

Give More

Helping others has always and will always be a huge influencer of happiness. When you help others, you feel better about yourself. You feel happier. Even if what you are able to give is only your time or services. Maybe you share a sandwich with someone who forgot their lunch or help a neighbor carry their heavy groceries into their house. Trust me, you’ll feel great!

“Always Smile.”

Exercise More

I don’t really need to explain this one. We hear it all the time, exercise, exercise, exercise. It’ll make you healthier and this is why it’ll make you happier. Yes, it’s exhausting, and yes, it’s difficult. But at the end, you’ll have accomplished so much, and you’ll feel happy about yourself.

“Happiness is made, not found.”

Meditate

Meditation is so beneficial, but it a little bit of a taboo for some. Let me clear the air. You do not have to be religious to meditate. There is actually no one way to practice meditation.

Some people enjoy taking quiet walks to clear their mind by focusing on sights and sounds. Others practice yoga meditation where there is a focus on clearing the mind through breathing and stretching. Or maybe you’ll simply sit quietly for a few moments focusing on your breathing.

Meditation

Meditation simply allows you to clear your mind of everything that is overwhelming your or stressing you out. It’s not for everyone, but I practice this each night before bed and it allows me to get to bed quicker and start each day new. It doesn’t remove stress, but it allows me to look at my stress more logically, instead of panicking.

“There are two ways to be happy: change the situation, or change your mindset towards it.”

Eat Better

I do not believe that I need to go into detail on this one, same as exercise. We hear all about how eating healthier is so great for your body and happiness. Those people are right. In all honesty, I do not eat right, and I can feel it making me groggier and more miserable. When I do eat healthy though, I feel amazing. I sleep better, I make better decisions, I feel better–I am happier.

“Being happy doesn’t mean everything’s perfect. It means you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”

Drink A Lot of Water

With eating healthier, you ought to drink more water. Not only is it great for your skin, but it’s great for your attitude. Again, I won’t go into details, because we all know this is true. I’m here to simply remind you to drink water because it’ll make you happier.

“I choose to be happy today.”

Socialize

No, when I say socialize, I don’t mean you must constantly be around people. I’m an introvert, so I know that for some people, spending a lot of time around people is exhausting.

However, it is not healthy to hermit all the time (however tempting it might be). If you’re constantly hiding out on your own without human interaction you are going to get depressed.

So, to combat this, just get some socialization regularly. This could be anything from going out to the bar with some co-workers, to a night in with your family. Socializing doesn’t have to be complicated.

Socialize

Here are some ways for the introvert to socialize!

  • Go into the bank instead of using the ATM
  • Strike up conversation at the grocery store check out
  • Go visit or call some family and just catch up
  • Happy a close friend over for the evening
  • Go out in public – anywhere (sometimes being in the presence of people is enough)
  • Go get coffee with a friend or co-worker
  • Spend some time at the water cooler at work
  • Attend a study group or tutoring session

“Surround yourself with those who make you happy.”

Be Positive

For some people, this is easy or natural, but for others, it’s incredibly difficult. I’m a naturally positive person; however, when I am stressed, I am a massive negative-Nelly. Being negative (especially when I am already stressed) does me absolutely no good.

If I am in a bad mood, or even if I’m not in any kind of mood, forcing myself to think about the positive eventually turns my mood around.

Fake it till you believe it.

“Think positive and positive things will happen.”

Practice Gratefulness Regularly

Gratefulness is healing. I can’t think of a better way to explain it, except to share a blurb from my own personal gratefulness story.

I was in a low point in my life, by ‘low’ I don’t mean living on the streets or anything the phrase implies. I mean that I was struggling with a huge transition and a lot of anxiety. It was at this point I decided to start a gratefulness art project. Each day I would write down several reasons that I was grateful. Anything counted, everything I thought was written down.

My Gratitude Journey | Meaningful Artwork

When you sit around thinking about all that is going wrong, all that is awful, or all that you wish was different, naturally, you will feel sad or angry. But, if you spend your time thinking about all that is going well and all that you enjoy about your life, naturally you will begin to feel happy!

“The key to being happy is knowing you have the power to choose what to accept and what to let go.” -Dodinsky

How Planning Ahead Can Make You Happier

Nothing is worse than the moment you realize that you’ve forgotten to plan for something, causing you to rush around like a chicken with its head chopped off. These scenarios are immensely stressful and can reduce happiness. The only way to reduce this stress, ultimately increasing your happiness, is to plan for it.

Plan Ahead
image credit: Ivory Mix

Planning ahead does wonders for stress. I highly recommend, and will always recommend, getting or making a planner. Personally, I use bullet journals because they are far more customizable. If you’d like to read more about different ways to get organized check out A Practical Guide to Time Management + Productivity, a guest post I wrote.

“HOW TO BE HAPPY: decide every morning that you are in a good mood.”

It’s not always easiest to be happy, but by following these guidelines, it should be a little easier to do. I hope you enjoyed these guidelines! What do you do that makes you happy??

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How to Be Happier | 10 Happiness-Promoting Practices

10 Ways to Reduce Your Anger

I have recently been feeling very angry. This anger feels overwhelming and just builds and builds until I end up exploding on someone. Anger isn’t a good feeling, nothing good comes out of it. Because I have recently struggled with and have been working through anger, I have decided to write about coping with anger. Thus, 10 Ways to Reduce Anger is born.

#1 Remove Yourself from the Trigger

The first thing I do when I begin feeling angry is to remove myself from the trigger. A trigger is a situation, action, or anything else that prompts the angry feeling. This might include loud chewing, a certain word or phrase, standing in line. Everyone has different triggers and ultimately everything can be a trigger.

A peer was frequently disrespecting me, and this was my trigger. After a couple of instances where I was disrespected, I began preparing myself to feel angry. This only made me angrier. This is called rumination. Rumination is when you either frequently think about or talk about something, usually in a negative context, which allows the emotions to build and become stronger.

Because I was coming into situations expecting to become angry, I was quicker to anger. I quickly realized that when I started to feel the anger, that I needed to remove myself from the situation as quickly as I could. By removing myself I could stop the anger from rising.

#2 Take a Deep Breath

Once I have removed myself from the triggering situation, I breathe. There are a couple of reasons why I stop to breathe. The first is that it forces me to take a break from ruminating. By forcing myself to focus on breathing I am no longer continually thinking about what had made me angry.

When I am taking a deep breath, I make sure that I am performing diaphragmatic (or deep) breathing. Simply breathing isn’t enough. Diaphragmatic breathing refers to a type of breathing where the stomach (not the chest) rises when breathing in, and settles when breathing out. Breathing this way stimulates a nerve that, in turn, stimulated the system in your body which relaxes you.

After a couple of minutes of deep breathing, I am calmer and often, no longer angry at all.

#3 Distract

There are a million ways to distract yourself when you are feeling angry and this is different for everyone. It is also different in every situation. Sometimes, deep breathing is enough to distract me, while other times I need to take part in an activity like cleaning or watching funny videos to keep my mind off the trigger.

The goal of distracting yourself is to put a stop to rumination and to calm down. Distracting yourself from the trigger will not make the situation go away, you will still need to confront whatever is making you angry. But it gives you enough time to cool down, re-evaluate, and return to the situation with a new perspective.

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#4 Talking to a Close Friend

My boyfriend is my rock. Whenever I find myself worked up or feeling down, talking to him always makes me feel better. I think this works so well because it’s a positive distraction. Not only am I distracted from the anger, but I have vented out everything I wish I could say to my trigger. I no longer feel angry.

Talking to a close friend is always helpful, so long as you aren’t co-ruminating (rumination by more than one person together). Whether you’re venting or keeping distracted, it is always helpful to know that you have someone on your side supporting you. Sometimes, at least for me, I just need to know that I have someone cheering me on. Someone who believes in me.

Try talking to someone if you’re angry. If you don’t have a close friend you’d trust, counseling is always an option (see #10).

Anger Teddy Bear

#5 Comedy and Humor

Whenever I am feeling angry, I find it incredibly helpful to watch or listen to something funny or humorous. My go-to is YouTube. YouTube is full of hilarious content that is sure to boost your mood!

When you are busy laughing at something it is impossible to feel angry. So, if you’re getting worked up, try searching “funny animal videos” (these are my weakness). You could even try searching for videos of your favorite comedian.

Whatever makes you laugh, use it to de-escalate your anger!

#6 Apologizing

Apologizing is hard, but believe me, it’s therapeutic. Recently, I allowed myself to ruminate and my anger to build. Once I had arrived at a potentially triggering situation, I was already angry. So, naturally, I was triggered and snapped. Unfortunately, I allowed myself to get angry to the point of taking it out on my peer. This was another disrespect situation like I mentioned before, but snapping on her was completely uncalled for.

After taking a few deep breaths I privately apologized to another peer who was nearby when I snapped. Thankfully, she was understanding, because I was embarrassed that I had acted in such a way (completely out of my character).

I gave myself a lot more cool-down time, mustered up some courage, and apologized to the co-worker I had snapped on. While she was being disrespectful (my trigger) it was wrong of me to have yelled at her, especially in front of another peer.

She accepted my apology, though did not seem to listen to my explanation of what had triggered me. This triggered me again, which was even more difficult. I tried to keep distracted and to breathe deeply, but I was in a situation where she was attempting to apologize and I could not remove myself. I just kept breathing deeply and attempting to keep calm, I was apologizing for snapping. It was not the time to snap again.

As soon as I could remove myself, I did. Maybe I had not allowed myself enough cool-down time before apologizing. That being said, after apologizing and cooling down, I felt much much better. I had essentially confessed my sins and had no reason to feel bad. The triggers kept coming, but I felt better prepared to keep my cool.

#7 Do Something Enjoyable

It goes without saying that the things you enjoy make you happy, right? Well, then shouldn’t these things also help to de-escalate your anger? YES, a million times, YES!

Smile Happy

If you are starting to feel angry and there is an activity that makes you happy, then do it. For me, oddly enough, it’s organizing. I love organizing, it relaxes me and puts me in a good mood. I feel as though I have accomplished something that makes my life easier. So, as I have already mentioned, when I am feeling angry, I organize. Sometimes I am organizing something that has already been organized. But if it reduces my anger, then I am not going to stop.

Do something that you love to reduce your anger!

#8 Clean or Organize

What I am about to say is obvious because I have already mentioned it several times.

I find that when I am angry, I do my best cleaning and organizing. Anger, for me, needs an outlet. Most often, when I feel angry there is something in need of cleaning that I have been neglecting. In fact, when a disrespectful peer triggers my anger, I can remove myself from the situation and clean the kitchen or bathrooms at my place of employment. In fact, the cleaning is part of my job. Talk about killing two birds with one stone, right?

When you become angry at home, try hiding in your room and cleaning (I know you’ve been putting that off). Do what you need to do, cleaning and organizing is not for everyone. If this doesn’t lessen your anger, then don’t do it to reduce your anger!

#9 Exercise

Exercise does wonders for anger. Exercise doesn’t have to mean an intense session at the local gym pumping iron.

When I get angry, I like to go for walks. During these walks, I might sometimes listen to music as a distraction, or I might focus on my surroundings (this is a way of practicing mindfulness, read about it here). Something about exercise, fresh air, and some nature just puts me in a good mood. But not only does exercise work for me, it just works. Like I mentioned already, anger needs an outlet. What better outlet is there than exercise. Not only are you able to kick the anger, but you can also feel good and get healthy!

#10 Get Counseling

If your anger has become overwhelming and very frequent (or even non-stop) seek professional help. I am talking from experience here (a story for another time and post). Counselors are professionals, they are trained to help you with your anger. They can help you to understand and identify your triggers.

Once you understand your anger, you can work towards decreasing it. Your counselor will work with you to have a plan in place for when you begin to feel angry. If you’re open to getting help from a professional, they can do wonders!

There are also groups for those who struggle with anger. It may sound scary, but these groups are really cool to be a part of! It’s so cool because you are surrounding yourself with others who are going through the same thing you are. Everyone is getting help together while helping each other.

These are just ten ways that are helpful to me when I am feeling angry. What helps you to calm down when you are feeling angry?

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