Shoulders hunched up to your ears, neck stiff and jaw clenched tight. Sound familiar?
When we are stressed, our body activates our “fight or flight response” and releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Your heart beats faster, and your breathing speeds up. These physiological changes often lead to headaches and tense muscles, which are the last things we need on a busy day.
I knew this all too well, and I often didn’t recognize the physical signs of stress in time, so I just kept pushing on. Therefore, I began to look for rituals that would help me to catch the stress at the beginning and learn to relax more. I often can’t do much about the external stress factors themselves, but I can choose how I react to them.
Here are 10 rituals for less stress and more calm
1. Invigorating morning routine
I get up at 5 a.m. every day and spend the first hour doing a mix of different morning rituals. I love to stand barefoot under a tree in the dewy grass and watch the sun come up, or simply enjoy a hot cup of peppermint tea. Afterwards, I feel focused and ready to start my day. Discover what works for you and helps you find your center. Morning is the best time for it!
2. Mini-rituals throughout the day
Rituals help us to reach a relaxed state faster. I like to listen to music in the Schumann frequency (7.83 Hz), which has a relaxing effect on my entire body. I always carry a small bottle of mint oil in my pocket, which I rub on my hands several times a day. It helps me to breathe easier, and the aroma is pleasing to my senses. The blue, 3-minute hourglass on my desk reminds me to take short breaks regularly, breathe deeply and relax my shoulders.
3. Get in touch with yourself
If you feel your stress levels rising, try listening to your body. What does it need at the moment? It often helps to tap your chest, stomach and back, massage your fingers and joints or rub your hands together vigorously. Try to always stand with both feet planted squarely on the ground, which gives you a sense of stability. We are used to acting according to what we think and have forgotten how to listen to our body, which knows what is truly good for us.
4. Shake it
Really let off some steam, feel your muscles and relieve your stress. I am a big fan of shaking. Yes, shaking. I learned it from watching my dog who shakes his body whenever he experiences anything stressful or unpleasant. And so I shake my whole body for five minutes in the morning (preferably to music), which is very liberating and energizing. It’s also perfect for bathroom breaks 🙂
5. The power of sound
Certain frequencies can relax our body. I have created my own special playlist for this with binaural beats (which I listen to preferably with headphones). These are a brainwave entrainment technology that can quickly put us into a kind of meditative state. Alpha waves are especially good for lowering stress levels. Neuroscientists from the UK have put together a list of the ten most relaxing songs to reduce stress and anxiety. You can find the entire list on Spotify.
6. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
Sounds so simple and yet we have forgotten how to breathe deeply from the abdomen. Place your hand on the lower abdomen and take a few deep breaths through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Sighing audibly as you exhale can help relieve even more tension. Perhaps you have heard of the alternate nostril breathing technique, in which you inhale through one nostril and exhale through the other. This has a harmonizing effect on your entire system.
7. Eating can be stressful
Down another coffee or eat something sweet for an energy boost? Unfortunately, this strategy can backfire because caffeine and sugar further increase our stress levels. How about drinking a decaffeinated coffee or a hot cup of chamomile tea? Doesn’t sound as sexy, but it can help you and tastes just as good as the leaded variety 🙂
8. Delicious nerve food
Choose foods that strengthen your nerves. Good choices include a handful of nuts, a banana, a yogurt or a piece of dark chocolate. Avocados and small pieces of ginger to suck on are also excellent for your nerves.
9. With all your senses
How do you listen with all your senses? Place your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart, and concentrate on the following: What am I seeing? What am I hearing? Can I smell or taste something? What do my hands feel like? This simple technique can lower your stress levels within seconds and train your ability to focus your attention.
10. Write your stress away
I always keep a small notebook on me because writing helps to relieve stress. Freewriting consists of you setting a timer and then just writing down whatever comes to mind. If you can’t think of anything, then write down that you can’t think of anything. 5 minutes of freewriting can clear your head and relax you.
For me, this is the best and yet most stressful time of the year in which my rituals support and guide me. Perhaps some of them are right up your alley, or others you can adapt a little to suit you better. It is fascinating and rewarding to learn how different and yet similar we all are and perhaps the whole point is simply finding out what works best for us.
I wish you an exciting and relaxing time!