5 Ways to Relieve Stress and Live a More Relaxed Life
5 Ways to Relieve Stress and Live a More Relaxed Life
Your 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond can offer amazing opportunities to relax.
As your life changes and evolves, it may be easier to take a deep breath and appreciate all that you have built in your life so far—and to consider all the wonderful adventures still ahead.
On the other hand, if you’ve spent the bulk of your life stressed out, relaxing may be tougher than you thought.
Learning how to slow down a bit and relax can decrease your blood pressure, make it easier to sleep, unwind any muscle tension, and even improve your digestion.
More than that, it can help you feel happier, healthier and more centered and grounded.
Ready to release some stress? Here are a few things to experiment with…
1. Focus on the present.
Stress is often caused by the “what ifs” we conjure in our minds. Meditation is one of the most effective methods to keep our thoughts present and serene. A simple, regular meditation practice has been shown to reduce stress, control anxiety, lower blood pressure and improve sleep.
To begin meditating, find a quiet place where you’ll be undisturbed. Sit as upright as you comfortably can on the floor or a cushion.
If you’d like, set a timer so you’re not tempted to interrupt your meditation to check the clock. Try sitting in quiet stillness or playing soothing music or nature sounds at a low volume.
Close your eyes and bring your attention to the present moment. Notice your breath and the sensation of your clothes against your skin. Observe any sounds or smells in your environment.
If you find yourself slipping back into anxious thinking—for example, worrying about a deadline or whether you added a certain item to the grocery list—it’s okay. Gently guide your thoughts back to the present.
When you’re done, ask yourself: Do I feel more composed? Less anxious? More grounded?
Don’t be surprised if you find it difficult at first to stay focused. Even 30 seconds of presence can be helpful, and it will get easier with practice.
2. Breathe consciously.
The body’s fight, flight or freeze response can be strong… and sometimes overactive.
When you’re under stress, cortisol is released into your bloodstream. Heartbeat and respiration increase, along with a host of other reactions that can make you feel nervous or unsettled.
Consciously slowing your breath can slow or halt these reactions.
Slowing your breath injects space between the source of your stress and your reaction. This space allows you to consciously decide how to respond.
Deep breaths can also help release tension held in your chest, neck, shoulders and arms.
So when you feel anxious or sense a stress reaction coming on, pause and take a deep breath. Then release it slowly, drawing out the exhale for several seconds. Imagine the anxious thought, fear or frustration leaving your body with the breath.
Repeat this a few times until you feel more at peace.
3. Pick up the knitting needles.
Did you know that simple, repetitive movements can help you feel peaceful and may even improve concentration and memory?
Repetitive tasks like crochet, knitting or cross stitch can help you find this sense of serenity. To get the benefits, choose a project that is relatively easy, like a simple blanket or scarf that has the same number of stitches per row.
Choose a material color or texture that’s soothing and peaceful for you. Work in silence or with comforting music at a low volume. Most of all, focus on the movements and repetition—not perfection.
The best part? When you’re done, you’ll have a lovely handicraft to enjoy or gift to someone.
4. Shake it off.
Sometimes when you’re anxious or tense, the best thing to do is to shake it off—literally.
This method of stress relief derives from an ancient system called qi gong (pronounced chee·guhng) and can be especially helpful for jittery moments.
To start, stand with your feet about shoulder width and allow your arms to hang loosely at your sides.Then—start shaking. Emphasize the downward motion, almost as though you were trying to fling water off the ends of your fingers.
As you do it, visualize that you are shaking any stressful sensations or anxious thoughts out through your fingertips and feet. Do this for two or three minutes until you feel more grounded and calm.
5. Manage your consumption (and we don’t mean food).
Even during the best of times, watching 24-hour news or constantly scrolling through social media can leave you feeling unsettled.
You needn’t completely avoid the news. Instead take conscious breaks and set reasonable limits for yourself.
Try setting a timer for social media scrolling or news watching. When the timer goes off, be conscious of how you feel. If time on social media or the news tends to stress you out, it might be worth taking a longer sabbatical—say, a few days or more—to reset and relax.
We suggest curating what you read or watch to ensure you’re consuming positive and uplifting sources of media as much as possible. Look for good news and share what you find.
Finally, be conscious of when you’re consuming media. For example, if tension or anxiety affects your sleep, avoid news and social media in the evening and focus on more relaxing activities.
Keeping a positive and calm mindset can do wonders for relaxation, and in turn, your health and happiness.
Do you already practice any of these tips, or are you inspired to try? Let us know in the comments!