Many people find it hard to relax, especially post-pandemic where the whole world was consumed by a heightened state of awareness. Now that things have calmed down, we need to remember how to enjoy life again, not just for our happiness, but for our health.
It’s important to understand what happens to the body when it’s in a heightened state of awareness. As mind and body feels stress or anxiety, it triggers the sympathetic response which releases hormones to prepare our body to fight the sensed danger or flee, such as the stress hormone cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. Therefore, we feel our heartbeat faster, begin sweating, our muscles tightening, and an increase in blood pressure.
Here are seven easy ways to relax when you feel stressed or anxious.
Seek Out Natural Light
Go sit next to a window or step outside for a little while to soak up some sun rays. In one study, it was found that “direct and indirect sunlight influenced the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that elevates mood; indirect sunlight was a dominant predictor of depressed mood, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment ” (Colarelli, 2016).
Laughter can strengthen your immune system, reduce stress and anxiety, uplift your mood, and help improve relationships. Even if the laughter is not a belly laugh, a light giggle can do it. Go ahead and check out some funny viral animal videos on YouTube or exchange some funny memes with friends.
Say a Prayer or Meditate
When we pray or meditate, Gamma-aminobutyric acid, otherwise known as GABA, is naturally produced in our brains. GABA is a neurotransmitter which communicates to other neuron receptors in the brain to calm down. Think of it as comfort juice. As the brain waves slow, stress and anxiety melt away.
GABA is also found naturally in a variety of teas, Black, Green, and Oolong tea, as well as in fermented foods including Miso, kefir, yogurt, and kimchi. Consuming these foods can have a calming effect.
Noticing small, beautiful things around you like flowers, butterflies outside, reading good news, watching a dog play, or noticing how the leaves rustle in the wind, all have the ability to create a positive environment for your state of mind. In one study, participants felt happier and more energetic after looking at flowers first thing in the morning (Haviland, 2018). There is true mood elevation when we take a moment to notice the small things in life.
Close Your Eyes
A quick and easy way to shut out your outside world and regain focus and produce a calming effect. Quiet your mind, set a timer on your phone for just a couple minutes and simply close your eyes. Focus on your fingers, your shoulders, your neck, and then down your body by untensing and completely relaxing each part. A quick way to meditate shows profound effects on reducing anxiety and stress. Just by taking a couple minutes, it can reshape your mind and day moving forward.
While this may sound counterintuitive, exercising can force the body to relax and sleep deeply. This is especially true when the body has reached an aerobic state.
- Why We Need More Nature at Work: Effects of Natural Elements and Sunlight on Employee Mental Health and Work Attitudes
Colarelli SM, O’Brien K, Boyajian ME (2016) Why We Need More Nature at Work: Effects of Natural Elements and Sunlight on Employee Mental Health and Work Attitudes. PLOS ONE 11(5): e0155614. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0155614
- Haviland-Jones, J. (n.d.). Emotional Impact of Flowers Study. About Flowers. https://safnow.org/aboutflowers/quick-links/health-benefits-research/emotional-impact-of-flowers-study/.