You’re not alone
Are you feeling stressed and exhausted from all the turmoil we’re in?
The pandemic, economy, politics, you name it; we live in such an unpredictable world today. Stress and anxiety were already big issues even before 2020. Now we are more than 7 months into the pandemic, and many are experiencing increased stress and frustrations during these times of uncertainty. If you’re overwhelmed right now, you’re not alone!
In this article, I’m going to share with you things we can do to relax and ease our mind. First, let’s go over how much COVID-19 is impacting our stress level.
Stress in the COVID world
We live in a stressful world now more than ever. Studies show that the prolonged pandemic has negative effects on our mental health.
According to the survey conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard Medical School, 55% of people feel more stressed in May than they did before the COVID-19 started. The latest report from the American Psychological Association in October also states that about 1 in 5 adults say their mental health is worse than it was a year ago.
We all know we are in this together, but that doesn’t solve our problems. With many scientists expecting this to last a while, now is the good time to take a moment and rethink how we should deal with stress so that we can stay calm, even in challenging times.
How can we manage our stress?
First, let’s briefly go over what exactly stress is.
Not all stress is bad for you
We tend to think stress is bad for us, but that is not true. Not all stress is bad for us. According to Hans Selye, the father of stress research, stress is the “non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.”
Stress is a normal part of our life, and it has both positive and negative effects. The good news is that many times stress helps boost our motivation, energy, and make us stay focused. It gives us energy to complete our tasks and achieve our goals. Stress has positive effects when we feel like we are in control of our stress. It is what makes us keep going.
However, when we have too much stress and feel it is out of our control, that’s when we start getting overwhelmed and feel defeated by stress. So what can we do about it? How can we live a less stressful life?
We have compiled simple ways to take the weight off your shoulders.
1. Take a break
Periodically set a schedule to take a break and relax. Well, are you too busy to take a break? I hear you. I’ve been there too. With the workloads we have, it feels difficult to make the time for them. But working straight without breaks actually causes more stress and exhaustion. Our brain and mind need breaks! I’m not saying to procrastinate, but short and good quality breaks help relax our mind.
Did you know taking breaks not only helps rest the brain, but also increase productivity?
Studies show taking breaks regularly can boost productivity. I can say this from my experience too that the busier we are, the more breaks we need. Even 5 – 10 minutes at a time would do. Taking a 10-minute break every 60-90 minutes helps us stay focused and get going. Resting the mind can also help bring some new ideas. So many positive effects come with one break, don’t they?
Some positive effects of breaks include:
-Refreshing our mind to stay focused
-Increasing our productivity and creativity
You may be wondering if any kind of breaks count. Try to do something that helps you rest your mind and brain. Taking a power nap works for some people. I wouldn’t recommend spending your break on social media, though, if you want to take a break for stress relief, and here is why:
2. Unplug yourself from technology
While technology has been a lifesaver for us to stay connected with family and friends during the pandemic, studies show that using it excessively has negative effects on our physical and mental health. Overuse of technology, especially social media, can cause stress and loneliness. Sometimes social media reminds us of what others are doing that we are not doing, and we find ourselves feeling worse than before.
If you find yourself on screens too often, try to find some time to unplug yourself. What has helped me is to put my phone far away from me so it is out of my sight, but close enough that I don’t miss important calls and texts. (This way I don’t constantly check on it.) So whenever you want to rest your mind, remember to also take a break from your phone and have some quality personal time.
3. Respond, not react
“Do not learn to react. Learn how to respond.” - Buddha
How we respond to situations can cause stress as well. Sometimes it is too easy to let our emotions take control of our actions. We are used to reacting immediately, which can lead to more trouble and make things worse for us.
When something upsets you, the natural response may be to react without thinking. But instead, pause for a second and think how you want to respond. It may feel difficult at first, but start with accepting how you want to react, including your emotions and thoughts, and calm your mind. Then think of a thoughtful way to communicate. I like to call this process “taking what’s in your head to your gut,” so we can think with our gut to come up with solutions before taking actions. This helps lessen the stress that could have caused a chain of reactions.
If your mind feels overwhelmed and exhausted, sometimes this process may seem difficult. If this sounds like you, try and calm your mind first with our method, which is listed at the bottom of this page. It can help you de-stress, and your mind will feel much lighter afterward.
4. Accept yourself for who you are
One of the simplest and most powerful ways to relieve stress is to accept yourself. It is okay to feel stress. Acknowledging our feelings and our situations will help us realize that how we respond can reduce the stress level we feel. We need to do our part and be active about making things better, but self-acceptance will go a long way.
This was a big challenge for me in my life. I struggled to accept myself for who I am, and I felt like I was never enough. I would blame myself for any problems, for not working harder, and I used to put so much pressure on myself. But then looking back, I realized there were many things that I accomplished in my life that I didn’t give myself enough credit for. Obviously I wasn’t taking good care of my mind.
That was when the breakthrough came for me, and it lifted up my mind. I’m doing okay. I don’t have to be perfect! It made me feel a lot lighter thinking this way. Acknowledging oneself can have such a great power.
Are there any mental blocks in you that are preventing you from accepting yourself?
Another important thing is to not compare yourself with others. I know we all do, and I do too. The proverb “Grass is greener on the other side” describes it so well. When we compare ourselves with others, we feel like others have more than we do, and we feel worse. It doesn’t help us feel better about ourselves. So again, let’s come back to the point we made earlier – accept ourselves for who we are. It is too easy to look into ourselves and see what we don’t have and what we are not doing, but instead let’s focus on appreciating what we actually have and what we are doing.
Are you not satisfied with where you are and want to improve yourself, but you’re not sure how? That is what we help others with. Please check out our Self-Care Programs below, which have helped hundreds of people discover themselves and find what they want to do.
5. Connect with yourself
Pause for a moment and connect with yourself.
Too often, we are busy paying attention to others and what goes on around us, and not enough attention is given to our inner mind. Focusing outward excessively can cause stress. Why? Because when our attention is turned outward, it is facing the opposite direction of our inner selves, which is a source of peace and wisdom. When your inner voice is heard, it helps rebalance your mind. Is there anything your heart is trying to tell you? Have some quiet time and focus inward to try and listen to what your heart wants to tell you.
One thing that makes it difficult, though, is that there are no defined steps as to how to connect with your inner self. Zen meditation describes this process as “sit still, think nothing.” It is because this is a process unique to each one of us, as our personality and our characteristics are so unique and different in our own way. We need to practice and experience it in order to truly understand.
I like to use the example of how to ride a bicycle to someone who has never rode one before or explain about what the ocean looks like to someone who has never seen it before. It is a challenge to make the person fully understand just by words. There are certain things in life that words cannot fully explain to gain true understanding. We actually need to experience them. Finding how to connect with your inner self works just like that.
If you want to find out if there is any easy way of doing this, our music can help you. The music has been specially edited to help clear distractions from our thoughts and connect with your inner self. We have free trials available on our website, so please feel free to try them. All you need is 10 minutes of your time, and you will feel refreshed! The key is to use your imagination. When you feel aligned with your inner-self, your mind will feel calm and peaceful.
6. Take a deep breath and exercise
Anxiety can affect our body functions as well. It can cause shortness of breath or faster breathing. When this happens, do some breathing exercises to relax your body. Take a deep breath - inhale deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat this a few times.
Stress can also cause muscle tensions and cause stiffness in our neck, shoulder, or upper body. Did you know there are many gentle exercises that work to reduce stress and detox our body? Try this new exercise from Japan called the Hawaiian Pareo Exercise. It is designed to refresh mind and body while detoxing your body so your body feels so much lighter afterward. It is created with a unique combination of self-love, Oriental medicine and Hawaiian spirit.
7. Do something you love or something that makes you happy.
Lastly, give yourself a treat and do something that makes you truly happy. Do something you really love. I’m not saying spend all your time doing it, but just spending 30 minutes or 1 hour a week doing what you love will help you feel happier. The other day, I went out cycling for an hour for the first time in years! I’ve loved to bike since I was little, and I’ve always wanted to do it, but I just didn’t make the time for it. I’m so glad I did. It replenished my energy and really allowed me to concentrate on my work even more. So don’t feel guilty for doing something you love; your mind will love you and appreciate you. It will brighten your day, I promise!
Let’s take a control over stress. Don’t let stress take over you.
Do you want to check your stress level first?
Take our quick stress test, and check which self-care exercise works for you.
My name is Yumi, and I am a certified Self-Care trainer from Japan. I got trained and certified in Japan in 2013 to guide others find their potentials, relax and connect with their inner-selves with our unique programs. For any questions, please contact us here!