Feeling burned out? Here are some unexpected ways to knock out stress.
I’m a big fan of science. I love to read about all the “whys” behind how everything works. But there are times when things just work and science hasn’t quite been able to explain all the hows and whys yet. Or, as with things like how wine affects our health, they may know part of why it helps us, but then there are certain elements that just aren’t quantifiable yet.
These are a few of my favorites:
1. Grounding: Also sometimes referred to as “earthing” it simply means the act of walking barefoot on the ground, or laying on the ground. When was the last time you laid on the ground and looked up at the sky? It’s sort of funny that there’s even a word for this. Proponents of grounding as an actual therapy claim that its benefits stem from reflexology or possibly electromagnetic waves, but as yet have not made any concrete links to either. Kids know it feels great; as adults we get too busy and forget this sort of thing. Take some barefoot in the grass time or lay down and look at the clouds for five minutes—you’ll feel better.
2. Getting upside down. You know…doing a handstand or headstand. Inverting, or using an inversion table if doing it on your own seems too daunting. Now, this one actually has more science behind it. Inversions take some pressure off your spine, help regulate the pituitary and pineal glads and helps trigger the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system. But besides that, it just helps quiet the mind down and give you a new perspective. When I’ve been at the computer too long or feel stuck, one of my favorite ways to decompress is to get a little upside down time in. And lest you think you can’t enjoy this one unless you are a yogi or acrobat, you can get many of the benefits of inversion without the fancy balancing. Simply sitting with your legs up against the wall will get you many of the same restorative benefits.
3. Spending time by the water. Whether the ocean, a lake or a river, spending time by the water has a calming effect that’s nearly unparalleled. Where the ocean is concerned, some of the appeal is the rhythmic sound of the waves. Neuroscientists believe that perhaps the calming effect is due to the meditative quality it evokes, but whatever the reason, it can be profoundly soothing.
4. Talking with a friend. Now, most people don’t need to be told that having a conversation with a friend will make you feel better, but more and more we tend to do this via text message or online chat. It’s convenient. It helps us stay connected even when we are busy or far away from each other. But voice to voice (and even better—face to face) conversation engages us in a way that text alone cannot. In fact, when we are face to face with each other, we have a better chance of truly giving and receiving empathy, as taking in each other’s non-verbal and voice cues will engage our mirror neurons.
5. Writing it all out. Journalling is a habit encouraged by many types of therapists. Whether you are actively looking to sharpen your writing skills or just to record the events of the day, leaving it all on paper and being able to put it away can be a big stress relief. For venting particularly stressful or upsetting things, some people will take it a step further and rip up or burn what they’ve written to symbolically rid themselves of those feelings. Whichever method you choose, writing out your thoughts is definitely better than staying in default mode and running them over and over in your mind.
6. Eating a banana. While they are on the sweetest end of the fruit spectrum (and avoided by many because of this) bananas are a great mood booster. Science tells us that bananas boost our mood because of their powerhouse combination of vitamins B6, A, and C; fiber; tryptophan; potassium; phosphorous; iron; protein; and healthy carbohydrates. Beyond that, the combination of vitamin B6 and tryptophan enables the body to convert the tryptophan more easily to serotonin, which is a major mood regulator. For a great healthy alternative to dessert that can help you de-stress before bed, try this:
1 frozen banana (sliced)
1 Tablespoon of nut butter
1 1/2 cups of skim milk or non-dairy milk
Blend and drink!
7. Sleeping naked. So after you have your de-stressing, pre-bedtime banana, skip the pajamas. Not only does sleeping naked just feel better, it can actually help you have higher quality sleep.When people sleep naked, they are less likely to get overheated, which in turn will allow for deeper sleep and greater rejuvenation of the adrenal glands. When there are factors in your bed or bedroom that interfere with deep sleep (such as extra light, irritating bedding or, yes, clothing) your body can have a hard time making sufficient melatonin to stay asleep or sleep as deeply as you need to feel restored.
So, maybe someday science will explain more fully why the wind in our hair feels so amazing, or why eating a still warm from the vine strawberry is about the best thing on earth. In the meanwhile, enjoy some barefoot time in the grass and relax!
Photo credit: Flickr / NeilsPhotography