by NCNOCO Staff Therapist
10 Small Things
Do you ever feel like you wake up in the morning and begin the process of giving of yourself throughout the day only to return home feeling emotionally drained? Whether you are caring for loved ones, attending to the needs of others in your work, or pressing to meet deadlines on the next project, you are likely experiencing stress in your daily routine. We all have an emotional tank, and when we are stressed or anxious or busy it gets depleted. Even if you sleep well at night and wake up in the morning with a fresh attitude, most of the events throughout your day chip away at your emotional tank. Here are 10 small things you can do to keep your tank filled so that you can preserve some of your positive energy for yourself and your loved ones. We want to have something left at the end of the day for the people we care most about.
Breathe: Breathe in and out slowly and deeply, concentrating on your lungs as they expand fully in your chest. While shallow breathing causes stress, deep breathing oxygenates your blood, helps center your body, and clears your mind.
Exercise: (even for a minute) A short walk around the office or simply standing up to stretch during a break at work can offer immediate relief in a stressful situation. Getting your blood moving releases endorphins and can improve your mood almost instantaneously.
Listen to Music: In the car on the way to the next thing, turn on a favorite song and engage with it. Don’t just have it playing in the background, turn it up, pay attention to the notes or the lyrics, sing along and allow the music to move you. Doing this can shift your attention away from stress and lift your mood. Alternately, playing calm music has a positive effect on the brain and body, can lower blood pressure, and reduce cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.
Call a friend or family member: Someone you know that wouldn’t mind a quick chat and who you know always boosts you up and cheers you on. That person may be able to give you the perspective you need or just make you laugh. A reassuring voice, even for a minute, can put everything in perspective.
Laugh: Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Laughing tricks your nervous system into making you happy. Watch a funny you tube video or bust out your favorite old comedy to watch after work.
Eat Right: Processed foods make our bodies work harder to digest and don’t offer us the good stuff that whole, healthy foods naturally have. Stress levels and a proper diet are closely related.
Mindfulness: This means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Get outside: Researchers are gathering a body of evidence, proving what we all know to be true: nature is good for us and has both long and short term mental and physical health benefits. Go for a hike or go walk by a body of water if you can. Even getting out of your office on your 15 minute break will do wonders for your mental state.
Have a warm comforting drink: During your morning coffee, take 2 minutes to sit and savor the smell, taste and warmth it brings you. Slowing down to enjoy the little things is a simple way to give back to yourself. Don’t drink coffee? Try green tea. It has less than half the caffeine of coffee and contains healthy antioxidants, as well as theanine, an amino acid that has a calming and soothing effect on the nervous system.
Look at something that makes you smile: Keep a photo handy (in your pocket or on your phone) and look at it when you are waiting at the elevator or between meetings. Does a picture of your baby, dog, or significant other make you smile? Did you know that just looking at a picture of a loved one can help reduce pain? Looking at a picture of someone or something can make you smile, which in turn triggers neurotransmitters to fire. Smiles can raise your serotonin and dopamine levels, which are associated with calmness and happiness.
That’s it! 10 small things! Remember that you have some very simple tools within reach to combat the daily stress that often drains us. Start by choosing a few of these things to incorporate into your day and watch how your emotional tank still has some juice left in it when your day is done.