Lifehacks to Help You Reset After a Tough Day and Turn Into Habits for a Healthier Life
There is no shortage of sources of stress in today’s busy culture. From office deadlines to daycare pick ups and negative news cycles, we all feel the impact. Some days it is overwhelming. It can be difficult to get out of these negative cycles and we can all feel stuck.
If you develop a set of tools or hacks that help you get back to a steadier, calmer state and use them on a regular basis, they will become the habits you use for the rest of your life.
Control Your Breathing
When we are under stress our autonomic nervous system is activated. Our heart beats faster, we may sweat, breathing turns rapid and irregular. This primitive response serves us well when we need to get out of the path of an oncoming car, but it depletes us when it operates at chronic low levels. The simplest thing you can do to disrupt this process is to take deep breaths. Inhale slowly and deeply and hold before you exhale. Stop to do this several times until you feel calmer and then return to your normal breathing. A recommended breathing technique is 4 counts in, 4 counts holding the breath, and 4 counts on the exhale. This practice will allow your parasympathetic nervous system to lower your heart rate, regulate your blood pressure and digestion. Do this one every day!
Create a Positive Mantra
Find a short phrase you can repeat that helps you acknowledge and accept how you are feeling and affirm something positive you know about yourself or an intention you have in mind. One example might be “It’s ok that I am feeling upset today, tomorrow it will be different” or “I am safe and all will be well.” Mantras can also be incorporated into your breathing practice, much like repeating a prayer which can serve to ground us in the present moment.
Keep a Journal or Start Writing
We know that taking a pen to paper and writing down your feelings can help with both short and long term mental and physical health. Expressive writing (writing about feelings and upsetting events or trauma) can result in improvements in both psychological and physical health. Writing involves using the creative parts of your brain and helps you reset to a more positive state when negative emotions or thoughts are expressed in writing.
We all know exercise helps release negative emotions and the byproducts of stress, but especially on those tough days it is just too difficult to get to the gym or squeeze in that yoga class. While establishing some type of regular exercise habit is essential for overall health and longevity, try not to get bogged down when you cannot get to it. You can almost always walk, take flights of stairs, park your car at the end of the parking lot or grab a 10-15 minute workout video. Try to make exercise part of your day in small ways. Remember these short bursts and habits add up over the course of a year.
Get out in Nature… aka Forest Bathing ( Shinrin-yoku)
There is more and more research on the health benefits of spending time around trees and in nature. A study done in 2018 in Behavioral Sciences found nature had significant effect on easing anxiety and promoting greater health and well being. The Japanese have been using it for many years. Shinrin-yoku means spending time in the forest and taking in your surroundings with all your senses.
Simply looking at greenery or trees can improve mood and reduce stress when you are stuck indoors. We know that trees emit phytoncides to protect themselves from diseases and insects. When we inhale the phytoncides it triggers our white blood cells that improve immune function. Spending regular time in nature in the woods or a park can boost both mood and immunity and is rapidly becoming a widely accepted alternative health therapy.
Written by Shelly Poore, MSW, LICSW