Here at Maxine’s Heavenly we’re often talking about how to make healthier choices when it comes to what we put in our bodies. But we also know that our health depends on a whole lot more than what we eat. Feeling good requires a commitment to taking care of our bodies, hearts, and minds. Getting healthy is a holistic journey, and there are sure to be bumps along the way. One of the most common and frustrating bumps we all experience at one time or another is stress.
Stress can take a serious toll on our mental and physical well-being. Continual stress can lead to a variety of health conditions including unwanted weight fluctuation, digestive problems, hair loss, and depression — and in extreme cases, even heart disease and strokes.
There are a million things, both large and small, that cause our bodies to go into stress mode: daily inconveniences, pressure at work, our own illness or the illness of a loved-one, relationship frustrations, financial problems, etc. All of these circumstances can understandably lead to anxiety in our lives, and many of these things are unavoidable. So rather than try to fight the inevitable, we can learn to manage the strain by dedicating ourselves to healthy rituals.
Let’s explore some simple things we can do to de-stress at the end of a long day:
Phone calls. Texts. Emails. Social Media. Everywhere we turn we are bombarded with communication and the pressure to respond. Why not give yourself a “technology curfew?” You don’t need to be available to everyone all the time.
Turn off your cell phone and shut down your laptop at least an hour before you go to sleep. Instead of scrolling through Instagram in bed, try reading a book. Let your brain decompress. How can you wind down if everything you’re looking at is designed to wire you up? Yes, our gadgets have become necessary in our lives, but as you prepare your body for sleep, allow yourself to disconnect.
Take a bath
Go on, take a good, long soak in a warm tub — away from your phone, away from the news, and yes, away from other people! By gifting yourself this time alone to close your eyes and truly relax, you are giving your muscles and your mind space to rest and reset. The hot water can help heal any aches and pains, and 15 minutes in the tub can even lower blood pressure.
For an added benefit, try adding Epsom salt to the water. The magnesium in the salt will be absorbed by your muscles and lead to deeper relaxation. And hey, why not dim the lights and get out some candles? Create a soothing space just for yourself. The great thing about a bath is that once you’re in it, there’s really nothing else you can do. You have forced yourself to slow down and mellow out. Go on, get selfish.
Take a walk
Nothing crazy, just a 15 minute walk around the neighborhood in the evening. Exercise has been proven time and time again to lead to elevated moods, calmness, and more consistent energy. But you don’t need to be a gym bunny to commit to a spirit-lifting evening stroll after dinner.
Take in the sights and smells, notice the squirrels and the flowers — or perhaps the pigeons and the skyscrapers! No matter where you live, you can turn a short walk into a reflective experience that will be centering and reviving. An added plus? A walk after dinner helps in digestion and improves blood circulation. So clear your head as endorphins are released and stress melts away. You’re destined to have a more restful sleep.
Have a cookie!
No seriously, have a cookie. When we mindfully treat ourselves, we are not only rewarding ourselves for being awesome, we are reconnecting with our senses, which relieves tension by keeping us in the present moment.
Rather than wolfing down the whole bag, really take the time to enjoy one (…or two) with a calming mug of peppermint or chamomile tea. The pleasure of relishing a treat — the textures, the flavors, the aromas — allows us to focus on gratitude and peace. So sit back, relax, and savour. Enjoying a cookie can be a meditative act. Isn’t that the best news ever?
In order to reduce stress in the big picture of our lives we need to foster good relationships, strive for open and honest communication, and prioritize our tasks. But every day is a chance to seek serenity. So treat yourself kindly. When you commit to small ways to de-stress at the end of the day, you will undoubtedly feel your brain and body saying “thank you” in the morning.