We live in a busy culture, where success is often measured by how busy we are, how much we hustle, how many things we can multi-task, how much we work and so forth. Then, add to all this busyness the pings and dings of email, mobile phone and social media. It is no wonder for many of us we are stressed, overwhelmed, tired and distracted.
Time has become a resource that many of us don't have enough of. As we race around our day trying to catch up or keep on top of everything, we tend to breathe fast or irregular, get stressed and get overwhelmed. It is only natural that this leads to some form of stress, anxiety, and difficulties focusing.
If we get in the habit of checking in with ourselves and acknowledging our stress and busyness, we can then take a moment to pause, breathe and become present. And doing this is a great brain training tool and a wonderful way to centre, ground, and relax.
Creating your own 5-10 minute relaxation ritual where you check in with yourself and do a short and simple relaxation technique will give you something to draw on when you feel stress and overwhelm clouding in.
By using therapeutic grounding and relaxation tools, we can distract our mind and thoughts by bringing our attention to another focal point. In turn, this helps too calm both the mind and emotions - allowing us to regain clarity and a healthier and positive perspective on what's going on for us.
Implementing your own 5-10 minute relax ritual will help you accept when things aren't perfect, and it will give you a different metric for success (one that supports joy rather than perfection.
Take some time to explore the 25 relaxation techniques and find ones that resonate with you so that you have several options to add to your relaxation ritual.
Here are 25 ways to destress and manage overwhelm:
1. Pause, Process + Release
How we feel daily comes in ebbs and flows, and that is entirely normal. But all too often, when we are not feeling great or are not on our A-game, we panic, beat ourselves up, and ultimately drive up our stress levels, which only make things worse. But instead of panicking, we need to be more accepting. Acknowledge that we are not on our A-game today. Then pause, breathe and become present. We need to be ok with not being our best on the day.
Accepting how you feel will reduce its emotional impact on you, resulting in less stress, overwhelm, fatigue, and anxiety. Make it a daily ritual to check in with yourself, process the emotions, breathe through them and then just let them go.
Ready to give it a try? Join me for a meditation where we release worries, get a fresh perspective and feel calmer and more joyful in just 10 minutes.
2. Practice Deep Breathing
When you are stressed or anxious, you will notice that your breath becomes shallow and irregular, and your chest feels tight. Deep breathing means breathing deeply into the bottom of your lungs before slowly breathing all the air out again. This will allow your chest to loosen and your whole body to relax.
Deep breathing is great for creating softness within the body and is a great tool to reduce physical pain within the body.
Try the following exercise:
- Place your hands, with your fingers softly linked together, just below your ribs.
- Inhaling through the nose, breathe deeply into the bottom of your lungs for a count of 4. Your belly should rise, and your fingers should gently separate a little as you breathe in (it can help if you visualise filling up a balloon in your belly)
- Hold the breath for a count of 7
- Exhaling out through the mouth make a "whoosh" sound. Breathe out entirely for a count of 8.
- Repeat this breathing pattern 3-5 times.
3. Do A Grounding Exercise
Grounding is a strategy that can help settle your stress, anxiety and overwhelm.
Grounding exercises help you detach from your thoughts and emotions to regain control over how you feel. It is a strategy that helps anchor you to the present moment by encouraging you to focus on the outside world rather than what's going on inside your mind. You can do grounding exercises at any time, any place, anywhere, and no one has to know.
Basic Grounding Technique
To pull yourself away from your busy, overwhelmed mind and ground yourself into your body, simply breathe, then:
+ Name and look at five things you can see
+ Name and touch five things near you
+ Name and listen to 5 things around you
+ Name and smell five things around you
4. Do A Brain Game
Take a five or ten-minute break to do something that switches gears in your brain and disrupts your current mode of thinking. This mini-brain switch will refocus you and bring your mind back to feeling more balanced. Do Sudoku or a crossword puzzle.
5. Try 5-Minutes of Mindfulness
In this busy world of ours, the mind is constantly pulled from pillar to post, scattering our thoughts and emotions and leaving us feeling stressed, highly-strung and at times quite anxious.
If you feel stressed, overwhelmed or unsettled, even short periods of meditation can seem overwhelming at first. Also, most of us don't have five minutes to sit down and relax, let alone 30 minutes or more for a meditation session.
However, bringing mindfulness to everyday activities such as drinking a cup of tea, cleaning your teeth, or going for a walk is a gentle way to begin. It's also a great tool to help start and develop your practice.
For optimal well-being, you need to take a few moments each day to cultivate mental space and create a positive mind-body balance.
Mindful exercises only take a few minutes and help to empty your mind so that you can find some much-needed calm amidst the busyness of your hectic day.
Two mindful exercise to try:
This exercise is simple but incredibly powerful because it helps you notice and appreciate seemingly simple elements of your environment more profoundly.
The exercise is designed to connect you with the beauty of the natural environment, something that is easily missed when we are rushing about our daily lives trying to complete that never-ending to-do list or hopping on and off trains on the way to work.
Choose a natural object from within your immediate environment and focus on watching it for a minute or two. This could be a flower or an insect, or even the clouds or the moon.
Don't do anything except notice the thing you are looking at. Simply relax into watching for as long as your concentration allows.
Look at this object as if you are seeing it for the first time. Visually explore every aspect of its formation, and allow yourself to be consumed by its presence.
Allow yourself to connect with its energy and its purpose within the natural world.
This exercise intends to cultivate contentment at the moment and escape the endless chase and persistent striving we find ourselves caught up in daily.
Rather than anxiously wanting to finish an everyday routine task to get on with doing something else, take that mundane task and fully experience it like never before.
For example: if you are cleaning your house, pay attention to every detail of the activity. Rather than treat this as a regular chore, create an entirely new experience by noticing every aspect of your actions.
Feel and become the motion when sweeping the floor or sense the muscles you use when scrubbing the dishes.
The idea is to get creative and discover new experiences within a familiar routine task.
Instead of labouring through and constantly thinking about finishing the task, become aware of every step and fully immerse yourself in the process.
Take the activity beyond a routine by aligning yourself with it physically, mentally and spiritually. Who knows, you might even enjoy the cleaning for once!
6. Meditate For 10-15 Minutes
Meditation works wonders, and as little as 5 minutes of meditation can calm the nerves and clear the mind. When used as a regular practice, meditation can have long-term stress management benefits. There are several ways to meditate, and you must find one that appeals to you.
Guided Meditation: This is the most popular. You simply just play a guided meditation and listen to the prompts. You can find all our free guided meditations here >>>
Mantra: Repeating a positive mantra in your mind or out loud as you take slow deep breaths.
Walking Meditation: Take a walk and use your five senses to notice everything around you. Immerse yourself in the moment and in what is in front/around you.
When you're focused on the here-and-now, you won't be able to rehash past mistakes or worry about the future. Meditation and mindfulness take practice, but it becomes much easier to make it a regular habit when implemented slowly. Start with just 3 minutes a day and gradually work up.
7. Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation involves squeezing and then relaxing all the muscles in your body, group by group. You can do this at your desk, on your commute to work or while you are cooking dinner.
Start with a few deep breaths. Then, practice tightening and relaxing each muscle group, starting with your forehead and moving down to your toes.
The more you do this tremendous stress-reducing exercise, the more you will recognise where you are holding onto tightness and tension in the body.
8. Escape The Stress With A Journey
To calm the mind and relax the body take your senses on a journey to a destination you find beautiful - it may be an island paradise, rainforest retreat, a babbling creekside resort or some breathtaking mountain vistas.
Maybe you will take yourself to one of your favourite cities, your favourite French bakery, a country you want to visit one day or to a magical make-believe land you have created with your imagination.
An example of how you would experience the visualisation is:
Beach Retreat Example
+ Visualise yourself lying on a white sandy beach, complete with clear blue skies and gently lapping waves.
+ Imagine your body sinking into the chair and feeling the warmth of the sand on your feet.
+ Allow yourself to smell the salt air and water, maybe the sunscreen and other smells that remind you of the beach
+ Listen to the waves, the birds and surrounding noises
+ Let go of any tension, soften your eyes, and continue to breathe with the rhythm of the rolling waves.
+ Just sit, breathe and be - completely absorbing the beauty and relaxation of the natural beach
9. Colour Yourself Calm
Think spending hours colouring is only a childhood pastime? Think again!
The adult colouring book trend has spread globally, and many think it is as effective as meditation, for it slows the thoughts and quietens the mind.
The slow and mindful act of colouring helps calm the fear centre of your brain, the amygdala. It induces the same state as meditating by reducing the thoughts of a restless mind. This generates mindfulness and quietness, which allows your mind to get some rest after a long day spent amongst the chaos of modern life.
Colouring is a great tool to use to induce sleep. Using it as a nightly wind-down ritual will stop you from engaging with electronics at night, reducing your exposure to blue light, which also lowers your sleep hormone levels, melatonin. Colouring is a relaxing and electronic-free relaxation ritual.
Grab your pencils, choose your design and start to colour. Download our free colouring-in book here >>>
10. Take Five For A Restorative Eye Pillow Ritual
Come back to your state of calm with a restorative eye pillow ritual where the relaxing scent of lavender and the soothing weight of linseed will help you release tension and let go of your worries so that you can unwind and relax.
Heat the eye-pillow in the microwave with a cup of water for approximately 45 seconds. Alternatively, cool your pillow in the freezer, depending on your desired sensation.
For an even deeper relaxing experience before applying the pillow, wash your face with lukewarm water. Follow with misting your face, neck and shoulders with your favourite aromatherapy body mist blend. Lay down or sit back in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, apply the pillow, gently breathe in, relax, and let any tension you are holding slowly melt into the ground below you. Surrender, allow and just be in this moment - remembering it is only this moment that counts.
If you wish to deepen your relaxation, accompany this ritual with one of our mindfulness recordings on the free Om Collective Podcast here.
*** Try our hand-made lavender eye-pillows over at Botanical Trader with one of our all-natural aromatherapy body mists
11. Do A Compassion Challenge
Shift your current perspective by doing a compassion exercise which will trigger the happy hormones and give you a boost of happiness. Several examples of these are: -
- Forgive someone today — after all; you don't need that extra baggage weighing you down.
- Think about how you would comfort a friend in your situation. What would you say? Do you have any words of wisdom to pass on?
- Let someone know that you appreciate them by sending them flowers, buying them lunch or just sending an "I am thinking of you" text.
- Think about something you have done or a specific quality you respect about yourself. Then compliment yourself.
12. Relax With Aromatherapy
Essential oils are great stress reducers, plus they will bring you back into the present moment.
Emerging research has shown that certain essential oils [some include lavender, rosemary, bergamot, peppermint] can alter brain wave activity and decrease stress hormones in the body.
Some great essential oils for stress and relaxation include lavender, bergamot, orange, clary sage, So whether you enjoy candles, diffusers, or body products, consider incorporating some aromatherapy into your day.
Try our Aromatherapy Range to help you de-stress
13. Spread Good Vibes
In a world saturated with selfies, narcissism, and "look at me" mentalities, rise above the crowd and actively choose to switch from a "me" mentality to a "we" mentality. Think about what you can do for others and how you can leave an honest and sincere positive impact on something outside of yourself.
The truth is: you can't be worried about your problems when you're thinking about someone else. No matter how we feel, we always have the power to make someone else feel better. For ten minutes, practice taking the attention off your worries and think about how you can be kind to someone or something.
Some ideas are:
- Be kind to a stranger. Pay for the coffee of the person standing behind you in line at the local cafe.
- Leave a random note/quote in a library book or cafe menu.
- Be generous. Take a moment to give something to someone in need, whether it is your time or resources. For an extra happy boost, give away something a little challenging to give up, e.g. donate your favourite jacket to a thrift shop, donate your wages for the week, give more than you are comfortable giving.
- Do a good deed or donate anonymously. Why anonymously? Well, for no other reason than it feels better to give just to give.
14. Pause, Write and Release
Grab a pen and paper, and just start writing whatever comes to your mind. Let it flow without overthinking it or trying to control it. You will un-clutter your mind and release any thoughts or feelings you're experiencing by writing whatever comes up for you.
Journaling activates the part of your brain which helps calm the emotions and gain more clarity. Once you have finished writing, you may choose to rip the paper up and release the emotion.
Need some prompting to get the pen moving? Here are some journal prompts:
- How do you feel, and why do you feel this way?
- What's been going on? How has your day been so far?
- Some negative emotion releasing prompts are: What are you stressed about? What happened to make you angry?
Keen to learn more about journaling? Then go to our free the power of journaling resource which includes a free 28 page journal prompt/intention setting/nightly wind-down section.
15. Reframe With Gratitude
Much of the stress, anxiety, depression and negative emotions we feel arise from feeling a sense of lack or not enough, whether that be time, money, love, respect, success, ability, and so forth.
Redirect your negative emotions and stress by focusing on what you do have. When we focus on what we do have and what is going right in our life - we suddenly feel like we have enough. Get your happy hormones flowing by writing a gratitude list. Take some time to stop, breathe and focus on the positives, as it's easy to forget the good things in our lives (especially when we're stressed or anxious).
16. Get a Hug
Hugs are great for stress relief. Whether they are from friends, family, loved ones, kind strangers or your pet.
When you hug someone, oxytocin (also known as the "cuddle hormone") is released. Oxytocin is one of the main hormones responsible for making you feel happy whilst combating stress.
Oxytocin also causes a reduction in blood pressure by reducing the stress hormone norepinephrine, which then results in a feeling of relaxation and a deeper state of calm.
Hugs are stress busters. So don't be afraid to ask a loved one for a hug if you need it. It's good for both of you. Spread hugs and make the world a happier and kinder place.
17. Connect With Nature
For thousands of years, people have been going into nature to seek a connection with something greater than themselves…
Nature is a therapeutic healing tool. It energises, re-inspires and rejuvenates us. It is good for our mind-body wellness. Great for mental well-being. And a great destress tool.
Connecting with nature is learning how to slow down and be truly present with the natural world. Most of us live our lives busy and a little distracted; as we are racing around life ticking off our to-do lists, we forget to see and appreciate the small wonders in life, for example, the birds, plants, trees and natural settings.
If your mind is cluttered with thoughts about the past or future, or you feel stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, then you won't be able to experience nature even if it's right in front of you.
Next time you are stressed, take 5-10 minutes to go outside and connect with nature. You don't need to be in a pristine wilderness to do this. So long as there is a tree and a few plants. Or even just the sky or grass/earth below you is enough. Bring your attention to your breath, and as you do this, go through your five senses. What can you see? What can you hear? What can you smell? What are the textures like of what you can touch? Can you taste anything in the air?
By focusing on your breath and your five senses, you will become present, and everything around you will feel more vibrant, colourful and so forth. You will become present.
18. Eat More Whole Foods
If we are not feeding our brains with nutritiously dense foods, our brains won't function optimally, and we become much more intolerable and reactive to stress. This is a vicious cycle because to deal with the stress, we often reach for high-fat, high-sugar foods, which can provide a temporary sense of relief - but of course, all this then adds fuel to the fire when it comes to managing our long-term stress.
Consuming a healthy diet filled with nutritious whole foods will help you manage stress over the long haul. Foods like free-range eggs, avocado, and brazil nuts support mood regulation and energy balance.
19. Make Time for Fun
Having fun in your day is a wonderful way to combat stress. As adults, too many of us take life way too seriously, resulting in feeling as though our lives are too busy for hobbies, games, or extra fun.
But prioritising fun in your daily schedule is fundamental in helping you feel your best. And when you feel better, you'll perform better.
Whether you find joy in caring and nurturing for a garden or you love making quilts, fun and creative time is key to your overall health and well-being.
20. Develop a Positive Self-Talk Habit
The way you talk to yourself matters. Harsh self-criticism, endless worry, self-doubt, and catastrophic predictions aren't helpful. If you're constantly thinking things like, "I don't have time for this," and "I can't stand this," you'll stress yourself out. We are our own worse critics, and our harsh judgment of ourselves often causes us to spiral out of control into a big fiery stress ball.
Yes, we all have negative traits that we don't like and wish where different. But we all have more positive than negative traits. So focus on your positive characteristics and give yourself a well-deserved break from the harsh critic within.
So what if things go wrong or you stuff something up. You will learn and do better next time. And there's no point stressing over bad outcomes because no amount of stress and worry will stop a negative outcome that is destined to be a negative outcome no matter what. So you may as well do your best to enjoy the journey and then pick up the rubble once it hits.
Awareness is key to catching the voice of the harsh critic within. It takes practice. So next time your mean girl or mean man speaks to you - simply pull them up and replace the dialogue with something more realistic, compassionate and kinder.
21. Practice Yoga
Yoga combines physical movement, meditation, mindfulness, positivity and controlled breathing—all of which remedy stress relief.
And while you're likely to reap immediate benefits from a single yoga session, you're likely to receive long-term benefits if you incorporate it into your life in a consistent way.
Yoga offers a variety of physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits.
22. Reassess Your To-Do Lists
If you're trying to squeeze 20 hours worth of work into 12 hours, you're going to feel stressed. Having too much on your plate only causes stress and overwhelm. Take some time to reassess what is important and then drop the rest. Reducing your workload and releasing the high expectations you have on yourself is key to helping you get through the day happier, calmer and overall just feeling better.
Whether that means stepping away from a volunteer committee you joined, or it involves hiring someone to complete some of your household chores for you,
Life always throws us curveballs and the unexpected, so when your cup is already over-filled, these unexpected events are enough to send you into a spiralling, stressed-out hot mess.
Learning how to manage your time and focus on what truly matters is what will keep you sane. When you can complete everything on your "to-do" list without overwhelm, anxiety and the stress of rushing or forgetting, your whole life feels more manageable.
23. Master Your Time
You are the artist of your own time. We all have 24 hours in a day. But for most of us, we do not use it wisely, leading to stress, overwhelm, anxiety, fatigue, burnout, and even worse, serious health issues.
Take some time to take stock of your life and reassess what is important and what you value. Then make a list of all of these things. I recommend having lists for your:
- Dreams [everything you want to create and experience in this lifetime]
- Goals [what you are going to focus on for the next 3-6 months]
- Tasks [the things you need to do daily, e.g. cook dinner, house-clean, go to work, garden, work on goals, fun time]
Now grab your calendar. Working down from what is most important, schedule everything in. Schedule your most important tasks first, and then that way, you can see exactly how many hours of the day you have left. Assign every single hour of the day to something, even if it is just "downtime". Stick to this schedule, and you will find you go about your day much more focused and productive and way less stressed. It may take several attempts to find a schedule that works, but play with it; you will know you have found the right formula when your daily life turns into more ease and joy.
24. Obtain Social Support
Having supportive people in your life is key to stress management and overall well-being. If you lack emotional support and friendship, it's essential to seek ways to make new connections.
Think about your hobbies and what you love to do. Maybe you could join a monthly meet-up for gardening, hiking or cycling. Do you love to read? Great, then join the local book club. Whether it is knitting, cats or motorcycles - there is a social circle for almost everything. And if there is no group or social circle - create one.
And when times get tough, and you need to talk, seek out a therapist to confide in. You may go through a few therapists before you find the right one - but there will be someone who is a good match. With zoom and the internet, you have an entire world of therapists at your fingertips.
Also, pets can bring you emotional support, and they do an excellent job filling any gaps where your life may be missing this kind of support.
25. Drop The Things That Trigger Stress
Sometimes, the best way to reduce your stress is to cut something out of your life. Take some time to re-access your life and work out what gets you stressed. Look for your stress triggers and then work at ways of either reducing them or removing them entirely so that you can experience more calm in your day.
It might be a particular toxic person or relationship in your life that you need to re-evaluate. Maybe you need a new job. Also, scrolling social media, checking your mobile phone every 10 minutes, watching the news, being constantly connected to email, drinking alcohol, and consuming too much sugar and caffeine are just a few of the things that may add more stress to your life. Making some simple changes to your daily habits can have a lasting effect on your health and well-being.
Conclusion: A Word From The OM Collective
Finding the best stress relief strategies that work for you and that you enjoy may take some time and experimenting. Some strategies may take practice, too - so don't give up too early.
Implementing stress-reducing strategies is not a quick fix. You can't just do them when you feel like it. Like anything in life, learning how to manage stress proactively takes time - some would even say it takes a lifetime to master. But it's important to keep looking for new stress-reducing tools to add to your stress and relaxation ritual. The more you practice these tools, the more resilient you will become to stress and life's inevitable ups and downs. Learning how to manage stress is crucial for your health, happiness and overall well-being.