I’m one of those people that can’t sit still. Call it anxiety, call it ADHD, call it annoying - but don’t be surprised when I get up to do 5 different things during the Game of Thrones finale (once again, I'M SORRY).
So I thought it would be interesting to look for ways to reduce anxiety and stress. I found 6 self care activities that not only help anxiety, but deal with depression, ADHD, PTSD and so much more. So, this one goes out to my people - those who only relax when they fall under something heavy or they're laid out flat from the flu, and to anyone else in need of a lift. Here are a few great ways to self care.
6 Self Care Activites
When we are anxious or stressed, the amygdala (the fear center of the brain) lights up like a pinball machine. Going outside calms that activity, lowering levels of stress hormones like cortisol and fighting off anxiety. Our bodies desire to connect with nature and reward us when we do by boosting feelings of joy and contentedness. Maybe outside your door trees don’t connect in the sky, creating an emerald arch like the one below; but fresh air, even in a city will refresh you - body and soul.
Work it Out
Exercise helps us fit into skinny jeans, show off trim physiques, and enjoy better sex lives; but those aren’t the reasons most sweat aficionados give for working out. Regular exercisers do it because it makes them feel good.
Exercise has powerful effects on mental health. A study from Harvard revealed that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for 1 hour a day reduced the risk of major depression by 26%. Exercise changes brain activity patterns to more effectively promote feelings of well-being. Add the release of those feel good brain chemicals called endorphins, and you are ready to take on the day.
Hug it out
When was the last time you cuddled up? It felt good, right? That’s because cuddling and hugging release Oxytocin. The bonding hormone, as it is sometimes called, promotes attachment in relationships, lowers blood pressure, regulates seratonin flow, boosts immune systems and increases concentration for those with ADHD. Wow!
Get a Hobby
If you are looking to lower stress, find life more interesting and lower your blood pressure, engage in hobbies and leisure time. Studies suggest that this type of self care is powerful enough to serve as an intervention to improve overall health and well-being. So what are you waiting for? Pull on that leisure suit and do something fun. Hobbies remind our brains that life is good.
As a teen, my grandmother frequently reminded me to count my blessings. I didn’t quite understand why back then, and more than once, the reminder was met with a hostile eye roll. I understand now what she knew then. Gratitude opens up the soul, helping us to dwell on the things in life that are going well, instead of the bad and ugly. An incredible thing happens to your heart when you are grateful. Somehow, by focusing on the beautiful parts of life, we make ourselves available to take in even more beauty. I don’t claim to understand it, but I've seen it improve mental health, help those dealing with heartache, and build stronger bonds with our loved ones.
Here is a worthwhile activity:
Buy a journal and make it your mission in life to find 5 things to be grateful for every day. Soon you will see that 5 is not enough. Before long, you will establish a habit of seeing good everywhere and realize that no book could ever hold all of your blessings.
Meditation brings on brain changes which affect how you deal with stress. When you are in a position of mindfulness, your brain experiences decreased activation of the amygdala, the brain area where your body processes stress. In addition, meditation can ease anxiety and help stop depression-forming negative thought patterns.
Meditation increases the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine raises alertness, motivation, feelings of happiness and joy.
Stressed? Roll out that mat and start your Pranayama breathing. For years we’ve known the life changing physical benefits of practicing yoga; but body and mind cannot be separated. Yoga, which literally means union or yoke, connects the body, mind and spirit, reinvigorating your entire psyche. The moment you begin breathing deeply, your nervous system begins to calm, moving you from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, or from fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest. Namaste!
Start with a few of these self care activities. You will feel better and before long, a shower of benefits will rain down on your brain, your body and your soul. Take the time to be your best friend and feel the love. We all need a little more of that!