Reducing stress is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Studies have consistently found that chronic stress may contribute to physical symptoms such as headaches, back pain, fatigue and digestive issues, as well as feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, irritability, depression and lack of motivation.
Furthermore, chronic stress may weaken the immune system and increase the risk of colds, flus and even conditions such as heart disease, asthma, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. This is because stress is not just in your mind — it is a physiological response triggered by nerve and hormonal signals that impacts heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar levels and more.
Fortunately, there is no need to stress about how stressed you are feeling. Studies have also found that simple stress management tactics are highly effective at diminishing stress levels and improving overall mental and physical wellness. Below, discover five simple daily rituals to help you reduce stress and live better.
1. Make the Bedroom a Phone-Free Zone
For many people, checking their phones is the first thing they do in the morning and the last thing they do before falling asleep. Yet between global news, social media and emails, screen time is often accompanied by a flood of stress hormones — not a particularly peaceful way to begin or end your day.
Avoiding screen time for the first and final thirty minutes of the day is a worthwhile goal that may positively impact your mental wellbeing.
Do you typically start your day by checking apps and scrolling through messages? Try spending that time leisurely sipping a cup of energizing tea, doing yoga or light stretching, meditating, going for a walk or doing something you enjoy instead.
At night, the blue light emitted from electronic screens tricks the brain into thinking it is daytime, so the body blocks production of the sleep hormone melatonin. By swapping out your evening phone time for reading or another relaxing hobby, your natural sleep-wake cycle may become more balanced, allowing for a better night’s sleep.
2. Take Productive Work Breaks
When you have a lot going on at work, powering through the day without taking breaks may seem like the right strategy. Yet studies have actually shown that the human brain is incapable of staying focused on the same task for eight hours straight, and that performance (including creativity and decision-making abilities) may decrease without frequent breaks.
The optimal timing of these breaks varies by individual. That said, several studies have found that most people function best when they take a productive break every ninety minutes. Experiment with taking breaks every thirty to ninety minutes to see what works best for you.
What exactly is a productive break? Unsurprisingly, scrolling through social media, reading the news and online shopping do not count, as they do not give your brain the relief from stimulation it needs to refocus.
Productive break ideas include deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, stretching, sipping tea (such as a stress-busting adaptogenic herbal tea), going for a walk or stepping outside for some fresh air. You will return to your desk feeling recharged, refreshed and more focused.
3. Five Minutes of Journaling
Daily journaling might sound like a big commitment, but you may start seeing positive mental health benefits with just five minutes of journaling per day. There are even specific journals dedicated to this concept, such as The Five Minute Journal. Of course, you do not need any special tools to get started — a simple notebook will do just fine.
Some people prefer to journal first thing in the morning to start their day on a positive note, while others enjoy winding down their evening with a relaxing journaling session. Journaling in the middle of the day is a nice way to check in with yourself and recenter.
Five minutes also happens to be the length of time it takes many herbal teas to steep. Enjoy a soothing tea and journaling ritual by setting a timer for five minutes after adding hot water to your tea bag. Journal while your tea steeps; when time is up, your tea is ready to sip.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one’s attention and awareness to the present moment — including thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the external environment — without judgment. Unlike other forms of meditation that require emptying the mind completely, the goal of mindfulness is to simply sit with and acknowledge whatever is happening now.
Studies have shown that individuals who practice mindfulness daily may enjoy less stress and anxiety, better sleep and improved life satisfaction. To give mindfulness meditation a try, simply get into a comfortable position of your choice, away from possible distractions. Breathe deeply as you pay attention to what is happening in your body right now.
Inevitably, your thoughts will begin to drift and you may find yourself far from the present moment in your mind. When this happens, gently bring your focus back to the body and your breath. Let your breath serve as your anchor to the present moment. With time, this practice will make it easier to stay centered and grounded throughout the day.
This five senses tea steeping ritual for mindfulness combines the ancient art of tea steeping with a mindfulness practice involving all five senses.
5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Stress often manifests as muscle tension, which is why you may be more likely to suffer from headaches, backaches and other pain when you are dealing with a lot of stress. Progressive muscle relaxation is a simple technique for relieving muscle tension by tightening then relaxing one muscle group at a time.
Practicing progressive muscle relaxation is simple. It is typically recommended to start with the feet and legs, working your way up to the torso, hands and arms, shoulders and face. As you inhale, tense or clench the muscles in the first muscle group (but not to the point of pain) for five to ten seconds. When you exhale, immediately and completely relax those muscles.
Work your way up the body, noticing the difference in how your muscles feel before and after tensing and relaxing them. When you are finished, allow your breathing to return to normal and reflect on how your body feels. This is a wonderful exercise for relieving stress after a busy work day. We recommend enjoying a cup of get relaxed® – No.14 Tea for Relieving Stress afterwards.