Vitality 7 Ways to Reduce Stress Right This Minute (Seriously) It starts with a deep breath By Zuzu Perkal Life can be a thunderstorm, a whirlwind of chaos and struggle. Sometimes, it’s hard to see the sun behind the clouds, but it’s there, waiting to shine bright. These moments of disorder are simply a test. Life challenges us to see how strong we are. It’s a chance to prove who we are and what we’re made of. And anyway, if life was always easy, it wouldn’t be an adventure. Stress and anxiety are not friendly. The fast-paced nature of life makes it hard to focus on what’s truly important. We’re constantly pulled in many directions: taking care of our families, maintaining our jobs and responsibilities, remembering to stay active, being a good friend, eating well, paying bills, battling traffic, relationship drama, and emails galore. It’s a lot to swallow, but there are a few small practices and techniques that can alter the mind-boggling stress that we sometimes feel when life knocks us down. 1. Stop, Breathe, and Relax It sounds easy, right? Well, it is. Taking the time you deserve to become present and slow down a cluttered mind can make a significant difference in how you feel. When you become stressed, nervous, or angry, your breath immediately loses its fluidity and your body starts to go into panic mode. As you can imagine, this doesn’t help us fight through the tough times, it only makes things worse. Try 5–10 deep calming breaths. There’s no limit to how long you chose to focus on your breath, but the more time and energy you devote to it, the less stress and angst you will feel. Close your eyes, gently breathe in and out through your nose, and relax. 2. Positive Affirmations If you woke up each morning and looked in the mirror and said, “Good morning, you look beautiful today!” you’d naturally feel beautiful throughout your day. If you reminded yourself of how lucky you are to have the relationships that you have, you’d be less likely to overreact, and you’d feel a stronger sense of gratitude and love. What we tell ourselves impacts our lives on a multitude of levels. Practice telling yourself things that make you feel good. Positive affirmations are meant to manifest the things you truly want, so if it’s a new job you’re in search of, put it out there. Take time to tell yourself that you are talented, powerful, and capable of finding your dream job. 3. Play Outside Get some sunshine on your face, take a walk through a neighborhood park, practice yoga on your balcony, or meet up with some friends for a picnic or your favorite outdoor activity. We are a part of nature and we too often lose sight of the undeniable connection. We are nature. When life feels overbearing and the weight of your responsibilities starts to seem heavy, step outside and practice #1 and #2 above. Lie in the grass, smell flowers, appreciate the shade of a tree, or admire a body of water. Use your breath to enjoy the moment. The possibilities are endless—now go play! 4. Reach Out True friends will always be there for you, so don’t hesitate to reach out. It makes other people feel good to give advice and help support someone they love. It can be daunting to keep all of life’s stresses and problems inside. It’s important to express yourself and to feel supported and valued. Try calling a friend and sharing your feelings. Ask them for a little pick me up—that’s what friends are for. 5. Do Something That Makes You Happy Ask yourself, what do I love to do? What makes me happy? Make a short list of these activities and save it for when you need to be reminded of the options you have to cheer you up. We always have time for our own well-being, it may not always seem like it, but it’s true. Make time for yourself and do something that’s special. Some ideas to get you started: an afternoon yoga class, starting a new painting, going for a run, grabbing a coffee at a funky coffee shop, or reading your favorite book or magazine. 6. Get Active One of the best ways to relieve stress and to let go of life’s mess is to go be active. Maybe you decide on a community gym class, an outdoor jog, a yoga class, or even playing with your dog in the park. Most of us have day jobs, families, and a to-do list a mile long, but when we take time to exercise our bodies we release some of the stress and tension from our day-to-day tasks. The negative energy that’s held captive in our bodies is released with movement. Boom! Happiness! 7. Make Lemonade Life is beautiful. Each moment on this earth is a gift and we should feel grateful for every breath we take. Use the list above to reduce stress and to find inner peace and happiness. Think about the grande scheme of your life. What does it look like? In five years will a single struggle, instance, or a hectic Monday be meaningful? Love your life, the good with the bad. It’s all an adventure, enjoy the lemons. — Zuzu Perkal is an independent artist, photographer, yoga instructor, and adventure enthusiast in Austin, Texas. Her days are filled with coffee, paint, and daydreams. She believes mistakes are simply a beautiful opportunity for growth and that our own life experiences serves as our most valuable teachers. Zuzu recently graduated from Wanderlust’s first Teacher Training Program and is on a mission to continually expand her consciousness while following her journey down the yogic path. She is currently experimenting with the concept of a floating yoga studio and mixed medium practice.