ZEITGUIDE TO RELIEVING STRESS
This week was, no doubt, a challenging one. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony conjured up past traumas for many, provoking them to speak out about their own experiences and seek out support.
The week’s events come at a time when the global mood is already at a low. A Gallup survey of 154,000 people worldwide found anxiety and stress at the highest levels in over a decade.
The current state of things, and the never-ending news cycle, can make it critical to step away for a moment to realign your mind. Bearing that in mind, social media channels were pulsating with conversations not only over the week’s events, but also offering advice and inspiration for anyone needing some self-care.
Seeing these conversations inspired us at ZEITGUIDE to review the methodologies we’ve learned over the years to help ourselves from being worn down by the news or the general state of the world. Some of it may seem obvious, but it’s the simplest things that can get overlooked when we’re overwhelmed.
Here’s ZEITGUIDE’s checklist to help get you back and ready to take on the next day.
ESCAPE FROM THE CHAOS
Go for a walk or fit in a workout. Exercise reduces your body’s stress hormones while increasing your endorphins, the mood-boosting chemicals in the brain. Busying yourself with a hobby can reduce stress, help structure time more effectively and encourage social connections. Or grab a book: Some studies suggest reading is better than a walk, music or a cup of tea for relaxing because being swept into a literary world is the ultimate distraction.
We’ve long accepted that anxiety can upset our stomachs, but there’s also evidence that this cause/effect relationship can work in reverse. Maintaining a healthy diet makes us feel physically better, contributing to our overall wellbeing, and has immune boosting and anti-inflammatory benefits that can improve mental health. And we all well know what we should be eating: mostly plants, omega-3 packed nuts and oils, gut-health enhancing probiotics, lean proteins and fewer added sugars.
SLEEP TO REMOVE MENTAL DEBRIS
Because we multitask, live attached to our smartphones and hyper-schedule, our brains are on daily overdrive. And with all the over-action and energy consumption, our brains produce more waste today than ever before.
Sleep scrubs away this mental debris. During sleep, our glial cells slow electric activity down, and the size of our brain cells literally shrinks, allowing more spinal fluid to slosh around and clean out biological rubbish. “It’s like a dishwater that keeps flushing through to wash the dirt away,“ says Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester.
FORCE YOURSELF TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness essentially means “paying attention” (a conscious presence in the here and now), and draws from Buddhist meditation methods that use breathing—as opposed to repeating a mantra like Transcendental Meditation—as a focus.
Mindfulness meditation deliberately creates mental space between being and thinking, and between your thoughts and your reactions to those thoughts. Known benefits include greater control of one’s emotions and an ability to sustain focus, but mindfulness meditation also offers an always-available-anywhere way to reboot your mental state. And with online courses, mobile apps and weeklong seminars teaching mindfulness, picking up these techniques has never been more accessible.
“[Mindfulness] doesn’t negate the thing but it gives us an immediate sense of perspective,” says Andy Puddicombe, the former Buddhist monk and founder of Headspace, a web and app-based mindfulness program. “[It’s] going, ‘Okay so what’s the best way to deal with this? What can I do to be helpful?’”
The biggest suggestion to all of this is that if you aren’t practicing the above, perhaps it’s time to program some (if not all) of this stuff into your life. It’s moments like these that we need to take care of ourselves, and each other, more than ever.
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