I'll admit it. I'm pretty violent about not involving myself in things (or with folks) that disrupt my calm and peace of mind. And yes, I know that is pretty much a play on words. It's designed to be.
As I've been devoting a lot of these past several months to healing the "PTSD Shellie" so that I can live the kind of life I was created to live before all of the abuse, trauma, and disappointments, something that I've looked into is what are known as anxiety triggers. Our health; certain types of medication; caffeine; negative thoughts; hoarding; poor financial choices (include impulse spending); going to public events (that you'd prefer to sit out on); unforgivingness; toxic relationships; unhealthy lifestyle habits; avoiding confrontation; being too confrontational and stress—all of these things can play a direct role in if we're a peace-filled individual or not.
Once I learned what my personal triggers were (I don't need to buy another pair of Pumas; I need to save more money and I don't need to justify my boundaries with toxic individuals; I just need to keep them), my life has become so much more harmonious, stable, mellow, undisturbed…calm. And when you truly find the peace that passes all understanding, you will do whatever it takes to not disrupt or disturb that. Ever.
Not to say that life (including the people in it) doesn't throw some curveballs every now and then. That's why, along with figuring out my anxiety triggers, I've also discovered some immediate ways to calm down whenever they try and push me.
The next time some person, place, thing, or idea tries to stress you all the way out, I'd be shocked if these tips don't pull you back into a tranquil mindset.
Our bodies need oxygen in order to survive. That's a no-brainer. But if we all knew all of the health benefits that come from deep breathing, I bet a lot more of us would sign up for a yoga class or at least meditate more often in the mornings.
Not only does deep breathing help to detoxify our system, it also gives us more energy, improves our digestion and posture, boosts our mood, intensifies our orgasms, strengthens our heart, decreases pain, helps us to sleep better and yes—it immediately calms and relaxes us as well. No wonder mama would count to 10 whenever she caught us doing something crazy when we were little. See, deep breathing literally spared our lives!
If you've never done it before, it's a relatively simple practice. Take a deep long breath through your nose and hold it for a count of 3-5. Then, through your mouth, exhale slowly, making sure to relax the muscles in your face and shoulders. Do repetitions of 10, five times a day. Watch how much calmer you feel, almost immediately.
If you want to take deep breathing up a notch, do it while you're standing—or better yet, walking—outdoors. The sunlight will give you some much needed Vitamin D. As women, we all need a daily dose of D (no pun there) because it supports our immune system, strengthens our bones, helps to prevent breast cancer and, if we're trying to conceive, improves our fertility too.
And, since it's also the only vitamin that's considered to be a hormone, it is a truly effective way to balance your cortisol levels out as well.
Snack on Some Cashews, Blueberries or Dark Chocolate
Speaking of cortisol, sometimes, when we're not eating as healthy as we should, it can cause the cortisol (the natural stress in our bodies) to spike. When that happens, we need foods that contain stress-reducing nutrients to balance everything out.
Foods that top the list include cashews, blueberries, and dark chocolate. Cashews contain potassium (a mineral that triggers serotonin to our neurotransmitters) and magnesium (a mineral that regulates our brain and nervous system). Blueberries have antioxidants and Vitamin C in them to bring our cortisol down to a healthy level. And dark chocolate? One study revealed that eating a dark chocolate bar (with 65 percent or more cocoa in it), once a day, for two weeks straight, decreased cortisol and also our fight-or-flight responses to anxiety, fear, and tension too. Cool. Very cool.
Listen to Some Rain Videos on YouTube
Ever wonder why the sound of rain helps you to have some of the best sleep (and sex) that you've ever had in your entire life? It's because rain mimics that sound that is similar to white noise. Whenever white noise triggers our sensory input, it immediately calms and centers us.
You could wait for a thunderstorm to happen in order to feel better. Or, you can do what I do and hop on over to YouTube and listen to some of their 10+ hour videos. Two of my personal favorites are this one and this one.
Recall a Favorite Memory
A technique that a lot of therapists use is when their clients are feeling anxious, they ask them to think of a great past memory. I do this sometimes when I'm working with married couples; I ask them to reflect back on a time when they felt really good about their relationship. It really is amazing to watch how quickly it calms them down.
It's been my experience that whenever stress arises, it's a good idea to think about a healthy and happy memory that is directly related to your source of stress at the moment.
Did your boss just piss you off? When was the last time they made you feel appreciated? Did your friend just hurt your feelings? What's the last great experience you shared with them? By doing this, not only will it bring a sense of tranquility (and even a bit of happiness) to your spirit about the particular situation, but about the person in general as well.
Find Yourself a Plant
Think about it. Don't you feel calmer and happier around plants? Have you ever wondered why? Not only are plants aesthetically-pleasing to look at, but they help to reduce indoor air pollution too. What does this even remotely have to do with our stress levels? Indoor air pollution is as much as 2-5 times higher than outdoor air pollution and most of us spend most of our time indoors. Spending hours breathing in mold, pesticides, tobacco smoke, solvents (like house cleaners and gases from newly-installed carpet or furniture), radon and carbon monoxide can lead to coughing, sneezing, a sore throat, headaches, and fatigue. The worse your body feels, the more stressed out you'll become.
Since plants help to pull toxins out of the air, they are another avenue to calm and tranquility. Some of the more popular stress-reducing plants include jasmine, lavender, rosemary, bamboo palm, and Aloe Vera.
Blow on Your Thumb
Sometimes we're stressed out because we've got an air passage blocked that we know absolutely nothing about. The solution? Suck or blow on your thumb. I know you probably think I'm making this up but hey, it supposedly activates our vagus nerve (the muscles that help to control the muscles in our throat) and, in turn, cause our heart rate and blood pressure to drop (in a good way).
Also, your thumb has its own pulse so, whenever you (gently) suck or blow on it, it'll slow down and relax you. (Now we get why babies do it, huh?)
Chew Some Gum
If someone just got on your very last nerve, rather than cussing them out, chew on some gum first. It might sound ridiculous, but this is another proven way to get your stress and anxiety levels in check. One study even revealed that people who chewed gum every day for two weeks had significantly lower stress than those who didn't.
Although researchers are still trying to figure out what makes gum such an effective calm-inducer, many believe that 1) it has to do with taking out our frustrations on the gum as we chew it and 2) it depends on the flavor of gum that is chosen. Your best bet? Peppermint. Although it's invigorating, it's really effective at relieving anxiety, stress, and even depression-related symptoms as well.
Log Off of Your Socials
Back in my Facebook days (when I was online there was barely Twitter and no Instagram), I must admit, that my page was pretty lit. You know what else it was? SEMI-STRESSFUL. It was a page where people could hop on and share/debate whatever, whenever, which was cool. But after a while, the combination of a constant influx of info, people being emotionally charged (and not always in a good way) and folks inboxing me with the expectation of not only getting back to them immediately but giving them free counseling—it all got to be too much.
My life has been sooooo much calmer without having social media accounts. And while I get the benefits that come with having them, if you're on every kind of social in the world, take out a moment to Google how social media tends to negatively affect our mental health. This includes our self-esteem, memory, sleep patterns, attention span and yes, our stress levels.
I'm not saying shut your socials down. I'm just saying that whenever Trump's tweets or an ex's IG posts get your heart to racing, it's a good idea to log off for a couple of hours or (gasp!) the rest of the day.
Do yourself a favor and drink some herbal tea while reading a book or call up a friend and have a real phone conversation instead. Watch what things like this does for your nervous system that Black Twitter cannot.
Whew. Is there anything more perfect in this world than a well-timed, perfectly placed kiss? The icing on the cake is, not only does kissing feel like the peak of ecstasy, it's really good for your health too. How good? Kissing triggers "happy hormones" including oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin in your system. Kissing also boosts your self-confidence, bonds you to your partner, soothes headaches, decreases allergy symptoms, reduces cavities, and lowers cortisol levels too.
So, if none of the other things I recommended appeal to you, at least be open to an impromptu smooch session. Your stress and anxiety levels will thank you—so will the rest of your body.
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Featured image by Getty Images.
Originally published on March 17, 2019