25 1Our previous article was focused on some general mindset factors that will help you deal with stress. Today we want to examine some of the possible long-term changes in your lifestyle. These are practices, which will increase your overall stress resilience... and will make your life a lot more pleasant. :-)
Meditation: there are many articles, speculating that you can effectively meditate at your workplace. However, I don't believe this to be true for most modern organizations and if you're reading this, chances are that you work at one of them. Just try to imagine the speed and energy of the usual workday and all the colleagues rushing around the office, chasing after their next accomplishment. And now imagine a poor soul focused on their navel, trying to meditate in the middle of all this. It's absolutely impossible to find the right level of solitude and it will make them look like a sociopath. Yes, there are many practices that can help you focus and regain your energy at work, but none of them is a true meditation. Therefore I'm convinced that this is something better left for one's free time before/after work.
But what does meditation actually mean? There are various practices that are described this way and they have different goals: relaxation of the mind; purifying and accumulating the life force (qi / chi / prana); spiritual meditation when trying to connect with a Higher Force (or with the Higher Self); repetitive meditation when you chant a selected mantra; meditation, focused on a feeling that you want to foster – love, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion etc. No matter what suits you most, it will require a lot of practice and focused energy. Additionally, if you want to become really good at it, you will have to find a good teacher and preferably a group (be careful though, you don't want some kind of fraud to drag you into a sect). However, if a moderate level of mastery is good enough for you, you can use some of the thousands of books, sites, blogs etc. that will help you get started. And you won't be disappointed by the results: meditating a few minutes per day can help ease anxiety and, if you are persistent enough, you may train your nervous system and permanently increase your stress resilience. This here is a good example of a modern, integrated type of meditation.
Gardening is one of the activities that can help you reconnect with nature. It also lowers your stress levels and improves your mood. It recharges your energy through shifting your attention mode from voluntary (sustained intentional focus on your everyday tasks for example) to involuntary (where your focus is naturally drawn by external factors like a beautiful plant). Gardening might also bring more color in your life (literally :-)) and even help you when fighting depression.In case you are not a garden owner, plant some greenery or spices in a pot (or even some exotic flower) and watch them grow. Read more in this article of Health.com.
Reading: we covered it in a previous article as a quick tool to use during your lunch break in stressful days, but it can also apply in general. Remember that just six minutes of reading could relax your muscles, lower your heart rate and reduce stress levels by more than two thirds. Therefore it can be very helpful in the evenings after tough workdays: just choose your favorite type of literature, dive into it and let yourself be carried away.
Massage: this is another effective alternative and also one of the most pleasant ways to counter the negative sides of stress. It relieves the tension, boosts the immune system and helps to flush the toxins away. It also improves the blood and oxygen circulation through the whole body. Plus it feels really, really good. :-) So if you thought you don't have a valid reason for getting a massage, well you just found one – go and book a slot!
Dark chocolate is healthy in many ways, but one of them is that it helps you deal with stress. The research, described in this article of LiveScience showed that the daily consumption of 40 grams of dark chocolate for two weeks can lower the levels of the stress hormones cortisol and catecholamines. As always, moderation is the key, as having too much of it might have negative effects on your health. This leads us to the broader topic about the importance of nutrition, but we'll cover this and some other aspects of a stress-resilient lifestyle in our next articles.
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