Updated: Aug 21, 2020
And embracing my love of Taylor Swift's music.
It is a stressful time to be alive. The spread of coronavirus, the plunging economy, and the inept political leadership in the United states has me yearning to hide under the covers of my bed, never to emerge again. But blog posts need to be written, lunches need to be made, yoga classes need to be taught (online), and plants need to be watered. So in order to function and maintain a little bit of calm, I’ve made a list of the five ways I’m working to keep stress to a minimum.
Over the last four years, the element of water has become increasingly important in my life. Staying hydrated may be common sense, but it’s always been a struggle for me. I forget to drink liquids and then I feel like crap. When I’m hydrated I feel awake, cognitively competent, and my body is happy. So while obeying “Stay at Home” ordinances, hydration has been a high priority. Green tea, water, or orange juice have been constant companions no matter where I’m sitting in my apartment.
Beyond hydration, I also enjoy the calming power of water through showers, baths, and taking walks by a body of water (thank you, Lake Michigan!).
Many of us love an active yoga practice focused on physical postures. A vigorous practice flowing through numerous poses can feel wonderful, but it is not always what we need to soothe our nervous systems. Sometimes we need to slow down, breathe, and feel supported and held. Enter: restorative yoga!
A restorative yoga practice involves fewer poses (maybe five or six), which are held for five or more minutes, using lots of yoga props (or blankets and pillows you’ve gathered from around your house). Staying in a pose for five minutes can seem insane if you’ve never tried it, but with practice, it can become quite the welcome respite. Try this free youtube video to sample how this practice works.
Journaling has been a safe haven for me since I was a young girl. I remember running up to my room after a mortifying day in second grade and cracking open my diary on my canopy princess bed to let out my feelings. I had received two timeouts at recess on the same day. THE SAME DAY!?! How could this happen to me when I always had one eye on the rules, I wondered? My lock and key diary from Claire’s was my sole confidant, and I was determined to keep this shameful detail of my school career far from family scrutiny.
As an adult I still use my journal as a place to vent and mull over difficult situations as well as to identify my wants and needs and slow down my thinking. My journal flourishes best when I don’t stick to any hard and fast rules about what it’s supposed to look like. Stream of consciousness writing, journal prompts, making lists, bullet journaling, brainstorming webs, and drawing pictures are all options I’ve used throughout the years. Different seasons of life inspire different types of self-expression. One journal prompt that has been useful for me lately is: “What does my most authentic truest self want me to know today?” Write and explore. Try different methods and notice what works for you.
Google “music and health,” and tons of articles will pop up citing studies that music lowers stress and improves mood. Christopher Bergland, in his article “The Neuroscience of Music, mindset, and motivation,” on Psychology Today says to “choose any music that inspires you”. Since watching “Ms. Americana” on Netflix I’ve been obsessed with Taylor Swift’s music. It feels embarrassing to be bopping along to songs like “ME!,” since I always assumed Swift’s target audience was twelve-year-old suburban girls, not a thirty-three-year-old black woman living in Chicago. Preconceived notions aside, I’ve been enthusiastically enjoying Swift’s new “Lover” album. It’s a total mood booster, and keeps me dancing and happy when I’m soaping up in the shower.
Yoga Nidra is warmly referred to as “yogic sleep,” and has become one of my favorite ways to de-stress and relax. Traditionally, it is a process that guides the body into relaxation through conscious breath work and visualization while lying on your back. I practice Yoga Nidra several times a week, but it could be done (in my ideal world) every day. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by life, this is my go-to activity. It’s like unplugging myself for twenty minutes and then replugging myself back into a power source like you would do with a cranky computer. After practicing Yoga Nidra, my nervous system feels more balanced and I can reflect on what needs to be taken care of from a place of calm.
To get started on your own Yoga Nidra journey, check out my colleague Mia Park’s website here. Park introduced me to the practice years ago. In the beginning, I used her recordings exclusively because her voice is clear and the recording is clean. Now, I also explore recordings on Insight Timer, a free meditation app.
Have further thoughts on how to de-stress in these uncertain times? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment and continue the conversation below.