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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Relax Your Mind When Stressed (The Simple Guide)

How to Relax Your Mind When Stressed (The Simple Guide)

Do you ever feel stressed and overwhelmed by things going on in your life? Most of us do from time to time. Stress is a normal part of life. It is actually a survival mechanism to protect us from dangerous situations. The problem arises when we don’t know how to relieve it, and the stress persists.

Here we are going to look at why we have chronic stress, and then I’ll show you how to relax your mind with some simple practices. You’ll see for yourself that a peaceful mind is well within your reach, no matter how stressed out you may be.

Benefits of Relaxing Your Mind

The main benefit of relaxing your mind is that it relieves stress. By calming your mind, you’ll feel less overwhelmed by your emotions, which can make you feel like you’re losing control.

By calming your mind, you also avoid many of the health consequences of stress, such as high blood pressure, depression, and fatigue. A peaceful mind will improve your mood by reducing anger and frustration, and also improve your confidence in handling life’s problems.[1]

Overall, you’ll feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Why We Have Trouble Relaxing Our Mind

I often hear people say, “I can’t stop my mind from racing.” They are usually busy people whose lives are filled with commitments and activities. They have demanding jobs and families to take care of. Sometimes, they are young people with goals and ambitions.

There’s nothing wrong with these scenarios. They are normal courses in our lives. The challenge is to find a balance between our commitments to others and our personal needs, and one of those needs is relaxation.

A busy life tends to overstimulate our mind. Basically, anything that touches any of our five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell) will trigger a chain of thoughts. So, all our activities are continuously stimulating our mind. And if we’re really busy, then we can experience sensory overload, which leads to a racing mind and stress.

Reframing Our Views About Relaxation

Another reason we have trouble relaxing our mind is our unconscious views about relaxation. Ask anybody about his views about relaxation, and he’ll probably tell you it is a good thing, and people should take the time to relax regularly. Then, ask him if he actually does that. Chances are he doesn’t.

It’s much like people’s views about exercising. They know it’s good for them, but they have a hard time practicing it. The reason is that our subconscious mind tells us something different. Our subconscious mind tells us things like:

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“I don’t have time to relax.”

“I have more important things to do.”

“I need to be productive.”

“I don’t know how to relax my mind.”

“I’m the type of person who can’t sit still.”

These subconscious beliefs are very strong, and they dictate our actions. So, if we want to change these beliefs, then we need to reprogram our subconscious mind. That may sound difficult, but it’s not. You can easily do it with a technique called writing meditation.

With writing meditation, you simply copy a set of affirmations by hand in a notebook for about five minutes a day. You can do it at any time and any place. You don’t even need a quiet place.

After a few days, you’ll notice a change in your behavior. It will become easier to dedicate time to relaxing your mind. Here is the relaxation writing meditation:

I realize that I deserve to have peace of mind. I know that with a peaceful mind I will be happier, more productive, and make better choices in my life. May I live in a way that doesn’t overstimulate my mind. May I reduce unnecessary background noise around me.

May I take some time everyday to relax and settle down. May I have the strength to follow other relaxation practices to further calm my mind. I commit to relaxing my mind, so that I may realize true happiness and personal fulfillment.

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In order to get the most benefit from this exercise, I suggest doing it once a day for about 3 to 4 weeks, or however long it takes for you to make relaxation a priority in your life.

How to Relax Your Mind

How to relax your mind is pretty simple. The suggestions below will accomplish two things:

  • They will prevent your mind from getting too agitated in the first place.
  • They will allow your mind to settle down naturally.

You are free to choose any of them. Your choice will depend on how agitated your mind is. If it’s highly agitated, then you’ll want to start with some simple suggestions, such as closing your eyes for a few seconds. Then as you begin to relax over time, you may want to try something for deeper relaxation, such as meditation.

Here are some simple practices for how to relax your mind.

1. Listen to Soothing Music

Soft music can go a long way toward relaxing your mind. The slow pace of the music will force your mind to slow down. There is a variety of different relaxation music on YouTube. Find something like a dreamscape with the sounds of nature.

2. Take a Walk

Going for a walk can help us clear our mind from all the clutter. It gets us away from the things that are agitating our mind, and helps us put things into perspective.

3. Make a Gratitude List

We often tend to focus on the things that we don’t have in our lives. This can be depressing, and keep us striving for those things we believe are missing.

Take about five minutes to write down the things you are grateful for. This will help reprogram your subconscious mind, and put you more at ease.

Get some inspirations here: 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

4. Find Some Alone Time

It’s important to have some time for yourself. Take some time regularly to get away from everybody, and do something you enjoy, such as reading a good book, or watching your favorite program.

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5. Cuddle with a Loving Pet

Studies have shown that some pets can have a great calming effect. They help take our mind to a place of simplicity and unconditional love.

6. Turn Your Cell Phone Off

Our cell phones are a great source of mental agitation. Is it really necessary to be connected to other people all the time? Turn your cell phone off for a while, if not hours. Most people in our lives can survive without us being on call.

Next are some really simple things you can do at any time, without taking much time from your busy schedule.[2] They are meant to interrupt the acceleration of your mind. They also bring you back to the present moment, which is the essence of mindfulness.

7. Close Your Eyes

Just close your eyes for a few seconds. You can even follow your breath if you want. This will help reduce some of the sensory stimulation.

8. Laugh

I personally enjoy funny social media posts, or reliving funny sitcom scenes. Laughing gives us a short break from serious issues.

9. Smell the Flowers

Flowers are nature’s work of art. They come in all shapes and sizes and scents. Stop once in a while to admire their beauty and fragrance. Don’t neglect the tiny ones. They too have great beauty.

10. Get Some Sunlight

Sunshine can have a tremendous calming effect. Go outside for a few minutes during your break. Sit on a bench, close your eyes, and just enjoy the warmth of the sun.

11. Look out the Window

If you’re not able to go outside, gazing out the window for a couple of minutes can be almost as good. Look at the trees, birds, and any other critters you can spot. And don’t just look at the immediate area, but also look into the distance.

If you are serious about how to relax your mind, the following practices will help you achieve a deeper state of relaxation.

12. Reduce Noise and Activity

If you live a busy life, there is probably a lot of noise and activity around you. Try reducing some of the background noise, such as TV and radio when you’re not fully engaged with them.

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13. Relax Physically

Physical relaxation will help calm your mind. There are various ways to relax physically, such as stretching, practicing tai chi or yoga, or taking a warm bath. You can even listen to a guided meditation with a body scan.[3]

14. Talk to a Friend

We often have things going on in our mind because we’re not able to fully make sense of them. Sometimes, just talking to someone else will help us sort them out.[4]

15. Practice Mindfulness Meditation

This is a powerful and diverse practice that can significantly calm your mind. In addition to doing sitting meditation, you can also do mindful breathing, mindful walking, and guided imagery.

Take a look at the different types of meditation and see which one is suitable for you: 17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness

16. Exercise

Physical exercise can help you get your mind off your problems, and calm your thoughts and emotions.[5] It also gives you a greater sense of well-being by increasing your brain’s production of endorphins, the neurotransmitters that make you feel good.[6]

Final Thoughts

As you can see, relaxing your mind is fairly simple. It is mainly a matter of reducing the things that agitate your mind, and taking some time to allow it to settle down naturally.

Just imagine what your life will be like with a peaceful mind. Things will become much clearer, you’ll make better choices, and you’ll feel more in control of your emotions and your life. All this is well within your reach. All you have to do is follow some of the simple practices outlined above.

More Tips to Help You Relax Your Mind

Featured photo credit: Tamara Bellis via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Charles A. Francis

Author, meditation teacher, and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute

How to Learn to Let Go of What You Can’t Control How to Cope with the 5 Common Stressors In Life and Feel Better 10 Ways a Silent Retreat Improves Your Mental Health Why Do I Feel Depressed Every Once in a While for No Reason? The Beginner’s Guide to Practicing Self-Compassion Meditation

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Published on February 26, 2021

3 Common Causes Of Stress That Are Depleting Your Energy

3 Common Causes Of Stress That Are Depleting Your Energy

Are you feeling amplified anxiety, sadness, or anger lately? An astounding 84% of adults have felt at least one of these stress-related emotions in the two weeks prior to being surveyed, according to this recent Stress in America report.[1] Although it’s often comforting to know you’re not alone, the pervasiveness of this particular shared experience is disconcerting. But first, what causes stress?

What Causes Stress?

Lurking beneath the surface of this collective situation are some deeper factors: feelings of powerlessness and a diminished sense of certainty.

Due to a variety of events over the past year, control over numerous elements of our lives has been stripped away, leaving us feeling frustrated, afraid, and unsure about the future. It’s as if someone took the puzzle of our lives, broke apart every segment we had painstakingly pieced together, then shook them up and dumped them into a scrambled mess on the floor. On top of that, we’re trying to put it all back together while slogging through in survival mode, every day, on repeat—it’s enough to make even the Energizer Bunny feel depleted.

From this place of disempowered overwhelm, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like there is little we can do to regain our footing and overcome the stress. However, that is the furthest thing from the truth.

Let’s look on the bright side: We can all improve our energy and relieve stress simply by shifting a few essential habits.

When everything feels out of control, here are 3 often-overlooked areas where you can be in control and obliterate the common causes of stress that are depleting your energy. Each is proven to directly compound stress and deplete energy when neglected but enhance energy and stress relief when managed proactively.

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1. Sleep Quality Secrets to Snub the Stubborn Stress-Fatigue Cycle

You may be well aware of how stress disrupts or prevents a good night’s rest. Frustrations over the day’s events or anxiety about what’s coming tomorrow are common blocks to getting enough zzzz’s. But did you know that the reverse is also true?

Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. One such study found that subjects who were limited to 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. They also cited a dramatic improvement in mood upon return to normal sleep. [2]

In addition to these directly mood-related symptoms, lack of sleep can cause muddled focus, fatigue, and impairment of information processing which often result in secondary causes of stress. We feel like the walls are falling around us as we run behind schedule, struggle to collect scrambled thoughts, suffer the consequences of knee-jerk reactions, and fight the inevitable downsides of exhaustion, including clouded judgment, inhibited self-control, and difficulty in making decisions or completing tasks.

Unfortunately, our favorite fixes are actually counterproductive. Two of the most common substances used in direct response to not getting enough sleep—alcohol to relax us enough to fall asleep and caffeine to perk us up after inadequate sleep—only worsen our ability to secure consistent and restful slumber, creating a vicious cycle. Relying on these “band-aid fixes” only amplifies and prolongs our feelings of stress.[3][4]

Ultimately, sleep deprivation secretly undermines our ability to make smart choices when it comes to regaining control over the other causes of stress which are depleting our energy.

Here are two simple tips to help you sleep better tonight:

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  • Turn off all screens at least one hour before hitting the hay to send the signal to your brain that it’s bedtime and ease your mind into sleepy relaxation.
  • Be intentional with your soothing bedtime rituals. Instead of mindlessly passing the time in the hours before you turn in, focus on an activity that feels soothing and nurturing like a foot massage or a few gentle yoga poses.

2. Focus on Comfort Food for Extra Energy and Simple Stress Relief

The word “malnutrition” is commonly associated with poverty-related food shortages. However, in the medical world, the prefix “mal-” is also defined as “defective.” By broadening our understanding of this term, we can see that nutrient deficiencies can happen for people of any socioeconomic status—and they do.

The hustle culture endorsed by the industrialized world has created an abundance of quick and convenient food (and, let’s be honest, “fake food”) options that are minimally nourishing. The USDA’s most recent Dietary Guidelines reports that about two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, yet inadequate intake of nutrients that are proven to both relieve stress and increase energy (e.g., B vitamins and magnesium) remains common.[5][6] The data clearly shows that, for the majority of adults in the USA, the quality of our food is disproportionate to the quantity.

This reality has been compounded by pandemic-related stress eating, which is so prevalent that participants of a study published in September 2020 averaged a staggering 7 lbs weight gain in only 4 months.[7] This snapshot demonstrates that the foods we tend to crave, either for comfort or convenience, are usually high in sugars, saturated fats, and simple carbohydrates—all of which actually amplifies the stress response in the body.[8]

There is a funny-not-funny irony in the fact that the acronym for the U.S. eating style is SAD (Standard American Diet). We readily sacrifice nutrient needs for the sake of saving our time and money, which are poured right back into the culture that requires us to be so busy. We are drawn to unhealthy comfort foods like moths to a flame in an attempt to soothe ourselves—yet these exact foods only lead to feeling even more stressed and depleted.

So, what can we do?

Making smart food choices in itself is inherently stressful for many people. The internal battle can be just as impactful in causing stress and depleting your energy as the food choices themselves. If you can relate, don’t worry. It’s not necessary to focus on calorie counting or weight loss here.

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Instead, take comfort in a couple of easily doable steps toward shifting your dietary habits:

  • Be mindful of your intake of highly processed foods, and enjoy the benefits of simply adding a few stress-relieving, energizing foods and beverages to your daily repertoire.
  • Water, green tea, Brazil nuts, sweet potatoes, fresh baby spinach, brown rice, avocados, oatmeal, bananas, salmon, lean beef, and blueberries are all great choices to get you started.

3. A Surprising Battle for Your Attention, and How to Win the War

The pressure to be “always-on” has long been a major cause of stress for highly driven people. We live in an internet-centric world that has only been compounded by the circumstances of the pandemic. Working from home has blurred the lines between personal and professional boundaries, and many are suffering the consequences.

The combination of issues culminating from the past year has also kept people glued to the media and their newsfeeds. If you ever feel angry, anxious, sad, hopeless, or exhausted after watching the news or scrolling social media, this could be one of the main causes of stress that is depleting your energy. In fact, a study showed elevated levels of stress hormone (cortisol) and increased negative response to subsequent stressors after watching negative news.[9]

Research even shows that smartphones and social media apps manipulate the dopamine-driven reward system in our brains to create a habit that mimics gambling addiction.[10] Even when these tools don’t cost money, they have the capacity to deplete something much more valuable—our time, energy, and peace of mind.

This volatile mix may be generating a baseline cause of stress that has led directly to some of the other causes of stress mentioned in this article, including lack of sleep, alcohol or caffeine use, and unsupportive food choices/mindless eating.

Now, more than ever, we need to resist the urge to bombard our brains with fear-based information and distraction-inducing habits.

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Forward-focused actions to take now:

  • Create firm boundaries around your “check-in” time for reading and responding to emails or social media, both personal and professional.
  • Disable notifications on your devices to eliminate distractions.
  • Eliminate or minimize news exposure and only consume news from deliberately selected sources.
  • Stay focused on your top priorities and make sure your actions are aligned. Put this note on your screensaver/wallpaper as a reminder: “Is my behavior getting me what I want?”

Putting the Pieces Back Together

By flipping our perspective, we can see these lifestyle choices as the active causes of stress that they are, instead of stress aftereffects that are outside of our control. Circumstance might have made a mess of our puzzles, but we each have the power to pick up the pieces.

With a few simple shifts and a dedication to change, we can stop approaching them from a passive or reactive stance and take intentional action to improve our daily life. Just pause, look at the big picture, and reclaim control—then, watch as the puzzle pieces of your life click back into place with more energized ease and calm.

Tips on How to Handle Stress

Featured photo credit: engin akyurt via unsplash.com

Reference

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