I think pretty much everyone could use a little (or a lot) less stress in their lives, am I right?? (please correct me if I’m wrong and tell me ALL your secrets).
When I was about ten years old, we did an exercise in school in which we all got given a little paper doll, and were told to write everything we were stressed about on it. My doll was full to bursting. Don’t ask me what a ten year old could possibly be stressed about (I think it was mainly stuff like ballet exams, getting homework done on time etc), and I don’t know if I actually had more on my plate than my classmates or if I was just feeling it more, but I realised then that I am a person who is slightly prone to stress. My classmates called me Stress Jess after that, and my sister has often lovingly referred to me as a “stress monkey”.
As I’ve gotten older and my stressors have changed slightly (ballet exams have been replaced by university exams), I feel like I have gotten better at managing stress but it is still a challenge for me. I can always tell if I’m stressed about something, because I will wake up at 3am on the dot every morning and not be able to get back to sleep. This will last until I stop feeling stressed about whatever it was. It’s fun 😉
I try to look at whatever I am stressed about in a positive way. Of course sometimes there are stressful situations in which there is not much to be done, but I am lucky enough that in my life, my biggest stressors are usually the things that I am also most excited about. For example, getting my essays done for university. Ummm I am SO GRATEFUL every day to have been accepted in to this program which I love so much, and that I am able to study here in Sydney and spend every day working towards my dream of a MA in psychotherapy. So in a weird way, I want this stress in my life.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t need a way to deal with it though. Those 3am starts are a little brutal 😉 (seriously, how do parents with babies do it?) Can you guess what my biggest strategies for dealing with stress are? This might be tough guys. I’ll help you out – yoga and running.
Running is pretty straightforward for me. I always, always finish a run feeling less stressed than I was pre-run. Even if I am really busy, a 20 minute run (or even a 5 minute tabata interval run) will take a huge edge off my stress, and help me be more productive afterwards.
Yoga, ironically, is a little different. For me personally, it is possible to leave a yoga class more stressed than when I entered it. It seems to be something to do with the style of yoga and the teacher, and the wrong combination (for me) of those two factors can really wig me out. This doesn’t happen often at all, but I think it is really good to realise that not every style of asana practice is going to necessarily bliss one out in the ideal way. I think for everyone this is probably different, so I feel slightly hesitant to recommend yoga classes for stress. I do think that knowing whether you personally feel more relaxed after an intense workout or more relaxed after a slow meditative activity could probably clear this up a little.
So, for those who enjoy an endorphin-inducing sweaty yoga sesh with a nice flow of poses:
For those who prefer slightly longer holds in poses and less of a flow:
For those who like a quick and quiet meditative practice:
(I realise this is a bedtime yoga sequence, but sometimes I find this really helpful even if I am not going to sleep afterwards, because I am so wound up that it takes a bedtime sequence to bring me down).
For those who find long holds in just a few poses (yin) helpful:
A sure fire way for me to bring my stress down (sometimes I am just not in the mood for listening to a yoga teacher, even if it is on Youtube) is to do an intuitive practice. For me this means putting my yoga mat in a nice space (on the balcony, my neighbors are so lucky that they get to see me doing all sorts of awkward yoga poses every day 😉 ), putting on whatever music is calming to me, and busting out my fave calming yoga poses. Of course this is a little easier if you have been to classes and have a good idea of which poses you like, so here are a few of my favourites that are generally known to be calming and stress-relieving. Sometimes “fancy” looking poses get more attention, but in my world the simple poses are often the most effective.
Downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) (any inversion (upside down) pose is great for stress btw):
You can click on the name of each pose if you want a proper explanation and clear photo of the pose, I know my yoga selfies are super artistic though 😉
I think stress is a really personal thing, and so whatever you need to do to relieve stress might be quite different from what I do. Also, your idea of stress-relieving yoga might be quite different from mine. I would love to hear your methods in the comments 🙂
How do you cope with stress?
Would you describe yourself as a “stress monkey” or are you pretty chill? – I am honestly a lot more chilled out now that I do yoga. And run. Last time I was home, my sis was like “wow, this would have totally stressed you out before and now you are way more relaxed!”
What is the thing that brings you the LEAST stress in your life right now? – I love reminding myself of exciting things in my life that don’t stress me, a nice skype date/email with my family, a hilarious talk with a friend 🙂