“We have never been taught how to relax, how to take care of ourselves in a positive, nurturing way (not just going on a vacation or out for an expensive dinner). Twenty minutes of deep relaxation a day will aid your mental growth, improve your physical health and emotional stability, and possibly even increase your spiritual awareness.”
— L. John Mason
According to the American Psychological Association, 75 percent of adults report experiencing moderate to high levels of stress. And almost half of them shared that their stress levels increased during the past twelve months.
But high levels of stress are not only an American struggle but a global one. The World Health Organization even states that stress is a worldwide epidemic.
Yet, stress is not only problematic amongst adults, but it’s also a burden for kids and teenagers. And those who don’t learn how to deal with pressure at a young age mostly fail to manage stress in the long-term.
Stress, in general, can have many causes. Illness, violence, a lack of financial resources, or uncertainty about the future are just some of them.
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But not every form of stress is harmful. Sometimes, positive pressure can help us to improve our performance and deliver better results. Just think of working on an assignment last-minute and how this often enables students to get more done in one day than in an entire month.
Yet, high levels of uncontrolled and consistent stress can lead to chronicle pain and illness. However, the good news is that, if we don’t wait too long, stress can be combated through short and simple exercises.
If practiced regularly and with dedication, the following 20-minute routine can help you to unwind, let go of the daily tension, and calm down.
The ultimate goal of this routine is to help you remove yourself from stressful situations and find peace within yourself.
As the Dalai Lama once stated:
“Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.”
If you had to give up your inner peace or health to reach certain goals, they’ve probably been too costly.
You can always work more, do more, and achieve more, but the question is whether your achievements lead to a happier or more stressful life.
If you’re experiencing the latter, the following routine might help you to rethink your daily schedule and find more joy in your everyday life.
Set the Scene
Before starting your calming ritual, make sure you won’t be distracted.
If you can’t make 20 minutes, curb it down to 15 or 10. It’s better to shorten the length of your routine than squashing 20 minutes into a busy schedule.
Also, commit yourself to focus and engage in your practice entirely. These 20 minutes can be your holy grail to a more untroubled and peaceful life, so allow yourself to give your full attention to your short practice.
And before you do anything else, mute your phone. These 20 minutes are your 20 minutes.
Even though technological advancements improved our lives over the past decades, our smartphones can be highly stress-provoking. To calm your mind and get rid of anger, frustration, and tension, make sure to get rid of your phone. Either put it away, put it in airplane mode, or at least mute it so that notifications can’t distract you.
“Almost anything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you.”
— Anne Lamott
After muting your phone, you can also turn on your favorite music and light some candles to create an even more comfortable atmosphere. You can also use essential oils to feel even more relaxed during your practice. Lavender, rose, or lemon oil, for example, are known for their relaxing effect.
Grab Your Favorite Drink
Once you’ve set the tone for your calming practice, prepare a cup of your favorite drink.
Coffee, tea, infused water, anything is allowed as long as it makes you happy.
While preparing your drink, make sure to be fully present. Don’t rush the process. Instead, enjoy every movement. Embrace the fact that you’re doing it for you.
When you’re done, hold your drink with both hands and enjoy its smell and warmth.
Let Your Breath Guide You
“Take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.”
— Frank Sinatra
While sipping your drink, sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths to calm down and connect with your body and mind.
Breathing incorrectly is widespread and can cause significant negative consequences. That’s why it’s so important to take some time to breathe consciously at least a few times per day until you get used to doing it correctly.
According to The Resilience Institute, exhalation, when sustained longer than inhalation, slows down our heart rate and leads to relaxation.
So, instead of taking the usually suggested deep breaths, exhale for five to six seconds and make a short pause before inhaling.
By doing so, you can calm your mind and body and enjoy the next minutes with more ease.
Focus on your breath for a few minutes until you feel comfortable enough to move on. You can also enjoy this exercise by closing your eyes.
Stretch Your Body
While letting your breath guide you, gently move and stretch your body.
Most of us are so used to sitting in front of our screens all day long that we don’t even realize how much we harm our physical health. Yet a monotonous lifestyle with a lack of movement leads to muscle stiffness and pain.
If practiced regularly, a gentle stretching routine can be an effective way to combat these negative consequences of a typical office job.
Additionally, stretching exercises can improve your energy levels, improve blood circulation and posture, and even help to fight back pain, which might be caused by too much sitting.
If stretching is new to you, start through small exercises such as moving your head from left to right. By doing this consciously, you’ll realize how much tension you stored in your body and you’ll be able to release it.
Use the Power of Journaling
When you’re done clearing the physical tension in your body, it’s time to free your mind and let go of fears and anger.
Quite often, stress is caused by significant life changes or by the fear of not being able to deal with a relationship, a job, or financial obligations.
Yet, most people don’t even know why they’re stressed. That’s why journaling and identifying your stressors is a great way to learn more about yourself.
By writing down your thoughts, you release them instead of burdening yourself or others. Additionally, journaling is a fantastic way to be more self-aware, confident, and mindful.
Scientific evidence proves that writing can remove mental blocks and make it easier to use all your brainpower. Additionally, it helps you to better understand yourself but also the world around you.
All you need is a notebook or a sheet of paper and a pen plus a few calm minutes.
By placing your concerns on paper, you’ll recognize what truly matters and what you can easily let go of.
Just open your notebook and write down whatever crosses your mind.
Why do you feel stressed?
What makes you feel bad right now?
What’s the reason for your anger or frustration?
You might want to write three lines or three pages — whatever it is, take your time and allow your thoughts and emotions to flow freely.
You don’t need to follow any structure or guideline; it’s only about getting your thoughts on paper and letting them go.
“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.” — Amy Collette
Even during the most challenging time, there’s so much we all can be grateful for.
Too often, we take the most precious things for granted: our home, health, food, family, education, safety,…
The most valuable things in life aren’t things anyway. Quite often, it’s the stuff that’s already here, but we forget to appreciate it.
Practicing gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to shift your energy and raise your vibration. If you feel grateful, you can’t be angry, disappointed, or frustrated.
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot at least, we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”
Gratefulness means being present and focusing on your blessings instead of being concerned about the future.
You can think of all the things you’re grateful for, or you can take it one step further and write it all down in your journal.
At first, it might feel unfamiliar to focus on all the things you took for granted for so long, but if practiced regularly, this exercise can radically change your mind and mood.
Even during the most stressful times, you can choose to focus on the things that spark your soul and make your heart dance.
Repeat Powerful Affirmations
Repeating affirmations is another powerful way to shift your perspective and focus on the good.
Affirmations are a powerful tool to reconnect with your higher purpose and raise your energy whenever you feel unmotivated or stressed.
You can either create your own affirmations or do some research and choose affirmations that feel most appropriate to you.
Here are a few examples:
I am always safe and divinely protected and guided.
I live in complete joy and abundance.
I am successful in all my pursuits.
I am safe in all my relationships and I give and receive tons of love.
I am naturally filled with an abundance of energy.
Choose your favorites and repeat them a few times until you truly feel their effect on your mental state.
Research proves that self-affirmation can minimize anxiety and stress. Setting up and repeating powerful affirmations can change your brain one step at a time. Yet, affirmations only work if you feel them.
Just repeating them isn’t enough. You need to be convinced of their truth and feel as if it’s already the reality.
Recall Your Long-Term Vision
Quite often, we’re stressed because we put too much importance on stuff that doesn’t even matter.
We forget about the essential things and instead worry about what-ifs or the future.
That’s why recalling your long-term vision and focusing your goals can be a great way to reduce pressure and calm down during stressful times.
By reminding yourself of your vision and the life you want to create for yourself and your loved ones, you’ll focus on the positive and look for ways to overcome challenges.
While doing so, you’ll spend less time worrying and stressing over the small things which can’t be controlled anyway.
You can either close your eyes and visualize your perfect day and life, or you can create a vision board full of images that represent your dreams. Once your board is designed, you can use it over and over again.
You can design your board with digital tools such as Canva or Pinterest, or you do it the old-fashioned way by cutting or printing images and gluing them on a physical board.
Almost 65 percent of us are visual learners; that’s why recalling your goals through images can be so powerful.
As George W. Carver once said:
Where there is no vision, there is no hope.
And if you can create your vision based on images, it’s even more powerful.
Free Your Mind
At the end of your relaxation routine, take a few minutes for a short meditation.
If you’re not used to meditating, it’s best to start with a guided meditation. You can find those in almost any meditation app and on YouTube.
Most applications even provide 1-minute meditations, which are short and sweet but still can help you to get rid of negative thoughts and feel calmer.
Having a clear mind and being present is the root of a happier life and meditation is one of the most effective ways to let go of tension and negative beliefs.
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.”
— Eckhart Tolle
Last but not least: If you have a few more minutes left, finish your relaxation routine with a short walk and some fresh air. A short walk can be meditative and energizing. It helps you to clear your mind and gain new energy.
If you don’t have more time, end your routine with a smile and be grateful for yourself for taking that time for you.
Sometimes, a few calm minutes and a relaxed mind can make a huge difference in your day. And if practiced regularly, these few minutes can impact your entire life.
Remember that whenever you work on yourself, you’re working on becoming a better you. You’re not competing with someone but instead giving your best to nourish your soul and body in the best possible way.
All these methods are here to help you be more content and satisfied. Follow the routine to find out which of these activities make you feel best.
And if you realize that visualization is more powerful than journaling for you, spend more time on recalling your vision. If you realize that ten minutes are enough, shorten the practice. Do whatever feels best for you.
The only rule to follow is to make time for wellbeing in one way or the other. As the Buddha once said: “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
And loving yourself starts by taking care of yourself.
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