If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably felt anxious, stressed out, maybe even slightly depressed over the past year given everything that’s occurred in the world. We totally understand if you’ve felt any of these emotions because we have, too. Spencer went through two big job transition and was let go from one of them after 6 months and we also left our lives in Los Angeles to travel longterm…during a pandemic.
While the last decision was exciting, it also brought with it a considerable amount of anxiety. To help us cope with our emotions, stay positive and keep perspective, we came up with a few things that we did nearly everyday that didn’t just help us gain perspective, but truly made us grateful and less stressed. Of course, this wasn’t easy, but we stuck with it and eventually found what we were looking for; peace and calm in an otherwise confusing time.
We shared our experience recently in a post on Instagram, sharing our top 5 tips for reducing stress and asked our awesome community (probably some of you reading this) to share what works for them. We received so many great suggestions, as well as people asking us to dive deeper into what works for us that we decided to write a more detailed blog post.
So, here are our top tips (as well as our favorite community sourced suggestions) for reducing stress.
Quick disclaimer before we dive in: You don’t need to try all of these at once. Try one of these one week and stick with it to see if it helps you. If it doesn’t move on to the next and try something else that better aligns with you.
Ok, here we go…
1. Disconnect from social media, like really though, switch it off and hide your phone
There’s a great book that we highly recommend that digs into this called Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. In a nutshell the book exposes how our phones, computers, and social media are constantly vying for our attention and we are fighting a losing battle which ultimately means we are all spending way more time in front of our screens. This can lead to making us less productive, distracted, overwhelmed, uninterested, and depressed. For these reasons and so many other’s it’s important that we leverage digital technology consciously and every now and then take some time off, whether that means not using your phone straight away in the morning, no screen time after 7pm, or taking one whole day off each week. It’s up to you to find a solution that works best for your needs, but we highly recommend giving this a shot if you are feeling stressed out, plus it’ll give you more time to focus on some of the other tips we have below!
2. Get outside and into nature
It’s okay if you don’t have a forest near your house or a beach, it’s perfectly okay just to get outside and take a long walk. When we lived in Los Angeles, our neighborhood was surrounded by busy streets and freeways, but we found a small neighborhood nearby that was filled with trees and gardens in people’s front yards. Any time we felt anxious, stressed or low on energy, we’d look at each other and say “Let’s go on a walk.” It’s something so simple, yet so powerful. There’s even a latin phrase for it; solvitur ambulando, which translates to “it is solved by walking.” For us this couldn’t be more true. After a long walk we feel refreshed, we’ve talked through some of our issues as walking helps us open up more to each other, and we come up with new ideas and inspirations. It’s incredible and we’ve never felt the same way from sitting on a couch. So, if you have some questions that need answering or are feeling stressed then go for a walk. Solvitur ambulando!
3. Self care
This one is pretty broad and can look very different for each of us, but something that we find really relaxing and stress reducing is an epsom salt bath with lavender essential oil. Epsom salt is packed with one of the most essential minerals our body needs to stay healthy; Magnesium. Healthy magnesium have been shown to boost brain neurotransmitters that are responsible for inducing sleep and reducing stress. As for why we add lavender essential oil beyond the fact that it obviously smells AMAZING, it’s also been shown to promote relaxation, treat anxiety and depression, and fight off insomnia.
Also, when we are stressed and anxious our body and muscles can get very tight, so taking a warm bath can help relieve muscle tension and help you recover after a long day.
Here are some additional ways to reduce stress that our wonderful community suggested:
4. Yoga / Meditation
Yoga is an incredible way to check-in with yourself, slow things down, and relieve tension in your body through deliberate and focused movement. Stress can build up in our body and manifest in different ways, but for a lot of us (we are definitely included in this group) stress can accumulate in our hips, back, and neck. Yoga can help us relieve this tension by diving in to these areas of our body and opening them up through deep stretching. For example, a simple pigeon pose can do wonders for our emotional and physical health.
When it comes to meditation don’t be discouraged if your mind is still buzzing with thoughts while you are trying to sit in silence. The point of meditation isn’t so much to rid your mind of the chaos, but to bring attention to those thoughts so they don’t take up any more valuable energy than they need to. Even just a few minutes can help you reduce stress. Here are a few apps that we love to use for our meditation practice:
The Breathing App: The Breathing App is inspired by resonance, the scientific name that describes what happens when our heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure, and brainwave function come into a coherent frequency. It occurs spontaneously when we breathe at a rate of five to seven breaths per minute (instead of our usual 15-18). It results in a calm, restful alertness and many other benefits.
Calm: We love using Calm to listen to bedtime stories, which if you haven’t done, just think back to when you were a little kid and how much you loved them then! In addition to bedtime stories (Stephen Fry’s Blue Gold is our favorite!), they also have a ton of guided meditations with specific intentions behind each one. For instance, if you want to feel motivated there are tons of guided meditations just to help you with that specific intention. They are constantly uploading new meditations and other content that keeps the experience fresh and current.
Download here: Calm
Insight Timer: Insight Timer is a meditation app which provides meditation for sleep & anxiety for android and iOS users. It has listed guided meditations and talks led by the world’s top meditation and mindfulness experts, neuroscientists, psychologists and teachers. There are thousands of unique guided meditations program listed in this app. You can easily select by time for short meditations when on the go, helping you to build a simple daily habit. Along with these it has thousands of music tracks and ambient sounds to calm the mind, focus, sleep better and relax.
Download here: Insight Timer
5. Journal / Gratitude
Journaling can sometimes be overwhelming because you don’t know what to say. There’s no prompt to follow so it seems pointless at times. But journaling is one of the best ways to reduce stress and improve your mental health. Journaling helps prioritize problems, fears, and concerns. The added benefit here is that you can track these symptoms and anything else your feeling day-to-day. Sometimes we can think we are in a hole and forget that we have more to be positive about than we have to feel down about. That’s why we use our journal to express our gratitude. Sure there are times when we let it all out, but most of the times we keep it simple with the following:
In the morning (first thing) write down 3 things you are grateful for. This could be as simple as, “I’m grateful for waking up in a bed,” or “I’m grateful for my family.” This doesn’t have to be complicated, but the more often you do this will get you to naturally think more positively, recognizing the good things in life to be genuinely grateful for.
At night (before you go to bed) write down 3 things that went well that day. Again, this could be as simple as, “I made myself a delicious dinner,” or “I took out the trash.” Sounds silly, but with this you’re highlighting positivity rather than areas in your life or things that happened that make you feel down about yourself. Soon you’ll realize that your day was filled with things that went well rather than things that didn’t.
6. Phone call / Facetime with friends and family
We love this one! There’s nothing like taking 10-15 minutes out of your day to catch up with your friend or loved one. To be honest though this is something that we are working on because we can often get so caught up in our own lives that we forget to reach out to our family and friends to let them know that we are thinking about them and that we care about how they are doing. Sometimes being selfless and taking the time to ask how other’s are doing is all you need to feel better. The added benefit here is that if you do want to share what’s troubling you, your friend or family member may be the perfect person to hear you out, offer some sage advice from their own experience, or just give you the space to talk it out. Either way, it’s a win-win.
Of course we had to mention working out here and we are so happy that our community mentioned this to us. At this point, for me (Spencer) this is something that I just do everyday to stay sane. Whether I’m slowing things down with a long stretch or yoga or I’m speeding things up with some type of HIIT workout, I find that exercising is one of the surest ways to help me reduce stress. The key here is to find what works for you and to listen to your body. Some days you may want to sweat it out and go hard to let out your emotions or get your mind off of a hard day or week, other times you may just want to go inward and go to your favorite yoga class. There are so many different ways to move your body, but the key here is movement. The reason being is that movement actually releases the feel-good hormones; dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. With more of these circulating through your body you’re bound to feel better, reduce stress, and of course increase your own physical fitness.
We love keeping a book by the bed to dive into at night. It’s such a fun way to transport yourself into another world, learn about others, and ultimately understand humanity better, because every great story, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction is a mirror, reflecting our own thoughts, dreams, insecurities, strengths, and weaknesses. Whatever it is that you’re going through, you’re not going through it alone. Books have the power to reveal that to you and turn words into powerful messages of hope, wisdom, survival, beauty, you name it there’s a book out there that can deliver that message to you in ways nothing else can or will.
This list definitely wasn’t exhaustive so we’d love to hear your own tips for reducing stress in the comments below. The more we can share what works for us the more we can help others and try new things ourselves.
Much love and gratitude,