Everyone experiences stress, but it’s how we respond to stress that can make all the difference when it comes to managing it in our daily lives.
Stress can feel overwhelming and all-consuming. And while you’re not expected to manage this on your own (help is available), there are some practices you can add to your everyday to help lower your stress.
Here head psychologist and founder of The Indigo Project, Mary Hoang, shares her best tips for managing stress and finding your calm. Mary thinks creatively about what people need to manage mental health often involving music, art and food into her practice to help people lead more meaningful lives.
From her favourite stress-busting playlists to the everyday rituals that can help reduce your stress, these are Mary’s best tips for a calmer mind.
Discover how to identify your stress
Too much stress is destructive, affecting sleep, mood, creativity, health and relationships. You know when stress is affecting you if it’s hard to fall asleep because you’re overthinking or agitated, or you wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to fall back asleep. Other signs are crankiness, sensitivity, or frustration, feeling run down or like you don’t have enough in the tank. You may notice that your appetite increases or you lose your appetite.
I ask people to list their stress responses, for example, emotional eating, smoking, work, crying, getting frustrated, broken sleep. These are the signs they’re getting too stressed. I’d also ask people to learn to notice what stress feels like in their body – for example, do you feel it in your chest or your stomach? – and to recognise these as warning signs.
Bust stress by grounding your body
A great stress buster is grounding the body. Taking a few deep breaths will calm the nervous system from fight or flight to the parasympathetic nervous system which is all about relaxation.
To do this, take a moment to notice what you can see, smell, taste, touch and hear. It will help ground you in the here and now and get your mind off pesky, ruminating thoughts and anxiety.
Use music as a relaxant
Music is a powerful relaxant, so make your own stress-relieving playlist. I created a great 10 hour playlist for my book Darkness is Golden, it’s called Music for Reading, but you can listen to it when you are working, needing to chill out, or needing to process some emotions.
I also curated a bunch of playlists for stress:
Indigo’s music director Rich Lucano and I created some great guided meditations to relieve stress:
Rituals to start your day stress-free
- Change your alarm sound to something pleasant and peaceful to wake up to.
- Put on some headphones and listen to one track that will put you in a good mood with your eyes closed.
- Stay off emails until you’ve figured out your priorities for the day
- Try morning movement and exercise.
- Check in with your energy levels and adjust your day according to what you have in the tank
Rituals to relieve stress at the end of the day
- Journaling – jot down just a few sentences about your emotions and what you are grateful for.
- Taking a mindful shower – notice all your senses are you lather up.
- Create a ritual to release stress like burning sage or palo santo.
- Express yourself – talking about your day and what came up for you.
- Reach out to a friend or a therapist if it was really challenging.