Stress can be a positive thing in that it can spur us to transcend boundaries and ideas we had about ourselves. However, stress can become negative if it leaves us feeling overwhelmed by circumstances in our lives. Often, we may find it difficult to change circumstances that cause us stress. And, in fact, if we are constantly avoiding things in life because we find them stressful, it can really narrow our experience of life, and lead to another type of stress.
But one thing we do have the power to do, is change the way we respond to stressors. By learning how to handle stressful feelings, by creating time our in our lives where we can recharge our batteries, and by learning how to relate to ourselves in a different way, we come to a state of being where the things that used to bother us, no longer do.
Changing our self preception takes time, but there are things you can do now to create an environment where such changes may organically grow. Here are 4 ideas on how to handle stress in your life.
1. Be Creative
Often our lives are so filled with 'doing' our daily tasks - whether that be for work or family commitments, that we don't have the opportunity to really express ourselves. Couple this with a very analytical culture, and we often are unaware of our own well-spring of creativity. This is not about being the next Picasso or Bach. Simply find a craft or activity in which you can be creative - maybe pottery, dancing, music, pastels, writing, or singing. When we start expressing ourselves creatively, without expectations about the results, we can begin o discover a new relationship with ourselves. Its a very liberating thing, and a great way to balance the hemispheres in our brains, which has a positive flow on effect in the rest of our lives.
2. Swap massages with a friend regularly
You don't have to see a massage therapist to enjoy the relaxing benefits of massage. Try teaming up with a friend, maybe checking out some of the books or DVD's on massage, and practise on each other. You could make a regular time once a week to swap a half hour massage. Try heating up the oil until it is warm (not too hot otherwise it will burn your skin), add some essential oils, make sure the room is warm, and play some soothing music. Back massage is particularly calming, and it doesn't have to be heavy, deep stokes. Just make sure you keep the pressure constant, and try and keep the massage strokes long and fluid. Going slowly, calmly, and carefully, with attention focused in your hands, is a very effective way to reduce stress in the body.
3. Use Incense or Essential Oils Daily
Aromatherapy is a great way to unwind after work, or any stressful situation. Our sense of smell is a powerful way to shift our emotions, and calm the flight or fight response of stress. Essential oils can be massaged into the skin, inhaled from a burner, or put into the bath for a completely relaxing experience. Some good oils to try are lavender, which is very nurturing, chamomile, which is calming, bergamot, clary sage, and frankincense. If you're massaging the essential oils into your skin, use them mixed with a carrier oil like almond or jojoba oil.
4. Learn To Love Your Body
In an age where we are bombarded with images of women starving and punishing themselves to fit into an American size 0 (Australian size 6), it is easy to subconsciously judge ourselves when we have even a healthy level of body fat. But this unrealistic ideal that can lodge itself in our subconscious mind, even when we think we are not caught up in it, can create an environment where we feel we are not 'enough', just as we are. Instead of looking in the mirror every morning and seeing things you'd like to change about yourself, say 'thank you' to your body. Thank you for providing the means with which to do the things you enjoy, like going swimming, hanging out with friends, enjoying a meal at a nice restaurant, going to the movies, or a local cafe. Thank you for housing your soul and allowing you to feel the sunlight on your skin, the softness of cat's fur, the smile of a loved one. We are all enough just as we are, in the bodies we inhabit. Appreciate yourself.