Blissing Out – 9 Effective Ways To Reduce Stress
Stress messes with you. Stress makes you think the world is out to get you. Stress makes you sick, quite literally, when nothing is actually wrong with you. Stress makes you act like a really lousy version of yourself, and take out your anger and frustration on the people who matter most to you.Who needs it?
The opposite of stress is bliss – a state of perfect happiness. Most of us don’t get a lot of bliss in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it. Let’s take a look at what stress truly is before we dive into ways to combat it with simple moments of bliss to break up the pressure of the daily grind.
What is Stress?
The UK’s Stress Management Society defines it as “primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight mode’, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemical to prepare the body for physical activity.”
Now before we all worked in air-conditioned offices and our biggest worry in the morning was whether or not to get the whipped cream on our frappuccinos (none for me, thanks), mankind had a lot of stressful decisions arise that absolutely demanded a physical response, things like:
- Your rival in town challenging you to a duel
- Your crops being eaten by a large bear who was currently walking your way and licking his lips
- Being conscripted into the army of the latest King of your country who had decided that some landmass thousands of miles away actually belonged to him
- Having a baby at a time before epidurals or hospitals or chocolate ice cream
Back in those days, there really was physical action solution that made sense and was socially acceptable.
Your rival said pistols at noon tomorrow, by god you were there at 11:45 a.m. packing heat.
You were drafted into the army, you got your sword/morning star/bayonet and started hollering “For King and Country!” the moment you hit the beach.
You were having a baby, you put a death grip on your husband’s arm and squeezed until it turned purple, because this was his fault after all.
You saw that bear coming your way licking its lips, you … well, you probably tasted good.
If you need a Hollywood example, think back 33 years to the Michael J. Fox classic “Back to the Future”. When George McFly sees Biff Tannen being rough with the girl he’s crushing on, his body starts pumping out adrenaline until the point where the balls up and puts a vicious right cross into Biff’s cheekbone, cold-cocking the villain and winning the girl’s love.
Stats on Stress
If you think you’re alone in experiencing stress, think again. According to the American Institute of Stress, 77% of American adults regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, with another 73% experiencing psychological symptoms.
Fighting Stress with Bliss
About 12 years ago, I got “promoted” from a position that I loved to one that paid more money but also came with infinitely more grief and internal conflict. I was 32 years old at the time and within two months of the promotion, I was experiencing back and neck pain daily, having trouble both sleeping and staying awake, fighting constipation and had convinced myself that I must have cancer or something because I felt so lousy every day.
I was supposed to take off one Friday and go with family members on a mini-vacation to the beach, but was lying in bed that morning feeling like I just couldn’t make it when my brother called and said, “Look, you’re really stressed out, you need to come.”
I relented and about 8 hours later I was swimming in the Gulf of Mexico with my dad and my niece. My niece was three years old at the time and I had her up on my shoulders to avoid the waves. She was laughing and screeching with delight and her positive vibes flowed right through me.
It was at this moment that I suddenly realized several important things.
- My back didn’t hurt.
- My neck didn’t hurt.
- I was smiling.
- I felt great.
Stress had crept up on me so slowly that I never even realized the symptoms. And with a few hours of R&R, it had vanished back into the recesses of my mind.
Stress can be crippling if you don’t know how to fight back against it. You may find some or all of the following techniques helpful, but the biggest thing to take away from all of them is that you have the power to control your stress.
Finding a state of bliss, even for a few fleeting moments is a great way to remind yourself that there’s so much more to life than the day-to-day routine that ends up bogging us all down eventually. Find something that makes you truly happy, indulge once in a while, and watch your stress level melt away.
I’m going, to be honest with you here. I have twin sons, two dogs, a cat, a mortgage and a car payment. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to myself. If I take the proper steps of meditation, I’ll be asleep inside of the first 15 seconds.
But done properly, meditation can be a huge way to turn stress into bliss because it can pull you out of your stressful state and give you a sense of being one with the world around you. The biggest part of meditation is getting your body to relax and that can be tough if you’re in the middle of a stress-filled day.
You can achieve this by focusing on a single object – be it something physical like the light of a candle or a noise such as the whir of a ceiling fan. When you lock your concentration into that one spot, your body will relax naturally and this will, in turn, unlock your mind.
There’s no real right or wrong way to meditate, it has everything to do with what helps you relax. If you can block out the real world, you’ll realize just how much there is beyond whatever is stressing you out, and realize just how rich and full your life is as well.
If you don’t particularly like exercise, you might feel like I’ve just sentence you an hour or so in a torture chamber. But if there was ever an activity to take you from stress to bliss in a short amount of time, exercise is the way to go.
Instead of your mind bearing the weight of all your problems, you’re transferring all that stress into your muscles, which will then work it out in the form of physical activity. It doesn’t to be jogging through the heat or mired between a ton of sweaty gladiators and Amazons at the gym either.
Exercise can be anything from dancing to walking your dog to going to a jazzercise class. There are five chemicals released during exercise including:
- Serotonin – a mood booster that combats depression
- Norepinephrine – increases your alertness and sharpens your focus
- BDNF – a growth hormone that can form new connections between your nerves
- Dopamine – Increases motivation
- Endorphins – They make you feel good when you get your blood flowing. Bliss quickly follows.
We’ve all got that song that we’re going to crank up when it comes on, no matter where we are, what we’re doing or how much it embarrasses our spouse and children. Embrace the embarrassment! Music is a powerful conduit of past feelings of happy, carefree times.
Once your fingers are tapping and your head is bobbing, you will feel your spirits lifted as your autonomic nervous system begins practicing quicker recovery and your endocrine and psychological systems naturally relax, lowering your stress levels.
One of the worst things about being stressed out is that we bottle up the frustrations we’re having. Think about a bottle full of soda. The more you shake it up, the more agitated it becomes, until finally it bursts and spews everywhere, making a colossal mess.
That’s about what it’s like for us when we don’t find a way to relieve the stress in our own lives. But we often forget that the people who mean the most to us are also the people best prepared to help us. Often times, friends and family are part of the reason we are feeling stressed out, but that doesn’t mean it becomes their whole identity.
The reason we value them so highly is that we’ve shared experiences and events that are truly blissful, and a great way to unburden ourselves from all that stress is to recreate one of those events or try a new one.
Grab your best friend for a 2-hour coffee break where you do nothing but eat, drink and dish. Find your favorite photo album and go visit your mom or dad to relieve some old memories. If you feel like telling them about your stress, great; if not, you still get the quality time. If it’s been a while since you’ve de-stressed privately with your husband or wife, make a date to do so, or do it spontaneously.
A little planning – like some mood music, a candle or a certain perfume or cologne – takes two minutes and can have an amazing effect on you and your partner, helping you both achieve bliss by getting out of your own heads and into the space you used to inhabit best.
If you have kids, take off an hour early, pick them up from school and take them for some ice cream or a movie or a trip to the playground. Doing this even once a month reminds you that you are so much more than whatever the stressful situation defines you as.
Take something lousy and turn it into something fun, and let your kids’ delightful personalities and habits restore your faith in humanity.
For instance, twice a month, one of my daughters had to get an allergy shot that is quite frankly nowhere near our house. I pick her and her sister up from school and it takes us about 20 minutes to get to the office where we wait for 30-45 minutes for the entire process to be complete. By then, it’s rush hour and we’re taking another 430 minutes to get home.
Early on in the process, I tried bringing my laptop to the appointment to make up for some of the hours I was losing in the whole process; but that only made me more irritable between the noise level and my girls asking me to help them get down every single magazine from the reading rack.
At some point, I gave it up and embraced that this was an opportunity to spend 90 minutes with my kids that I otherwise wouldn’t have. Now I test my vocabulary by having them feed me words for made-up stories and we read chapters of books have brought from my childhood to theirs like Charlotte’s Web and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
If you don’t have kids, ask a friend or family member if you can have a visit with one of theirs for a trip to the ice cream parlor, the park or something special like ice skating, a ballet performance or a live show. Not only will you achieve bliss while enjoying something through a child’s perspective, but the parents of the said child will likely nominate you for the Congressional Medal of Freedom when you tell them you want to give them a few hours to themselves free of charge!
I never knew how much I wanted to read until I no longer had the time available to do it as much as I wanted to. Make sense? Whether your passion is for history, romance, science-fiction or political intrigue, reading is a brilliant way to relieve stress and allow you to focus on someone else’s life, one that is built for your entertainment.
For me, reading a good book is like going scuba diving. It’s a whole other world down there, and when I finally come up for air, I can’t believe how much time has passed. If you’re a workaholic, find some niche to cut out 30 minutes a day, three times a week to read something that entertains you.
It might not seem like much time, but it’s enough to get your mind cleared of your stress and get yourself transported to another world where dragons or wizards or spies or whatever is going on in those “50 Shades of Gray” books can come alive and be your temporary reality.
- Laughing at your boss’s lame joke in hopes of it landing you a promotion: BAD
- Laughing when you look at your current credit card debt and realizing you won’t have enough money in the account to buy a slice of cheese this week: BAD
- Finding some positive humor that you can relate to or just makes you giggle: GOOD
It also can stimulate your circulation and aid in muscle relaxation, two things constantly under fire when you’re stressed out. But perhaps most of all, laughter makes you feel human. It moves you from a place where the world seems grey and ugly to where you remember that most of the time it’s bright and sunny.
Think back on your favorite memories of your formative years. I guarantee there’s at least one out there that involves laughing with your best friends from school, college or a first job. Those times seem so ideal in hindsight because of their carefree nature. Laughing is a marvelous tonic for getting out of your world of stress.
This isn’t about raising your hand when the teacher asks you what the capital of Bulgaria is, it’s about realizing who you are in the moment happening right now and being able to regulate yourself and remember that the world is not merely the problem stressing you out right now.
Being present can involve almost any activity under the sun with one caveat: That it does not have anything to do with the stressful situation you are currently undergoing. Let’s say you’re sweating over the computer trying to figure out where the money’s going to come from to pay for your mortgage, car note, credit card statements, not to mention socking a few dollars away for your own retirement and the kids’ college funds.
You feel like you can’t even buy yourself a pedicure or a new item of clothing for fear of overdrawing your checking out.
That’s when you remove yourself from the financial world. Put on your tennis shoes, grab your dog and his leash and take a 30-minute walk outside to see what’s going on in the rest of the world. Your brain will love the exercise and your four-legged friend will love you for getting him out of his daily pattern of naps and more naps.
When you’re sitting on the grass by the lake scratching behind his ears, you may very well find that bliss has taken that pile of bills and sent them scattered to the four winds.
If you have the time and the funds, nothing wipes out stress like a good massage. But let’s face it, if had that kind of time and money, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog, so let’s make due with what’s available, shall we?
First, remove yourself from the source of your stress, even if that means just locking yourself in your bedroom and putting a good movie on TV for the kids. Second, take a towel and soak, then rinse it with hot water. This is the same treatment you’re going to get at most spas and uppity barber shops except it’s not costing you $12.50 When it’s ready, wrap it around your face and lie down.
In about 10 minutes time, you will be hitting bliss like a Mack truck through a banana stand as the tension goes out of your face, your pores open up and your mind is able to slowly settle down. If headaches are a problem for you, a great home remedy is to take a tennis ball and roll it back and forth on your forehead. The motion combined with the texture will start breaking up the packets of stress lurking beneath, and nothing says bliss like being able to break away from a migraine.
Bliss is achievable no matter how much stress you might be under, and there’s no time like the present to start feeling it. Stress will make you feel like you don’t have the time or the energy to relax and seek bliss, and that’s exactly when you should be trying to achieve it. Good luck!