Sometimes instant gratification just isn't fast enough. That desire for speed never seems more essential than when we get sideswiped by stress.
Triggers can come small, like when you're waiting for a web page to load or find yourself stuck behind a slow driver. But when the more significant stuff happens that leaves you zapped, one thing to help us tap into our resilience reserve is an emotional reprieve—a release valve by taking even a short mental break.
After all, our best decisions and strategies come when we're in a "healthy state of mind," or at least in a calmer moment, which isn't possible when your emotions are running high.
If you can relate and seek tools of instant self-care, then here we explore eight ideas to give you an abrupt energy shift in stressful times.
- Move your body. The simple act of sitting up straight and taking deep cleansing breaths – or lying supine and stretching your limbs while you breathe – can help your body trigger chemicals to shift your mood. Per Psychology Today, the physical and mental connections in our body morph all the time with movement. Signaling a change in your body can help you shift your feeling at the moment.
2. Listen to Music. Take a few minutes to listen to music, especially the kind that generally makes you feel calm. Why does music work so well to change your mood? Per Gizmodo, "Brain connectivity, in particular between the auditory and emotion centers of the brain, is linked to music's ability to make us feel things. Music provides an auditory channel towards the emotional centers of the brain." Sounds good to me!
3. Take a Walk. You don't have to take a lengthy trek to gain benefits from walking. A short stroll can help clear your mind, increase your energy, and improve your mood. Bustle lists eight ways that walking helps you, but the most obvious and immediate one is that it increases your blood flow to your organs, including the one up in your noggin. More blood flow means more oxygen, and more nutrients in and toxins out.
4. Talk to a friend. Your friends can be a great source of support. The action of talking out loud allows you to process feelings of aggression or fear. In fact, per The New York Times, the scientific benefits behind speaking about your feelings is biological, a method of shifting from the amygdala part of your brain, which operates in fight or flight mode. By putting feelings into words, you are "affect labeling," which helps to diminish the amygdala's operation and move from panic to more rational thought.
5. Write in your journal. Leaking out your feelings in a journal has some of the same benefits as talking to a friend, but you are your friend giving yourself the boost in this case. By writing your thoughts on paper (or creating audio or video, or images for that matter), you give voice to them and can prioritize what is on your mind. Per Greater Good, the practice of journaling what turns out to be good for your psyche also helps you physically by boosting your immune system and overall health as well.
6. Do something kind. You've heard people say that by helping others, they help themselves. There is some science behind why helping others can be indirectly self-serving. Per Quiet Revolution, when we do kind things for others, we feel warmhearted as the hormone oxytocin is released. As a result, nitric oxide is released into the blood vessels causing them to expand. More blood equates to more oxygen moving throughout your body.
7. Change your scenery. Take a short trip or inhabit another space in your home that isn't your normal, and you give your hippocampus and striatum a workout. Per CNBC Make It, when these two areas of the brain are offered a new environment, they work in tandem to explore, which strongly influences your mood.
8. Clean something. Have you had one of those times when you were supposed to do one thing but elected to clean something instead? Cleaning your physical space is a metaphor for processing your emotional baggage. And cleaning a space offers control in a smaller real-world environment when bigger stuff is hard. Per Very Well Mind, they note a study where people who were mindful about washing dishes experienced a 27% reduction in nervousness and a 25% improvement in mental inspiration.
The only world you inhabit is your mind and body, so it pays to take care of it, especially in stressful settings. Give yourself some time to regroup and build up your reserves. Then take one step at a time, and move forward.