Everyone deserves to live a healthy life in mind, body, and soul. For some people reducing stress and living comfortably comes relatively easily, but for others it takes a conscious effort to pinpoint the stress sources and find balance in life. As recommended by an experienced Ottawa counsellor Elizabeth Kwasniewski, M.A., CCC, don’t neglect these important factors when it comes to putting yourself first, reducing stress, and leading a healthy and fulfilling life.
Sleep is incredibly important for recharging the mind and body and setting your overall mood for the day to come. While the length of a good night’s sleep varies based on age, far too much of the population sleeps less than the recommended seven hour minimum on a nightly basis. While it may seem hard or even impossible to lengthen your night’s sleep based on your demanding life schedule, there are simple changes you can make to enhance sleep and in turn improve the way you feel overall.
Our modern over-reliance on technology and preoccupation with staying connected is both actively and passively disturbing sleep. People stay up too late under the glow of a laptop screen, disrupting the production of natural hormones like melatonin which dictate our sleep cycle. Even when we put the devices away, our minds race at night, worried about what texts we might sleep through or what emails will greet us in the morning. The solution is a variation of the “digital detox.” Eliminating smartphones, tablets, and laptops from your nighttime routine will reduce the artificial light which affects sleep cycles and allow you to focus more on your lived experiences without the stress and distraction of staying connected.
Other key factors which can help provide a good night’s sleep include staying hydrated and setting a comfortable temperature in your bedroom. Staying active during the day can help tire you out so you fall asleep more easily, and a short stretching or yoga routine before bed can really help get your body and mind in a relaxed state to ease the sleeping process. Healthy habits combined with avoiding the distractions of technology can help reduce stress and provide a better night’s sleep.
Just as a healthy stretching or yoga routine before bed can help relax the mind and body, so too can meditation. It is an important tool in recentring your mind, body, and spirit, creating a calming effect which helps to relieve stress. The great asset of meditation is that in can be done in any environment and any position of your choice, as long as you feel comfortable and relaxed. In a quiet, cozy area of your choosing, assume a position in which you feel relaxed to begin the meditation process, whether this is the traditional cross-legged pose or just sitting comfortably in a chair.
There are a variety of meditation practices to choose from, and it is simply a matter of trial and error to find which one helps to relax you the most and leaves you feeling most refreshed and recentred following the session. A simple meditation session involves relaxation through focusing on the inhalation and exhalation of your breath. Focusing on your breath and the rhythmic pattern of inhaling and exhaling helps to clear your mind of thoughts, distractions, and stressors. Focusing only on the breath, visualizing your body receiving oxygen, you may be struck with a feeling of levity or clarity.
Mantra meditation is another popular variation. In this technique, you select a word or phrase of your own meaning with positive connotations, and repeat the word/phrase over and over. Whether the word is a cherished memory of your past, an aspiration for your future, or simply an abstraction that makes you feel good, repeat the word over and over, focusing only on it. This mental break helps to relieve you of your worries and can lift the weight on your shoulders caused by stress.
For many people, speaking with a professional is an important part of the approach to reducing stress. Not only can vocalizing the issues in a therapy session be of great relief, but a certified counsellor can also help you to recognize and address triggers, providing tools to reduce stress in your overall daily life. A qualified counsellor will tailor their therapeutic approach to your individual needs, combining mainstream and experientially-based approaches to best suit the client.
Imbalance in the work/life dynamic, relationship struggles, loss, or traumatic life events of the present or past can understandably cause grief, stress, and anxiety. In turn, these reactions to life events and issues can balloon into daily struggles, causing stress in their own right. It is important to acknowledge these issues and vocalize the difficulties they cause and the roadblock they represent between you and a healthy and fulfilling life. A certified counsellor will work with you to identify these issues and work with you to tailor solutions, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and propose useful stress relievers.
Daily life on its own can be challenging and cause many stresses, not to mention difficult life events and traumatic experiences. But acknowledging your stress and taking means to find solutions is the first key in leading a healthier and more fulfilling life. Whether you choose to develop better sleep patterns, relax and clear your mind with meditation, or seek the assistance of an able and caring certified counsellor, there are many paths which can help reduce stress and lead to a better life in mind, body, and soul.