There will always be dark days, weeks or months where our problems seem insurmountable or every day feels like a journey through an obstacle course. Sometimes resolutions or positive progress can happen quickly. Other times we can only keep plodding forward in faith and with patience. We may not be able to eradicate the difficulties immediately, but we can ease them, make the expedition more bearable and keep going in the right direction.
Below are eight simple ways to make yourself feel better in a hurry. You can practice them anywhere and anytime.
- Change your posture. When we are feeling tense or negative, our bodies become small and compressed. We slouch, hunch our shoulders, gaze at the ground when we walk, sit with our arms crossed or tuck our legs tightly to our bodies. This affects our breathing and intensifies anxiety.
Picture a ballerina. Try straightening your back like you’re held by a thread from the top of your head. Stand or sit tall. Push your shoulders back into a pose of openness. When standing, keep both feet firmly on the ground, look up into the world, maintain a level gaze and turn any quick, shallow breaths into slow, deep ones.
- Practice deep belly breathing. Try this technique developed by Dr. Andrew Weil: Close your eyes. Inhale through your nose to a mental count to four. Feel your belly expand. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Now exhale through your mouth to a count of eight and feel your belly contract in the process.
Dr. Weil recommends doing this twice a day to feel the tranquilizing benefits to the nervous system.
- Zoom out and see the big picture. Often, we get stressed out, anxious or frustrated because we keep repeating a scene or negative story in our heads. Whenever you catch yourself doing so, stop and zoom out from that unconstructive mental image. Picture instead where this problem stands in the grand scheme of life. Remember that your life comprises many areas — work, money, family, friends, love, passion or hobbies, social contribution and more. One problem in one or some departments does not negate the goodness and blessings in other parts.
- Focus your thoughts on what you can do. When we face problems, our focus falls on the grave consequences that await us. Rather than let fear grip you, actively seek out what you can do. Direct your thoughts to how you can improve the situation. Ask yourself questions such as “Is my understanding of the situation accurate?,” “Is there another perspective?,” “What can I do to improve things?,” “Who do I need to talk to?,” “Are there new skills I can develop to cope better?,” and more.
- Smile. Break into a small smile and feel the difference. Do not force a big smile. Keep it faint and natural. If you struggle with this exercise, try picturing a day on the beach or recent happy moments. This act releases tension. Hold the smile as long as you can; try to do it often when you are stressed. It’s a simple practice yet works wonders every single time.
- Turn on the music, sing and dance. There’s nothing like letting music heal the soul. Do you need to cry, shout, sing or dance it out? Blast songs that allow you to release pent-up emotions. Create your personal playlist of songs you can speed-play for every state of mind. Better still, swap playlists with a friend and expand your options while bonding with your friend through music.
- Have a big glass of green juice + Vitamin B. When under pressure, stressful emotions can create acids in our bodies. A quick way to get back in balance and to restore depleted nutrients is to take Vitamin C (kale, orange), zinc (ginger, parsley, carrot), magnesium (parsley), potassium (spinach, banana) and beta-carotene (carrot, parsley). Vitamin B tends to deplete quickly under stress; you might consider a supplement.
- Recall how you overcame a similar instance in the past. When things go wrong, we sometimes obsess over how terrible or hopeless the situation is. We forget past incidents where it also felt impossible until it was done. On your smartphone, write a list of all the proud moments when you doubted your ability and succeeded through sheer hard work, strategic thinking and persistence. Whenever you face a crisis of confidence, refer to this list and recall the warrior within you.
Sitting up straight photo available from Shutterstock