As spring gets underway, students take exams—people are starting to get ready for summer, whether this means going on vacation to a sunny beach, or continued slogging through daily monotony at the office—or perhaps, somewhere between.
Regardless of what you are undertaking at the moment, whether it’s something you’re immensely looking forward to or fear with your very being, everyone gets stressed or agitated at some time—this is fact.
However, we can work to alleviate this stress—or begin to lessen it—through a few easy steps.
As a side-note, like everything, not all of these work all the time or for every person, nor are they all feasible in every situation:
1. Take a deep breath.
This may seem basic, but it is often something forgotten in the hectic rush of life, work and whatever else is going on. Start from your diaphragm and slowly expand your lungs. Hold for five seconds, and exhale. Repeat a few times and you should notice a difference. This is because deep breathing helps your body to more readily absorb oxygen, as greater quantities are inhaled.
Likewise, by holding your breath for a few seconds, more of this oxygen has a chance to attach to blood platelets and enter the bloodstream. Conversely, hyperventilation, or very rapid breathing, while useful in certain situations is a residual component of the innate fight-or-flight response, generally brought on by a burst of adrenaline in an attempt to increase the body’s oxygen intake.
For many, though, this process is counter-productive and may lead to loss of consciousness and/or nausea if continued for a long enough period.
2. If you can, physically remove yourself from the situation.
A walk in the woods, trip to the gym, or sitting down with a sketch pad—do something that helps you to re-charge. In essence, take time for yourself. If you’re someone who says they have no time to relax, schedule it in—even just five or ten minutes a day, to sit, reflect and relax could help immensely.
Find something that you deeply enjoy doing that, preferably, is not connected to your work—or encompasses a different aspect of your work than what you’ve been doing. If the mind is allowed to wander where it will in the process of you working on something completely different, a solution, idea or strategy my come to mind that you could not see before. This seems to be largely connected to an individual’s mind being so utterly focused on the problem that needs solving that, to use an old adage, you can’t see the forest for the trees.
If you take a step back and ignore the problem for a time, an answer might come to you more easily—much as a cat will ignore a toy or small animal, until it is close enough to pounce.
3. If nothing else, make some tea.
It’s terribly English to say, I know, but there is validity behind making and drinking tea.
Firstly, the act of removing yourself from your desk/assigned project/etc. is enacting the above-mentioned #2, allowing your mind to have a short break.
Secondly, the act of drinking a hot beverage acts as an internal hot-pack, if you will, helping to relax tense muscles. This is especially prominent in the areas around the jaw, back of the neck, and shoulders, as all are strongly connected and tenseness in one, leads to muscle and joint pain in others.
It is important to note that by ‘tea’ I mean ‘plant material, usually leaves, having been steeped in hot water.’ This encompasses everything from the generic black or green tea to those often termed ‘herbal infusions.’
Taking this into consideration, certain plants help to relax the drinker, often through several senses: pleasing aroma, pleasant colour, and palatable taste. The most common of these being various forms of green tea, chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), rose (especially Rosa canina—Dog Rose) and vervain (Verbena officinalis).
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is likewise good, though more for memory improvement than direct stress reduction.
Also, though I say tea, I know some who abhor tea of any form in favour of coffee, so aside from the obscene amounts of sugar I have sometimes seen people use in their coffee and modern society’s obsession with caffeine, coffee is fine too.
Kate Salter is an Ethnobotanist, finishing her MSc, loves going for long walks in the woods, searching for intriguing plants, and interesting stones. She also operates Bunn and Bird, Spirit Landing, and the Pagan Plant Project.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise