Life comes at us fast and hard. We spend our lives juggling a delicate balance of wants, needs, deadlines, and dreams. All of these bits of stress can lead us equally to great achievements or to sleepless nights. It is a lifelong challenge to develop and practice the skills necessary to manage this load.

The first step on the path to downshifting your stress level is to recognize the signs of being overly stressed in the first place. These symptoms can affect not only your mood (anxiety, lack of focus, irritability), but your behavior (overeating/undereating, anger outbursts, social withdrawal) and even your physical health (high blood pressure, headaches, chest pain). If you notice your stress level rising, give one of these suggestions a try.

Here are 5 easy ways to shift back to neutral:

1) Change your environment – Try going into a different room, or outside. Play some of your favorite music. Hop into the shower.

2) Focus on your breathing – You don’t have to follow any particular pattern or guidelines. Just try to direct your attention to that one singular thing, your breath.

3) Tension/Relaxation Exercise – Starting from your head and working your way down, tense up, and then relax each muscle group. Scrunch up your face and hold it for a few seconds. Relax. Shrug those shoulders up to your ears and hold. Relax. Continue down to the toes.

4) Do something creative – Jump into something creative – painting, sculpting, baking, music. There is no end goal in this exercise. This requires no expertise or skill: play some terrible guitar riffs, drip paint onto paper, bake something that may not even taste good. Just create without expectation.

5) Practice self-acceptance – This may be the hardest on the list, but it may be the most impactful. It is perfectly acceptable to have uncontrollable feelings, to be overwhelmed, to even manage things poorly. And that is absolutely fine! We are human and failure is built into our DNA. It is what fuels our capacity to learn and grow. It is okay to not be okay 100% of the time.

To speak with Licensed Massage Therapist Chris Jones about his great ideas for staying fit, and how massage therapy can become a part of your self-care routine, please reach out to him at cvjones@gmail.com