Reducing stress and relaxing usually makes people think of bubble baths, sleeping in, staying home instead of partying, meditation, or snuggling under a plush blanket while watching their favorite show. Although all of those routines definitely do contribute to de-stressing, there are methods a bit more on the unconventional side that aren't as popular but can achieve just as much, if not even more. Check them out.
Shake It Off
Think about how your body feels when you're under constant stress: tense, clenched, shoulders up by the ears, jaw tight. And now try to think what happens when you're in the mid of your normal daily routine and a sudden shock occurs that shoots stress right into your body: usually you'll get startled, your body will start to shake or tremble, and sometimes it can be so powerful it doesn't stop for several minutes. This is how the body responds to surprising and extreme stress, and it's actually pretty natural.
See, humans don't like to be under constant stress, as that means the fight-or-flight system is always active, when in reality, it's meant to be quickly turned on and off, to provide us with a boost of energy and brain focus in order to escape whatever is chasing or attacking us. At that moment, every nerve in our bodies fires up, causing it to move, jump, run, or you guessed it, shake. Naturally, this revelation caused researchers and doctors all around the globe to figure out how to use this body's natural response and help shut off the fight-or-flight from staying on even after the "dangerous situation" has passed.
World-renowned psychiatrist, Dr. James Gordon, has been working with people who have been through the worst kinds of trauma, such as war, natural disaster, rape, and slavery for more than 20 years. He recommends using a method called “shaking” to help relieve tension and stuck emotions. It’s found to be soothing, even for people dealing with these extreme kinds of stress. Shaking can have great benefits as a calming tool for anyone who’s trying to soothe his or her nerves.
The whole process only takes about ten minutes and it starts by picking out two of your favorite songs that have a driving beat (like house, rock or dance music). Plant your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees, closing your eyes and feeling your shoulders relaxing. As the music begins, start shaking from your feet up through your chest, into your shoulders, head, and arms. Let your jaw hang open and pick up the pace, letting yourself lose control of your limbs; it’s okay to feel silly — just keep going! After the first song ends, hit pause and take a two-minute break. During this time, just stand still and notice how you feel, allowing the vibrations to run through your body. Turn the music back on and repeat everything for the duration of the second song, once again standing still and letting your body absorb all the sensations after it ends.
The Wim Hoff Method
Also known as the "crazy guy who sits naked in the snow" and "The Iceman," Wim Hoff is a Dutch extreme athlete who got world-famous due to his incredible ability to withstand cold and freezing temperatures. He also holds the Guinness World Record for the farthest swim under ice, with a distance of 57.5 meters (188.6 ft), as well as for the fastest half marathon ran while barefoot on ice or snow: 2 hr 16 min 34 sec.
Although we won't advise you to jump into the nearest frozen lake or run through the snowy mountains, his method is believed to be extremely successful in reducing stress as well as other areas such as boosting the immune system, replenishing energy storage, enhancing sports performance, and even improving mental health.
Although his method consists of three main pillars, breathing, exposure to cold, and commitment, we'll be focusing only on the breathing aspect. You can do the exercise sitting in a comfortable position or lying down, the latter being preferred for those just starting out. You'll be doing 3-5 series of 30-45 deep belly breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth, followed by a full last exhale which will be held for as long as you're able before your body naturally starts craving for an inhale. Once you inhale, hold it for a count of 10, and get straight back into the 30-45 breaths.
There have been conducted multiple scientific studies around the method exploring its effect on inflammation levels, mitochondrial activity, blood alkalinity, and the activation and deactivation of our fight-or-flight system, with many promising results throughout the years. Although it's all still new and there's a lot more to discover, breathwork is one of the most common de-stressing techniques overall, and trying something different and new can't do any harm.
Just Say No
Although this method doesn't seem so interesting or surprising like the other two, it's still not as popular or conventional as some of the other self-care practices, but giving yourself the permission to say "no" can be one of the most powerful ways to reduce stress. It’s natural to want to say yes to things, please others, and offer your help when it feels like it's needed, but this can lead to a lot of stress, even without noticing.
Give yourself a break from over-promising, and if something feels like it's too much, creates conflict in your life, requires more energy than you can handle, or simply doesn’t bring you joy, you can say “no” or even, “not right now.” Creating boundaries is important so you don't burn out and stay in that constant state of restless activation where your stress levels are through the roof and you're not even aware of it.
And remember – you don’t owe anyone a lengthy explanation. It may take some practice on your end, and it may also take people some time to get used to you saying no, so be patient – both with yourself and others. Think how when you're saying "no" to others, you're actually saying “yes” to yourself. Stress is inevitable, but it's also a factor in our lives we must learn how to control and manage in order to prevent it from wreaking havoc on our whole body and mind. Creating a self-care relaxation routine is important, so take some time to explore and figure out what works for you.
Everyone is different, and while some may thrive off a good book and a self-pampering session in the spa, others might enjoy shaking it up or deciding not to say yes to every little task or request. It's up to you to find out.