April is national stress awareness month, so I thought it was only fitting that we discuss various aspects of coping with it, and getting aligned with the universe. In the past I didn’t have the healthiest ways of dealing with stress and learning new approaches didn’t happen overnight. As bizarre as it may sound, it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I learned to live in the moment. I used to spend my time thinking about the past and worrying about the future. When I moved to California, I became much more in touch with my spiritual self and that has led me to maintain a healthier and almost stress-free lifestyle. You can read about my tips for dealing with stress and the techniques and philosophies I follow.
Stress can be caused from a variety of factors that occur in our everyday lives. We can control some of them, and others we can’t. It’s essential to figure out what they are and think about how we react to these triggers. Some of mine are the unknown and having a lack of control. I suffer from chronic sinusitis and have to take antibiotics frequently. That combined with the overall sense of feeling sick causes me to stress out. Overtime, I’ve learned numerous things I can do to help prevent getting sick, and what I can do once my symptoms arise. At times I have to stop and say to myself, “in a couple of days, I’ll feel better.” I’ll then remind myself that my health is most important, and it’s okay if I have to slow down a little.
The purpose of meditation is get to a state of tranquility. When we engage in these deep breathing exercises known as pranayama or “life force” it encourages our body to release stress and reverses the fight-or-flight response. This leads to letting go of negative thoughts and feelings. There are many forms of meditation like mantra, guided, Qi gong, mindfulness, Tai chi, yoga, and Transcendental Meditation.
Recently I’ve turned visualization meditation. This is the practice of sitting quietly and visualizing yourself in a tranquil place while tuning out the rest of the world. I use this in two ways—one, to concentrate on the present and two, to visualize what I want in the future while creating intentional thoughts and intentions. Studies have shown when you picture your goals playing out in your mind, you're more apt to obtain them.
Another daily routine I’ve become accustomed to is mindfulness meditation. This is where you clear your head and fixate on your breathing. It teaches you to be fully present, while training your mind not to overreact or become overwhelmed. It’s something that takes practice, but doing it for 5-15 minutes once or twice a day can help you learn how to deal with stressful situations. If you’re interested in learning, here’s a step-by-step guide.
When we combine crystals and stones with meditation, we’re incorporating the relaxing and soothing properties these beautiful gems possess. This helps us to connect at a high vibrational frequency, which can align our chakra and create a deeper sense of healing.
When I used to think about using crystals for healing, that infamous (and hilarious) scene with Spencer Pratt on The Hills came to mind. I got into crystals because I thought they were pretty and I wanted to display them throughout my apartment, not to use for “healing purposes”. I started using them on a metaphysical level after I purchased a book out of curiosity and learned about the powers they carry. Now, one of my favorite things to do is head to House of Intuition and dedicate time picking out crystals and stones to add to my growing collection.
When we use positive affirmations, we trick our minds into accepting what we’re saying (or writing) is true. That’s why it’s so important to not focus on negative thoughts because you’ll end up believing them. Two types of affirmations are present tense and future tense. Present tense helps for immediate stress relief, and future tense is for creating long-term positive changes to your mind. Both can help you become a calmer person. The key is finding affirmations that apply to you and your situation. You can recite them to yourself each day or record them in a journal. I like to say mine when I wake up and before I go to bed.
From diffusers, candles, bath bombs and essential oils, there are many ways to incorporate aromatherapy into our daily lives. Not only do they smell amazing, certain scents are specifically used to help alleviate stress by altering brain waves and reducing the level of cortisol—aka the stress hormone. It’s no secret I trust in the power of essential oils (I recently partnered with Simply Earth and reviewed one of their monthly recipe boxes, which you can read here.)
When we exercise, our bodies release feel-good endorphins, which can boost our mood and help us forget about what’s on our mind. I love the high I get after a gym session. If I do my workout in the morning, I’ll have a ton of energy throughout the day. If I do it towards the evening, it will help me wind down. So I don’t become bored I’ll switch it up and do a mix of cardio, lifting, and boxing. I also love taking my workout outside and going on a hike during a warm sunny day. The key is discovering something you get pleasure from and sticking with it.
If you’re someone (like me) whose job involves lots of screen time, or you’re fixated on your social media feed, it’s crucial to take breaks. Studies have indicated that too much time spent on our phones or computers can lead to depression and anxiety. I used to stay up all night surfing the web, discovering new music, and working on my blog. While I got lost in the moment, time would fly by and hours later I’d notice the sun rising and panic that I hadn’t gone to sleep yet. Now, no matter what I’m doing I’ll unplug an hour before bed and catch up on a TV show or read a book. This helps to clear my mind while allowing me to relax.
If we don’t get a good night’s sleep, our bodies become overworked and tired. But what happens when we’re already stressed and can’t fall asleep? We’ve all had those nights where we toss and turn—worrying—or anxiously anticipating the day ahead. When I’m having a hard time falling asleep I try to figure out the reason. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times it’s deep within my subconscious, so I have to do a little digging. I’ve found meditating while lying in bed will usually put me right to sleep. If that doesn’t do the trick, I’ll make a cup of calming tea and listen to my playlist of chill music. I‘ve also had to find a way to block out the noise that comes with living in a busy city—a chorus of sirens, music, and car alarms all-night-long. I ended up buying ear plugs and a sound machine. The combination of the two has helped me to become a much deeper sleeper, making me feel well rested when I wake up.
According to the ancient practice of Ayurveda we all have three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha, which correspond to our body-types and personalities. By figuring out what they are, we can learn how to eat for what our bodies require. (You can take this fun interactive quiz to discover yours.)
What I consume on a daily basis is far from perfect, but I’m mindful of it and I’m constantly striving towards making positive changes. A few years ago I couldn’t figure out why I was always feeling tired, so I made an appointment to have allergy testing done. I was shocked to find out that I’m highly allergic to beef and mushrooms, and slightly allergic to chicken. That day, I ended up giving up meat and I feel so much better emotionally, mentally, and physically. Right now I’m working on reducing the amount of Red Bull I consume. I’ve been drinking multiple cans a day for years but I’ve slowly been converting to Matcha (I’m obsessed with MatchBars Lemonade). Another positive change I‘ve been making is doing a lot of cooking for me and Billy. I used to make dinner occasionally (usually once a week) while most of our eating took place in the form of a takeout container or at a restaurant. Now, I take enjoyment in going to Whole Foods or the farmers’ market, picking out fresh ingredients and coming home to prepare a savory meal. I like knowing exactly what I’m putting into my body and having control over it.
Listening to music can fill our brains with positive feelings and that can slow our heart rate, and reduce the stress level hormone, cortisol.
Anyone that knows me knows that I have a playlist for everything--beach days, laying out by the pool, road trips, I could go on and on, so it was only fitting that I created one for relaxation and to help get a good night’s sleep. Filled with artists like James Blake, The xx, and RÜFÜS DU SOL, its chill and relaxing vibe is ideal for whenever I’m stressed or trying to unwind after a busy day.
When our thoughts and feelings are documented it allows for self-exploration, self-expression, and problem solving which can lead to a reduction in stress. Journaling can also encourage us to process certain situations and learn how to deal with them. Throughout my teens I was constantly writing about what was going on in life. While I dealt with teen angst, my writing erred more on the side of complaining than gratitude. I’m not sure why I stopped journaling considering it was something I looked forward to doing each evening, but I plan on starting up again. However, this time I’ll do it a little different and focus more on what I’m thankful for.
They can brighten up a space by making it look prettier, and these natural air purifiers can induce a relaxation response and calm our nerves. My favorites are snake plants and bamboo palms. Snake plants are easy to take care of, they don’t require a lot of light, and they release oxygen throughout the night (most plants do this during the day). Bamboo palms have that typical California vibe that fits in perfectly with the rest of my decor, and then there’s the added benefit of being on NASA’S list of top clean-air plants. Not sure which ones contain healing properties? Here’s a guide to picking the right plant for your home or office.
Art therapy and stress relief go hand in hand. Repetitive motions like painting, sketching, knitting, or even applying makeup can have effects that are similar to meditation. This explains why when I create art in Photoshop, cook, or design jewelry—I feel a sense on serenity. Another thing I’ve fallen in love with is DIY subscription boxes. Whether it’s essential oils like Simply Earth (use AGIRLINLAFREE for 10% off), or Hello Fresh where I make tasty dishes; they’re instant stress relievers.
A lot of times the simplest way to get our minds off of something is to focus on something else. I made a list of 50 of my guilty pleasures, and the little things that make me happy. Here are a few:
Listening to rain hit the windows on a chilly afternoon.
Getting a latte and spending the afternoon in a bookstore.
Heading to the top of a mountain and taking in the scenic views.
Creating the ideal playlist for a specific occasion.
Watching movies that bring back a dose of nostalgia, like Now and Then, Clueless, and Dazed and Confused.
Road trips while listening to ‘90s hip hop and pop songs.
Snowball fights in the freezing cold temperature and then sitting by the fireplace to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa.
Relaxing in a jacuzzi under the stars or city lights.
Playing with puppies or kittens.
Having a cheat day and eating my favorites like truffle mac & cheese, and penne alla vodka.
The feeling I get after a high-intensity gym session.
Spending all night at the beach and then watching the sunrise.
One of the leading causes of stress is having too much on our plate and overextending ourselves. This past January I started keeping a planner rather than typing my tasks and appointments into my phone—which has lead me to become more organized. Now, when I’m too busy I’ll politely decline an invitation, or if my schedule is filled I’ll say “no” to a project. If you’re someone like me with a Type A personality, the need to take on extra tasks feels like it’s apart of our DNA. When we remind ourselves there are only so many hours in the day and take moments to breath, we can get in the habit of saying “no” and not feel bad about it.
Self-care is a broad term but when regularly engage in it, it can help to rewire our brains and stimulate our relaxation response. Whether it’s practiced through meditation and deep breathing, yoga, or getting adequate sleep; developing a self-care plan is essential to living a healthy lifestyle. For me, the ultimate way to relax is enjoying a day at the spa and getting a facial and a deep tissue massage. I also love purchasing high-quality spa products—like this License to Chill Stress Mask—and doing an at home facial. Another form of self-care is spending time in the sun. I’m fortunate that my apartment has an amazing rooftop pool with panoramic views of DTLA. When I’m out there, I feel like I’m at a hotel and on vacation. I’m also lucky enough to live close to the beach. Spending just an hour or so sitting on the sand and reading a book while the waves crash makes me forget all my worries. It’s all about finding enjoyment in the little things.
When we fixate on the things we have, it takes away from thinking about what wish we had. In fact, studies have shown that people who focus on gratitude are happier and more optimistic than those who don’t. Everyday I try to make a point of remembering what I’m grateful for—I’ll either say it to myself or write it down on my gratitude notepad.
It’s a no-brainer that taking a trip can relieve stress; in fact there’s scientific proof behind it. Booking a vacation to a tropical island or spending a few weeks abroad sounds like a dream come true, but because of jobs, money, and family—it’s not always possible. If you can‘t plan the trip of a lifetime right now, it doesn’t mean you can’t still get away. Every December I head to New York City to spend the holidays. This tradition is something I look forward to all year long. From the light displays, the crisp cold air, to the holiday shopping, when December comes around there’s no place I’d rather to be. Then last spring I took an incredible trip to Puerto Vallarta where I experienced the white sandy beaches, ate authentic Mexican cuisine, and enjoyed the time spent with my family. While these two vacations couldn’t be more different from one another; they both had the same effects on my mind, body, and soul. While I wish I could hop on a plane and jet off at a moments notice, that isn’t realistic so I’ve learned ways to improvise. From checking into a hotel by the beach for a weekend getaway, to having a staycation where I devote a day exploring a neighborhood. I’ve learned you don’t have to go too far to get into a vacation mindset.
Having relationships with toxic people, whether it’s a significant other, friend, family member, or co-worker—can put a damper on your health an overall sense of well-being. These kinds of individuals cause chaos wherever they go and they either aren’t aware of their negative behavior, or they don’t care. Either way, it should be addressed. (You can read about how an emotionally intelligent person deals with toxic people, and what the negativity does to your brain.)
It’s taken me time to recognize that I’m not responsible for other people’s actions and they’re not responsible for mine. Implementing this way of thinking may sound straightforward, but it takes practice. Speaking from a place of integrity and being honest is all I can do. How the person perceives what I say (or do) is on them. Reading The Four Agreements has changed my course of thinking and put me on a path closer to spiritual enlightenment. One of my favorite agreements is, “Don’t take anything personally.” This book has helped me to let go of any toxic people in my past and now I’m grateful for each and every person in my life today because they deserve to be there.
A lot of people are skeptical of The Law of Attraction. But this “new thought” philosophy can be a powerful tool in speaking with the universe. To sum it up, it’s the belief that positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences. By focusing on the positive thoughts we can manifest our own destiny and improve our wealth, health, and relationships. There’s also paying attention to signs which can help us become one with the universe and have a better understanding of what it’s trying to tell us. One in particular that stands out for me is seeing number sequences. I see 11:11 so often, I got it tattooed on the inside of my lip. I don’t believe for one second it’s a coincidence. In fact, I believe that everything happens for a reason and is a part of our path. At times, we’ll question why something didn’t workout, but later on—even years later—we’ll look back there will be an aha moment where we’ll get our answer.
Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is based on my research, from my own personal experiences, and talking with professionals. Please be informed that I’m not a medical doctor or expert in the field.
*This article contains some affiliate links.