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5 Ways to Become Stress-Free in 5 Minutes

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For most of us living in this day and age, everyday life can be quite a struggle. With mortgages to pay off, credit card bills, utility bills, loan debt, and medical expenses, life can seem like an endless struggle. Not surprisingly, most of us are drowning in stress with reports showing that nearly 20% of the population suffered from an anxiety or stress disorder in the past year.

Out of sheer desperation, many of us turn to unhealthy quick fixes, but there are healthy alternatives that require little time or effort and will cost you nothing. It’s important to embrace and practice these stress reduction techniques as chronic stress can put you at risk of more serious lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Below, are some of the most effective stress reduction techniques that you can try out at home or at work or even when you’re travelling. They won’t cost you a cent and will just take up 5 minutes of your time, so give them a try!

5 Quick & Easy Stress Reduction Techniques:

1. Mindfulness Meditation

Meditation is one of the most powerful tools for coping with stress and anxiety, bringing both short term stress relief and long term stress management benefits. While there are many different forms of meditation and all of them can help you better cope with stress, mindfulness meditation is one of the simplest and most effective approaches that you can rely on.

Simply put, mindfulness meditation involves being in the present moment. Instead of allowing your mind to be consumed by stress and chaotic thoughts, you focus on your breathing and tune into all of your senses. Research suggests that the practice isn’t just helpful for coping with everyday stress, but can also help in the management of clinical depression, chronic stress, and anxiety disorders.

“Set peace as your highest goal and organize your life around it.” – Brian Tracy

2. Guided Imagery

You can think of guided imagery as a kind of virtual vacation, where the virtual reality is created by your imagination, not technology. To practice the technique, you imagine yourself in the most comforting scenery or situation, whether on a mountain top or at the beach. You focus on the scene down to the finer details, such as the sound of the waves or wind, the feel of sand on your feet, or the smell of the salty air.

To make it easier, you use recordings or apps, where someone guides you through the scene, creating a mental picture. Guided imagery has been shown to lower stress levels and promote relaxation, but it can be challenging for those who struggle with intrusive thoughts. That’s where mindfulness can again help as it makes it easier to focus on the activity and tune out those unwanted thoughts.

3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation may sound highly technical, but it’s one of the simplest and most effective stress reduction techniques there is. It simply involves relaxing all of the muscles in the body, beginning with a focus on your breathing. You can use instructional videos and apps to get started and from starting with your breath, you will be able to consciously tighten and relax individual muscles, whether it’s your facial muscles or those in your toes!

With practice, you’ll find this easier to achieve and you will be more attuned to muscular tension and stress, being able to control these sensations more effectively. Clinical studies have found that the technique is so effective at promoting relaxation that it is even recommended for women dealing with postpartum depression, labor pain, and menstrual pain, as well as patients battling conditions that cause chronic pain.

4. Planners & Journals

One of the biggest problems with stress is that your mind is often cluttered and lacking in focus. This is where using a planner or journal can help. By putting your thoughts, feelings, or worries down on paper, you can evaluate them in a more objective manner and come up with possible solutions or outcomes. This helps you to get clarity and focus, allowing you to relax and better handle life’s challenges, which otherwise stress you out. In addition to tracking stressors, you can also use your journal to reflect on positive experiences that make you feel grateful or happy.

“The day she let go of the things that were weighing her down, was the day she began to shine the brightest.” – Katrina Mayer

5. Socializing

5 minutes may not be enough time to visit a friend or socialize at a party, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Human beings are inherently social animals and we require some amount of social contact. Simply calling a friend to chat for a couple of minutes, spending a few minutes with family members, or just getting a hug can help to lower stress levels almost instantly.

Studies have found that the very act of hugging a loved one can trigger the release of oxytocin. This is a hormone that promotes feelings of wellbeing and happiness. If you’re not connected to other people or don’t have close friends and family members, you can get similar benefits from contact with a pet, whether it’s your dog, cat, or hamster.

No matter which stress reduction technique or combination of techniques you choose to use, just remember that effective stress management can take practice and patience. Keep experimenting with these techniques, don’t give up, and seek help from a counselor or psychologist if you can’t get any relief.

Anita Fernandes has been writing extensively on health and wellness for over a decade. She has expertise in nutrition, fitness, public health, and weight loss and has contributed content to a variety of leading digital health publishers. Anita has a unique perspective on healthy living and lifestyle, as she has battled and overcome eating disorders and mental health issues. She shares her experiences in an effort to help others build resilience and overcome the problems that can sometimes seem insurmountable.

Life

Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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Life

The Problem Is Not Actually the Problem: Here’s Why

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With my understanding of the Three Principles, which is deepening month-by-month, I’m becoming more curious about whether the ‘problem’ that we think we have, is really a problem. Not for one second am I dismissing a persons’ experience; I’m human after all and I encounter challenges and what I think are ‘problems’ just like the next person. (more…)

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5 Things You Can Do to Fend off Boredom and Stay Focused

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Curiosity is human nature and it’s only natural that humans will lose interest in a topic after a while. This has been a topic that has been extensively explored among children, teenagers and adults by a psychologist with similar results being reported from each of the categories. Human’s minds are therefore prone to boredom, making it important for each professional to spend some time to understand the factors that drive boredom and strategies the individuals needs to use to overcome boredom and focus on their profession and development. (more…)

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Life

Decision and Failure: Deciding That Failure is Not an Option

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Nobody likes wasting time, money or opportunities by making a bad business decision. We can certainly identify what “bad” looks and feels like, however we should be identifying what the “win” looks like too. Too often we focus on the bad, which puts us in victim mode that perpetuates a scarcity mindset which leads us directly into becoming frozen or stuck. (more…)

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