• Motto

How I Ended My Toxic Relationship with Stress

3 minute read

I used to thrive on stress—I truly believed it gave me energy and excitement. But my company, exhale, is centered around the belief that relaxation is essential to wellbeing. And eventually, I realized that I wasn’t living my life in line with the values that the brand really embodied.

So I made it a point to do something devoted to relaxing and recharging every day. I took a course in mental resilience, I practiced yoga, I took more of the fitness classes at exhale. I became more present, more mindful, more relaxed—and so much more self-aware. And the funny thing is that I’m just as energetic, driven and passionate as I was when I used stress to motivate me. I’m just less off-balance and less emotional now—and I sleep better, too.

I now view relaxation practices as something just as vital to my day as work, exercise and nutrition. It fuels and protects me. It has evolved from a notion that I know is good for me to something that I actively look forward to because it benefits me physically and mentally.

But to get to this point, I had to “learn” to relax. If you feel high levels of stress but have no time, here’s what I recommend.

1. Move
Many of us find peace and relaxation through movement first. I am one of those people. Go do something—anything physical. Then, when you finish, don’t dash back to work or immediately check your phone. Stop, sip some tea or water and congratulate yourself. Relish in the accomplishment of taking time for yourself to do something good for you. Or tell yourself how grateful you are that you were able to have this time and move. This can take two minutes.

Read more: How to Break Free from a Culture of Busy-ness

2. Breathe
Inhale for five counts, then exhale for five counts. Do it again. Again. And again. You’ll be amazed by how different you feel.

3. Smile
Just try it. Walk around in the middle of a hugely stressful situation, and smile and think about how things might look differently tomorrow. Pretty soon, the smile will spread to others around you—and I bet you’ll actually start to feel better, too.

Read more: How to Spend Less Time Working and More Time Enjoying Your Life

4. Touch
This is my favorite way to relax. Visit an acupuncturist or get a 10-minute neck and shoulder massage. You can also ask a friend or loved one to brush your hair or to scratch your scalp. You’ll notice that you instantly start to release some of the tension your body has been holding onto.

Annbeth Eschbach is the CEO and founder of exhale.

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