8 Daily Self-Care Rituals For Your Nervous System

Photo: Irina Efremova

The problem with "everyday stressors" is they show up, well, every day. Morning traffic, mounting to-do lists, and looming deadlines are all common, and perhaps even expected occurrences that trigger our nervous system regularly. Stress like this may become so routine that it seems normal, but if you are unaware and unprepared, this internal strain can silently snowball, throwing you into the vicious stress-sleeplessness cycle—wearing on your physical health and mental well-being over time. Yes, stress is a part of life. No, it doesn’t have to control you.

The ability to recognize and positively manage everyday stressors is critical and can prepare us to tackle the larger, unexpected curveballs from life, helping us thrive as healthier, happier people.

While it may be tempting to seek instant relief in vending machine snacks, coffee, cigarette breaks, or a 5 p.m. happy hour, this amounts to only a temporary escape.

The key to truly reducing stress is learning how to cope with it in a healthy and consistent way, which starts with daily self-care. Many of us are so busy looking after others that we forget to take care of ourselves, but failure to put your own needs first can lead to mind and body "burnout," which occurs when all of our energy has been invested in external factors, leaving us in mental and physical states of exhaustion.

Consider the familiar airline safety instruction: If there is a drop in cabin pressure, place your oxygen mask on first before helping others. After all, you are no good to anyone if you are incapacitated. The same is true in life! When we take better care of ourselves and become mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy, we can take better care of others. So get back to the basics to kick-start and sustain the wellness of your mind and body:

1. Get a good night's sleep.

You cannot function in the face of sleep deprivation. Plus, it lowers your resistance to illness. Make it a priority each day and it will help increase your brain power, productivity, and resilience.

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2. Eat well.

You are, in fact, what you eat. Avoid foods high in sugar and opt for calming foods like sunflower seeds, which contain magnesium to help keep cortisol levels low, and green tea, which reduces tension-making beta waves.

3. Embrace "me time."

The best way to change your psychology is to change your physiology. Pick an activity or hobby for self-development, like exercising, meditation, or social networking.

4. Breathe deeply.

When you’re stressed, you automatically start shallow breathing. Reset your stress levels with deep breathing by expanding and contracting your stomach and chest cavity—not by raising your shoulders or straining your neck.

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5. Look outside.

Changing your perspective by changing your view can help. Step outside or find a window and for 60 seconds, watch the clouds go by, look for birds, and see the trees sway. Sometimes we forget how calming nature can be to our nervous system.

6. Get physical.

Exercise produces "feel-good" chemicals in the brain. So go for a brisk walk around the block when you feel tense and try to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.

7. Try creative visualizations.

Slow your breathing, close your eyes, and use all of your senses to remember your last vacation or your favorite "happy place." Hear it, see it, feel it, smell it, and taste it.

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8. Harness the powers of natural medicine.

It’s important to recognize the interconnection between the mind and the body. Emotional symptoms, like those that stem from stress, can actually lead to physical ailments. Natural stress relief products like essential oils and flower remedies are incredibly useful. Developed by Dr. Edward Bach in the 1930s, flower remedies are designed to turn negative emotions such as fear, worry, or anger into their positive counterparts of courage, calm, and love—the focus is treating the person rather than the "disease." Natural stress relief products can help keep you calm, cool, and collected throughout the day and put your repetitive thoughts to bed at night.

In need of some time outdoors? Here's how to use nature to regain your health.

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