The beginning of a new year is always a mix of a big desire for change that is usually followed by immediate action. We’re finding our groove again after the holidays and many of us are also knee-deep in keeping resolutions, letting go of habits, and trying to do things differently than we did last year.
At the start of the new year, we also tend to create extra pressure, tight deadlines, and a desire to fast forward a process to achieve our goals. Discomfort is a natural part of growing and expanding but it can also cause us to slide back into old habits.
How many of us, after a stressful day, have overindulged in ice cream or a second glass of wine only to regret it the next morning? That’s the type of response we want to stay away from as best we can and luckily there are few surprisingly simple ways to hack stress in the moment.
Chew a Stick of Gum
The roots of chewing gum can be traced all the way back to the Ancient Greeks and Mayans who chewed on certain types of tree resin. Native Americans also had a practice of chewing sap and the first commercial chewing gum was introduced all the way back in the 1800s. That alone gives us an idea that chewing serves more than just a confectionary purpose.
One study conducted by Tokyo Medical and Dental University found that participants who chewed gum for 14 days rated their anxiety levels far lower than those who had not chewed gum. Researchers at Cardiff University conducted a similar study finding that participants who chewed gum during memory-related tasks had faster response times and longer attention spans than those who didn’t chew gum.
When I began writing my first book I realized it was smart and necessary to throw out the gumballs and switch to sugarless.
The next time you feel a surge of stress, pop a stick of gum and see if your nerves calm a bit. Just be sure to stick with sugar-free brands. You’ll be saving yourself a lot of time, money, and regret at the dentist office later.
Dance it Out
Study upon study shows us that there really is no better medicine for stress and anxiety than exercise. Consistent exercise has been a vital part of my life ever since I was young. However, you may tell yourself you don’t have time to head to the gym when you’re feeling the most stressed, but luckily there’s a solution for this one too!
It turns out that dancing for just five minutes to a song you love cannot only alleviate stress, but it can improve your focus and boost your mood. A study done by York University and Sheffield University had participants in their lab listen to music for five minutes. They were given the option to just sit and listen, ride an exercise bike, or dance along; and all were given cognitive tasks afterward. They found that all of the participants who elected to dance displayed improved problem-solving skills afterward. I can’t wait to begin to tell you how many problems I solve after a good workout!
If you’re having a particularly difficult day and are able to steal away for just five minutes, pop in some headphones and get moving! My go-to song is “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.
Give Yourself a Tummy Rub
“Butterflies in my tummy” or “having a knot in my stomach” are phrases we’re all familiar with and are both associated with anxiety and stress. Our digestive tract is often the first place we feel stress in our bodies, but it is also a very sensitive energy center.
Health experts at the Mayo Clinic have found that light massage of this area can help calm you and get your digestion back on track during periods of distress. It is a simple and calming practice and can be done almost anywhere. The next time you’re feeling that charge in your stomach during a stressful situation, take a few minutes to rub your belly.
It is preferable to be laying down on your back but if that isn’t an option, sitting comfortably works as well. With a gentle pressure, massage your stomach just below your ribs and just above your naval using clockwise circular strokes.
Stress and anxiety are things we have all experienced at one time or another and while the experience isn’t fun, it doesn’t have to be “bad.” From a kabbalistic perspective, stress can be a very powerful motivator showing us what we’re capable of and can even reveal to us our greatness. Stress creates environments for transformation, just as the piece of coal that, under immense pressure, transforms into a diamond.
Rav Berg offers an even deeper approach to understanding stress and why, it seems, that so many of us today experience it:
“Stress, as understood by the kabbalist, has its roots elsewhere far beyond the physical world. While medical science has come to view stress as a negative condition, the kabbalist traces the origin of stress to the compelling nature of the Lightforce, which is to be revealed in this Age of Aquarius. Our experience of stress is really the Lightforce, putting pressure on mankind to remove other forms of chaos.”
When stress arrives, see it as a signal that transformation is occurring in your life. Say yes to it and instead of reaching for old comforts, return to a place of trust.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
If you feel stress this week, try one of these hacks and see how your mind and body shift. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.