Life often produces “pre-packaged stressfulness” that can come in many forms.  Buying a car, house, paying for college, looking for jobs, etc. are all examples of this. How you deal with stressful situations, however, makes all the difference. Stress can either eat away at you or empower you; it all depends on the self care strategies you employ to deal with the stress when you encounter it. If you have been extra stressed lately, it’s important to remember the value of YOU and take time for proper self-care,

“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.” – Deborah Day

Find freedom from stress with these 11 simple, yet powerful self care practices:

1. Breathe deeply.

In our fast-paced society, we often forget to slow down and pay attention to our breathing. Taking short, staggered breaths can increase your anxiety by restricting air flow to your lungs. Deep abdominal breathing has been shown to slow down the heart rate, decrease blood pressure, and also give your mind clarity.

When you find yourself in need of self-care, take deep breaths and visualize yourself in a calm, peaceful place. This will help decrease stress and regulate your breathing.

2. Practice meditation.

Eastern cultures have been practicing the self care ritual of meditation for centuries, as it is believed to connect us to our higher selves, spiritual masters, angels, and spirit guides. We can also restore cells and even transform our DNA though the practice of meditation. When you sit or lay down in a tranquil spot and just focus on your breathing and the pleasure of being alive, you can tune out of stressful situations and tune into what truly matters – your Spirit within.

3. Introduce healing items into your living space.

If you have been feeling a little disconnected and overwhelmed, try implementing crystals, peaceful or inspirational paintings, a small indoor Zen waterfall decoration, or even some lush indoor plants. All of these can balance your energies and give you a sacred space to relax and find inner peace again if you have been feeling frantic and scattered.

4. Enjoy time in nature.

Oftentimes, stress can build up if we haven’t had adequate time outside. Bonding with the Earth keeps you grounded and connected with yourself and all that is. The sun shining on your skin can revitalize you and remind you what a blessing it is to be alive.

Nature provides powerful healing properties that can make you forget the causes of unease and stress.

5. Try aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy can automatically lower stress levels and trigger a deep, peaceful response. In addition to relieving stress, it is believed that aromatherapy can help to boost the immune system. Stress can make you vulnerable to illness, and aromatherapy can stimulate chemicals in the brain that help fight infection.

One of the most widely-known fragrances to aid in stress relief is lavender. Try burning some lavender incense the next time you feel a little on edge. You can even buy lavender essential oils if you don’t like burning things in your home.

6. Hug someone.

A warm embrace from someone you know or even a stranger is a simple yet powerful self care tactic that can reduce your stress and remind you of all the positivity life has to offer. Hugging increases the production of the “love hormone” oxytocin. This, in turn, causes your blood pressure to drop, heart rate to slow down, and gets rid of any tension you may feel. It also makes you feel loved, welcome, and comfort.

Next time you feel stressed, just hug it out! The human touch is powerful and can provide instant benefits no matter what life has thrown at you.

7. Get involved in group exercise classes.

Exercise has been proven to lower stress levels.  It also releases endorphins, which make you feel instantly energized and euphoric. Working out around other people also gives a sense of community, offering a bonding experience with others while doing something good for your body. If you have a gym nearby, try a few workout classes if you want a fun way to relieve stress.

8. Get rid of the source of stress.

If you can eliminate a few of your stressors altogether, that would free up a lot of your time, energy, and “emotional capacity”. Obviously, you can’t just get rid of your job or bills immediately, but if you have experienced added stress from having too many obligations, try to drop the ones that aren’t mandatory. Regardless of what others may think or say, you are allowed to free up your schedule and have some “you” time for self care.

9. Ask for a massage.

Whether you ask your partner for a massage or book an appointment at your local spa, a massage is an excellent self care practice to wipe away stress and transport you to a place of complete bliss. Massage therapy can work out the kinks in your shoulders or back while also getting rid of the emotional snarls you might be feeling, leaving you only with a wealth of benefits, both physical and psychological. You deserve to feel vibrant and de-stressed!

10. Take an Epsom salt bath.

Epsom salt baths are known far and wide for their sprawling positive effects on the mind, body, and spirit.  Not only does the warm water help relieve aching joints and sore muscles, but adding in Epsom salt with a few drops of your favorite essential oils can also relax the nervous system and help replenish magnesium levels in the body. Magnesium helps produce serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical in the brain that creates a feeling of calm and tranquility. Salt baths have also been known to eliminate toxins in the body, which help alleviate stress and trapped tension

11. Honor your inner child.

This final tip can allow you to channel your most childlike desires and forget about adult responsibilities for a while. After work one day, do something your eight-year-old self would have enjoyed. Go play outside in your backyard and fully engage in the marvels of nature, take your kids to race go-karts, or play a game of hide-and-seek with them. There’s nothing like bringing out the kid within us all to play for a little while to remind us that life really isn’t as serious as we make it out to be!