The Vancouver Sun has a nice, although brief, article on reducing stress.
1. Exercise. It helps to release stress, as it improves overall physical and mental health, and improves sleep. This could include any type of activity or meditation, including yoga, tai chi or even a brisk walk to the store.
I don’t know if meditation strictly counts as exercise, but certainly both physical exercise and meditation are very valuable in reducing stress.
2. Focus on building a strong support network. Relationships are vital to coping with stress throughout the year.
Buddhist teachings place a lot of stress on building a sense of community, with an emphasis on spiritual friendship, lovingkindness, and sangha (spiritual community).
3. Unplug. Slow down your pace by taking a break from all the emails, text messages, meetings and information overload – even if it’s for short periods at a time.
Of course meditating is one way to unplug, and retreats are an important way to take a break from the stresses of our normal lives and recharge our batteries. Avoiding multitasking is also very helpful at reducing stress. “Uni-tasking” has been shown to be more efficient.
4. Keep an appreciation journal. Taking stock of all the good things going on in our lives helps us to regain perspective.
Appreciation is a key component of maintaining positive mental states. In Buddhist practice it’s called mudita or empathetic joy, where we focus on the positive. Sometimes we practice what’s called “rejoicing in merits,” where we consciously name the things we appreciate about ourselves or another person.
5. Re-prioritize. Make time for your passions and explore new ones. Learn to play guitar or learn a new language – find a hobby of personal interest.
It’s crucial that we nourish ourselves. Too often we focus on giving our energy at work and at home. When we get exhausted we often make things worse by numbing ourselves with alcohol or television. True “self-metta” helps us to get in touch with what we really need, and that includes nourishing ourselves through creative pursuits. In the long-term, this is necessary in order that we can keep giving.