How do you relieve your stress when you are feeling overwhelmed? When stress strikes, we usually can’t indulge in a relaxing massage, a venting session with a friend, or a 30-minute workout. Here are a few quick techniques to help you deal with stress quickly and in the moment.
Take a Deep Breath
One of the best – and easiest – stress reduction techniques is to use your breath to create feelings of calm and relaxation. Deep, full breaths can help your mind and muscles to relax by slowing down your heart rate and releasing serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter, into the bloodstream.
Breathing energizes us by oxygenating the cells of our body. Optimal breathing involves not only your lungs but also your diaphragm, a large muscle in your abdomen. Deep diaphragmatic breathing fills the lungs with more oxygen than shallow or chest-breathing, raises levels of blood oxygen, and promotes health by improving mental performance, digestion, and fitness. Shallow or chest-breathing, on the other hand, causes a constriction of the chest and lung tissue, decreasing oxygen flow and delivery to your tissues.
When we are stressed, our tendency is to take shallow breaths. To improve your breathing, breathe more from your abdomen. Do this by inhaling a deep breath. Then, imagine that you have a balloon in your stomach and as you exhale, force all the air out of that balloon or imagine that you are using your exhale to gently blow on some food to cool it off. In both cases, once you exhale every bit of air, your next breath will automatically be a diaphragmatic, oxygen-rich breath.
Do a few of these deep breaths, with a relaxed and satisfying pace. If you begin to feel light-headed, slow down your breathing or take a little break.
Improve your energy, release tension and stress, and simply relax by practicing deep breathing.
Common stress relief advice is to exercise. When you only have a few minutes to spare, you can still gain some of the benefits of exercising by performing a few simple stretching exercises. These exercises could range from stretching your arms over your head, rolling your shoulders, flexing your hands and fingers, and bending to touch your toes.
Use stretching as a time of active relaxation. Enjoy the benefits of a change of pace and mini-break from your routine.
How does laughter help to relieve stress? Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones and increases the level of feel-good endorphins and neurotransmitters. A good laugh can generate overall good feelings, happiness, and deep relaxation.
Is it hard for you to manufacture a laugh? Laughter is involuntary and almost impossible to fake. If you are trying to laugh, it may help to remember the last time you laughed and see if that generates another laugh for you.
Even a smile has some of the same benefits of a laugh. The simple act of smiling sends a message to your brain that you are happy and the body automatically pumps out those feel-good endorphins and helps you change your mood.
The next time you’re feeling stressed, try these quick stress-busters to change your mood and increase your sense of well-being and happiness.
Are you willing to spend a few minutes a day to help relieve your stress and improve your happiness? A daily three minute meditation can have positive physiological, psychological, and spiritual benefits.
Many hesitate to start a meditation practice because they worry about doing it correctly. While there are certainly practices that take years to master, benefits are also gained from spending any length of time in any kind of meditation, regardless of skill or experience.
The best approach is to just do it and avoid focusing on what will happen as a result. When you first start, recognize that some days you will feel good about it and others days you may feel like you are wasting your time. Try to take a larger view and understand that the value of meditation is in simply doing it, not in how each experience feels or in how ‘well’ you are doing it. Each time you spend a few minutes moving yourself out of the busyness of doing, into the quiet of being, you are doing something good for yourself.
To start, it is a good idea to try a few different approaches to find the practice that works best for you. And, since there are no rules, feel free to adapt your practice to suit yourself.
One technique is to follow the breath. Breathe in, hold your breath to the count of five, and slowly exhale. Keep your attention on your breath. Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring it back to paying attention to your breath. You might want to notice if any of your muscles are tense. If so, let them gently unclench. Spend a few minutes, just noticing your breath, letting your thoughts float away, and relaxing any tense muscles.
Another method is to simply spend those few minutes in quiet contemplation. You may choose to spend time in prayer to, and communion with, the god of your understanding. Instead of trying to quiet your mind, move your thoughts from the everyday to spiritual.
Once you are comfortable meditating for a few minutes, increase the time you spend to 5 minutes, then 10. Keep it manageable for yourself so you aren’t tempted to stop your practice. You will receive benefits if you only spend a few minutes a day so don’t pressure yourself with unrealistic expectations.
Give your mind a break from its busyness and gift yourself with a few minutes a day of meditation to help balance your physical, emotional, and mental states. Discover the peace that can be found in just being instead of doing. Notice your level of happiness increase as you establish a daily meditation practice.
Positive states of joy, love, and enthusiasm can overcome and neutralize negative states of anger, hatred, or apathy. Strong determination, action, and effort can develop these positive habits and make them predominant. Setting an intention to be happy and living and acting from your intention can dramatically increase your level of happiness.
About 20 years ago, I was fortunate enough to attend a series of lectures on happiness given by the Dalai Lama. According to the Dalai Lama, happiness is not only our right but it is our responsibility because by being happy, we elevate those around us with our contagious happiness. The Dalai Lama said that happiness is a mental attitude, a state of mind, and not primarily dependent on external conditions. We can actively choose to be happy and we can discipline our mind to choose happiness by confronting our negative states of mind and transforming them into more positive ones.
I have found that one thing that stood in my way of my happiness was my desire to be right. I’m now much more aware that “right” is only relative. Each of us has our own preferences and values that we have developed through our life experiences and what we have been taught. The more that I can acknowledge that each of us has our own mental model of the world and the less I can release my ego’s attachment to being right, the happier I can be. And, no doubt, the people around me would say that they’re happier, too!
Another method to move into happiness is to ask yourself, when stressed, if feeling badly is going to make your situation better. It may be that you need to process some feelings to feel better and if this is true, you should process those feelings. But you may realize that feeling badly in response to a situation creates a cycle leading only to anxiety, stress, depression, despair, and resistance to change. Ask yourself in that moment what thought you can have that would make you feel better. Your thought could be anything – the thought of a loved one, the memory of a sunset, music you love – whatever resonates as a good feeling for you. This newly activated thought may only make you feel better for a few moments. If you return to feeling badly, lovingly repeat the process.
Set your intention to be happy. Monitor your internal dialogue and watch when it tries when it tries to lead you toward more negativity. Cultivate happiness by actively working on and changing your mental outlook.
No one wants to live in constant fear but there is nothing like an occasional dose of fear to put things into perspective. Instead of dreading or avoiding fear, develop a new appreciation for how fear can help you in your life.
There are physiological processes that take place when we feel fear. When we’re frightened, the brain releases chemicals that keep us from feeling pain and give us a rush of energy and clarity when we need it most. The adrenaline rush generated by fear enables people to take extreme measures in order to survive in life-threatening situations.
Evolutionary theorists believe that fear was important in allowing us to sense danger and respond appropriately. They believe that humans developed fear as a mechanism to identify not only actual, but also perceived, threats. Today, that fear mechanism continues to work for us although our threats are more often of a psychological than a physical nature.
When the fear response is stimulated for psychological reasons, it is important for us to listen to our fear without acting mindlessly or becoming paralyzed by it. When we allow fear to overcome our rational thought, it can lead to inaction or actions that may be illogical and against our best interest. We may over-respond to a perceived threat with a quick, impulsive reaction rather than thoughtful, measured, and considered action.
The art of fear management, like stress management, is not about trying to control or avoid the fear we experience but rather about determining what to do with fear when we are faced with it. The objective is to find the middle ground between being held back by anxiety and moving ahead too recklessly.
When faced with fear, reduce your stress by reminding yourself that fear is normal, healthy, and adaptive. Acknowledge and own your fear. Appreciate that it can keep you cautious rather than reckless. Explore your personal triggers and what is likely to make you lose perspective or panic. Consider if you are letting fear paralyze you.
If fear is paralyzing you, reassess your assumptions and any catastrophizing that you may be doing. Put your fear into perspective when you find yourself out of balance. Consider what your life would be like if you did not let fear hold you back. While acknowledging what you are feeling, consider your situation in a more positive light. Reframing and challenging initial reactions is a key part of managing fear and anxiety.
An encounter with fear is often a wake-up call and the new perspective that one receives can be the upside to a very uncomfortable experience. A new appreciation for life, an increased clarity of purpose, and a deeper happiness can come after an intense encounter with fear. Embrace your fear and let it enrich your life.
Are you feeling overwhelmed and stressed? Is your mind racing in a hundred different directions? Here are some quick centering and grounding techniques to help bring you some relief.
Center yourself. Are you feeling scattered and restless? When you’re stressed and lose your center, your mind and body are disconnected. While your body is in the present, your mind may be racing in many different directions. To quiet the mind, it can help to find and connect with your center. To do this, visualize a line of light and energy coming down from the sky above you, entering the top of your head, traveling down through your body, and then exiting out through your feet. Align your body and your thoughts with this energy. Spend a few moments breathing into your center and enjoy the peace you find there.
Ground yourself. You can feel scattered and out of balance when you are not focused on the present moment. Grounding exercises are meant to snap you back into reality and into the present moment, the place of your optimal functioning. Practice these and find what works best for you.
• Ground yourself visually by taking a deep breath and then start to mentally catalog the things you see around you, down to the very smallest detail.
• Ground yourself using auditory senses by noticing all the sounds in your environment, including the pitch and rise of all the sounds and the layers of sounds.
• Strong smells can help you reconnect to the present moment. A whiff of a strong peppermint smell works for many people.
• A tactile exercise to ground yourself is to press with the heel of one foot onto the big toe of your other foot – press just hard enough to notice it but not so hard to cause pain.
Deep breathing. If you are feeling stressed, deep (or diaphragmatic) breathing brings more oxygen into your body, helping you relax your muscles, release tension, and feel more alert and refreshed. To perform deep breathing, take a breath in through your mouth, like you are slowly sipping a straw. Hold your breath a few moments, then gently exhale, like you are blowing out a candle, until every little bit of breath is exhaled. Your next breath will automatically be a diaphragmatic breath, improving your body’s ability to oxygenate your cells and systems. Do a few more of these breaths and notice how you feel. This is a simple exercise that you can do whenever you feel stressed. For maximum health and stress reduction benefits, make deep breathing a regular practice.
We’re usually unproductive, uncomfortable, and dissatisfied when we’re in the grip of feeling stressed and scattered. Use these simple centering and grounding exercises to bring your body and mind into alignment and increase your sense of well-being and happiness.
If you are feeling tense and stressed, relief may be only a breath away. Use the time-honored stress reduction technique of deep (also known as diaphragmatic) breathing to relax muscles and reduce your stress. Breathing exercises can help you relax and increase your happiness and sense of well-being because they make your body feel like it does when it is in a state of relaxation.
Deep breathing involves your diaphragm, a large muscle in your abdomen, and is marked by the expansion of the abdomen rather than the chest. Although the focus seems to be on the abdomen, during deep breathing, the lungs are filled with much more oxygen than during shallow or chest-breathing. Breathing oxygenates every cell of your body and deep breathing raises levels of blood oxygen, promoting health by stimulating the digestive process and by improving fitness and mental performance. Shallow or chest-breathing, on the other hand, causes a constriction of the chest and lung tissue over time, decreasing oxygen flow and delivery to your tissues.
To do deep breathing effectively, slowly inhale through your nose or mouth. Put a hand on your stomach, and as you inhale, feel your stomach gently expand. Pause for about five seconds, and then slowly exhale through your mouth, pushing out all the breath you inhaled. Feel you stomach contract. Repeat a few more times. If you feel yourself become light-headed, take a break or slow down your breathing.
You can add some very simple visualizations to maximize the benefits of deep breathing. When you inhale, imagine that you are breathing in peace and relaxation. On your exhale, imagine that you are breathing out all the stress and tension that your body is holding. Breath in peace, breathe out tension.
Another simple technique that many find helpful is to work with color and your breath. Ask yourself, what color would benefit you? Then, imagine breathing in the color or colors that come to mind for you. Breathe in that color and imagine it saturating every cell of your being. Most people who do this find that it is very relaxing and nurturing.
For added comfort during your deep breathing, gently rest one hand on your heart. Placing your hand on your heart is an excellent way to give yourself a little extra self-care.
Improve your energy, release tension and stress, and simply relax by practicing deep breathing. With approximately 20,000 breaths each day, you have plenty of opportunities to practice! Add simple visualizations to increase the sense of well-being optimal breathing can deliver to you!