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.
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.
Do you have a positive or negative self-image? Do you basically feel good about yourself or do you worry that you aren’t good enough? Everyone’s self-image changes somewhat depending on circumstances, but when you feel bad about yourself in many areas of life and these feelings become persistent, then your negative self-image can impact your physical and mental health. In this article we’ll explore that impact and ways to achieve a more positive self-image.
The health benefits of a having a positive self-image are many. Those with a positive self-image are more likely to manage stress better and to be more resilient when facing challenges, disappointments, or illnesses. Those with a positive self-image are generally more assertive and they enjoy strong relationships.
Low self-image often leads to stress and, at times, depression and anxiety disorders. The negative emotions that come with low self-image weaken the immune system and increase the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer. Low self-image is also associated with addictive behaviors, such as alcoholism, smoking, drug addiction, and gambling.
Negative self-image can affect individuals regardless of age, ethnicity, sex, or socioeconomic status. While the picture of a person with low self-image can vary greatly, from a shrinking wall-flower to a highly competitive workaholic, the common denominator is that a person with a low self-image is extremely self-critical.
Your own thoughts – what you tell yourself in your self-talk, your interpretation of situations, and your beliefs about yourself and others – probably have the biggest impact on your self-image. It is important to realize that your thoughts are within your control and that you can change them. If you tend to focus on your weaknesses or flaws, you can learn to re-frame negative thoughts and focus instead on your positive qualities.
If your self-talk is habitually self-critical, it will take some practice to change. When you notice that you are having a self-critical thought, consider if you can replace strong negative words with more neutral or positive words. If your inner critic has a favorite critical name for you, see if you can turn it around to something more positive. Instead of calling yourself wishy-washy, substitute open-minded or flexible; instead of sloppy, substitute relaxed; instead of too noisy, substitute energetic and outgoing. And, instead of saying that you hate something about yourself, see if you can replace “hate” with “don’t like” or “I’m ready to change.”
Don’t confuse positive self-talk with self-delusion or mindless positive thinking. Draw the distinction between what is true and what is negative. Recognize self-sabotaging messages and replace them with more rational and positive self-talk.
Be a friend to yourself and speak to yourself as kindly as you would speak to a friend or loved one. Affirm your strengths and acknowledge your efforts rather than punishing yourself with negative self-talk. Use your inner voice to reassure yourself.
How you feel about yourself affects every aspect of your life. Change your negative self-talk into positive affirmations of your worth to improve your self-image and the quality and quantity of your life.
Is your life humming along the way you think it should? If not, are you blaming yourself for this departure from what you think your life should look like? Is this self-blame creating even more stress for you? Here are some stress management techniques to help you establish a new relationship to your expectations.
There are times when life unfolds almost miraculously exactly the way we would like. More often, though, life does not follow our blueprint. When life doesn’t match our expectations, we often feel disappointed and we may feel like we have failed. We may spend so much time trying to resolve why our present doesn’t resemble our imagined future that we fail to notice the rightness and blessings of our very real present. Count your blessings – notice your life as it is, rather than how you imagine it should be. What can you be grateful for this very minute?
Allow yourself to be delighted – rather than annoyed – by surprises that happen to you and that disrupt what you see as your perfect plan. Approach these surprises with curiosity, wondering where they lead. Recall a time in your past when a surprise led to a much better outcome than you could have planned or envisioned.
It is easier to adjust to changes if you maintain an optimistic attitude, a belief that your life is unfolding perfectly and that your experiences are helping you stretch and grow as a person. You might even admit that your imagined ideal way is safe and comfortable and would allow less room for personal growth. Look back on your life at those times when you were challenged in a way that you would not have chosen for yourself. From your vantage point now, would you give up the wisdom you have gained, despite the costs to you?
If you wish your life were different, ask yourself what will it take to change it? Are you committed to complaining or committed to action? Are you using “I don’t know how” as an excuse to maintain the status quo? What needs to happen to move you closer to a life that you love even more?
Being willing to take action will infuse your life with interest, passion, and vitality. Action will bring new options and will open possibilities that may have been unavailable until initial action is taken. Think of your life as a puzzle and each time you take action, you are given a new puzzle piece. Many action steps will give you more puzzle pieces and gradually, your picture will become clearer and more identifiable.
Be especially gentle and kind to yourself when your life is not following your expectations. Release any harsh judgments that you should be able to control each and every outcome. Be a friend to yourself and remember your self-care. Congratulate yourself on your efforts and consider your life a great adventure rather than a life measured solely by defined, planned, and possibly limited, outcomes.
As a personal and spiritual coach, Georgiana Carollus has a keen interest in inspiring people to recognize their brilliance and to treat themselves as well as they treat their friends and loved ones. She offers resources and coaching to help people establish a more caring and supportive relationship with themselves at www.FriendYourselfProject.com. Visit and subscribe to a free Daily Moment of Inspiration!
Review how you’re feeling at this moment – are your muscles tense? Are you feeling stressed? Is feeling tense and stressed the norm for you? Would you like to feel more relaxed?
A greater sense of relaxation is only a breath away. Working with the breath is an ancient and very accessible stress management and self-care technique. Taking a deep, cleansing breath lowers blood pressure and pulse and respiration rates. Additionally, it helps promote the release of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter, into the bloodstream. Many benefits for something that takes hardly a minute!
To get the most of these benefits, diaphragmatic or belly breathing is key. To identify whether you are breathing high up in your chest or in your belly, place one hand on your chest and another hand on your stomach. As you breathe normally, notice which palm is moving. If you notice movement in both hands or more movement in the hand on your chest, you need to move your breath lower.
To breathe more from your abdomen, imagine that you have a balloon in your stomach and as you exhale, you are forcing all the air out of that balloon. Once you exhale all that air, your next breath will automatically be a diaphragmatic breath.
Do a few of these deep breaths. See if you can establish a pace that is deep, relaxed, and satisfying. How does it make you feel?
Establish a practice of incorporating diaphragmatic breathing into your day. Notice quiet times during your day, such as while you are waiting at a red light or have been put on hold during a call, to do this. And, the next time you notice you’re feeling stressed, use a few diaphragmatic breaths to change your body chemistry and invite feelings of calm and relaxation.
Diaphragmatic breathing – a simple way to friend yourself!
Join the Friend Yourself Project and commit to treating yourself as well as you treat your friends and loved ones. Visit www.FriendYourselfProject.com for more information.