Stress reduction | Friend Yourself Project
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Reduce Your Stress Within Minutes!

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.

How to Center and Ground Yourself

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.


Breathe In Peace and Breathe Out Stress

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!

Laugh Away Your Stress!

Have you laughed today? Did you know that globally we are laughing much less than we used to in the last century? What are the benefits of laughter and why should we be laughing more?

The International Congress of Humor reports that laughter is down is some areas up to 82% from the 1950’s. In the 1950’s, people laughed on the average 18 minutes a day and today the average is only between 4-6 minutes a day. We are much more serious than we used to be! Part of the reason for this may be because electronic media such as, television, computer, Internet, video, CD’s, and audio equipment, has reduced our social interactions and laughter is a social activity.

In fact, laughter usually occurs in groups and some believe uncontrollable laughter only occurs in groups. Try to laugh out loud right now. Do you find it difficult or forced? Most people would find it feels forced and a little unnatural because laughter is involuntary and almost impossible to fake.

Laughter happens more naturally in social interactions. Laughter builds relationships, creating camaraderie and lessening our sense of isolation. In groups when some are laughing and others are not, it becomes evident that people have very different senses of humor. A sense of humor is the ability to be amused and laughter is the physiological response to humor. While many believe a sense of humor cannot be taught, it can be developed by paying attention to what others find amusing.

Why would we want more laughter in our lives? As a physiological response, laughter has many health benefits. When someone laughs, all of the body systems are engaged. Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones, including cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline, dopamine, and growth hormone, and increases the level of healthy hormones like endorphins and neurotransmitters. As a result of these physiological activities, laughter may help fight off illnesses and diseases like heart failure. After a good laugh, stress reduction occurs when overall good feelings, happiness, and deep relaxation are generated.

In addition to the health benefits, people who laugh a lot don’t worry as much as those who don’t laugh. A laughter break can help us gain fresh perspectives and new insights about our problems and conflicts.

Laughter, like crying, can provide an excellent physical and emotional release. Laughter can also make us feel happy and create a more positive state of mind by breaking the painful emotional grip of fear, anger, guilt, stress, and boredom.

Be a friend to yourself and enjoy the many emotional and physical benefits of laughter and humor. Lighten up and, for the greatest benefits, share a laugh with others!

Gift Yourself with Rest and Relaxation

Do you consider relaxing a waste of precious time? Do you feel guilty if you aren’t constantly productive? You may be overlooking the very real benefits of time to rest and relax. Instead of a luxury, relaxation can lead to extreme happiness by playing an essential role in mental and physical health.

Stress is a major health problem and it has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, and other serious illnesses. In fact, according to the American Institute of Stress, up to 90% of all visits to doctors are for stress-related disorders.

Rest and relaxation top the list of effective self-care and stress management techniques. Relaxation boosts happiness by counteracting the stress response – muscles relax, breathing and heartbeat slow down, and the digestive system functions more efficiently. Regular relaxation strengthens the immune system and helps the body heal itself, reducing the effects of chronic stress. Incorporate relaxation into your life and notice that you begin to feel better!

While it may not seem logical, you may get more done by taking breaks and doing less. When you take a break, relax, and let your thoughts slow down, the mind begins to access the resources of the right brain – the creative, intuitive, and non-linear part of the mind. After relaxing, you may find that you approach your work with a new perspective and that you are able to generate new solutions to problems.

Relaxation further contributes to happiness by providing a detachment from everyday busyness that enables us to realize what is really important to us. When we operate from our values, we are usually happier and more satisfied with our lives.

Quick relaxation techniques are useful in dealing with immediate stress. Stopping, even for the shortest time, will recharge your batteries and will give you more energy.  Create little breaks in your busy schedule. Consider your home your sanctuary and place of relaxation. Set boundaries to keep it as work-free as possible and avoid the temptation to bring work home by complaining about it.

Regular, concentrated rest and relaxation has a deeper and more permanent effect on reversing stress. Explore leisurely activities apart from your work. Choose something that you consider relaxing and that you will commit to doing on a regular basis. This might be sports, gardening, reading, exercise, or even time to daydream – whatever you choose should be something that you enjoy. There is no point in creating more stress for yourself by forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy!

Be a friend to yourself and give yourself the gift of rest. Learn to value rest and relaxation as much as you  value activity. And, enjoy increased happiness as you reduce the stress in your life!

Counteract Negativity with Gratitude

Are you having trouble coping with any of life’s difficult, stressful, and negative experiences? Noticing something for which you are grateful can effectively counteract negative emotions. Studies have shown that a conscious focus on your blessings can have an immediate emotional benefit and can help reduce your feelings of stress.

What are you grateful for? If nothing comes to mind, it is time to refocus your attention. Even the most beautiful sight can be taken for granted when you see it every day, just as the blessings of good health, close relationships, and comfortable shelter commonly go unnoticed and under-appreciated.

Researchers at the University of California at Davis and the University of Miami conducted a study and found that a control group that was instructed to notice experiences of gratitude as they were happening and to make a list of these, was 25% happier than a group that was instructed to pay attention to daily annoyances and another group that only recorded neutral life events. The gratitude group also reported more optimism than the other two groups in the study. (Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, “Counting Blessings versus Burdens,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, no. 2 (2003), pp. 377-389.)

Take a few moments to look at your life with fresh eyes and identify what you have to be grateful for. Instead of just making a list, allow yourself to feel gratitude for each of these blessings. Feeling gratitude allows us to tap into deeper and more sustainable ways of experiencing fulfillment. When we are grateful for what we already have, we banish disappointment and move into a space of contentment.

As part of your gratitude practice, be sure to friend yourself and express gratitude to yourself for your efforts, traits, talents, and accomplishments. Strengthen the bonds with those in your life by moving beyond your inward feelings of gratitude and by verbally expressing gratitude to them.

Start today to establish an attitude and practice of gratitude. Employ gratitude to reduce stress and to be a better friend to yourself and to others.

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