Stressed out? Overwhelmed? Need to take a chill-pill?
Feeling stressed out is our physical and emotional response to feeling as though we don't have the resources to deal with a challenge we have in front of us. It feels AWFUL, and often it can make us feel as though EVERYTHING is insurmountable.
Before you grab that bottle of Xanax, I have some amazingly simple ways for you to reduce your stress levels and get your juju back... QUICKLY!
1. BREATHE. Sit upright in your chair, or on the ground. Put both of your hands gently on your the sides of your ribcage, and breathe in deeply enough to feel your hands move apart. See if you can actually feel your diaphragm (the wide flat muscle under your lungs at the base of your ribs) broaden and stretch out, and then collapse again as you breathe a long breath out.
Breathe in and out 10 times.
You should notice that your ribcage opens up, and even maybe rises a little with each breath. You will probably also notice that your lung capacity increases a bit each time. Don't force anything, just eek a little extra breath in (and out) each time, and notice the incremental differences. One thing I like to do is to count in and out, and add a number each time - maybe counting to 5 for the first breath, and be at 15 for the last one.
THINK ONLY ABOUT YOUR BREATH THROUGHOUT THIS ACTIVITY. THIS IS IMPORTANT!
2. OPEN THE DOOR AND STEP OUTSIDE. It really is that simple. When the proverbial sh*t hits the fan, instead of reacting to it as you always do, excuse yourself...head to the door... and step outside for a few minutes.
Take a little walk, sit down in the sunshine, stomp a little bit, go stand in the wind, put your hands on a tree... do something out of your ordinary routine to connect yourself with something bigger and bring a little perspective to your situation.
Once you have had the chance to calm your mind and re-set your equilibrium, you can step back inside, and re-enter the fray!
3. SMILE. Smiling is a sure-fire way to trick your brain into thinking it is happy, even when it's not, because our brains think that when we are smiling... everything is groovy (!)... and go on to release endorphins and seratonin.
It's the same reason we love eating chocolate, or exercising, or having sex... but it's so EASY TO DO, and the logistics are less tricky than have a quickie when you're in a tizzy.
4. GO FOR A WALK:
"All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking" (Nietzche)
Walking helps you to calm your nerves, gets you thinking creatively and openly about your problems, and - when taken with a friend or colleague - can also help you to feel more connected to others.
"Walking is an inexpensive, low risk and accessible form of exercise and it turns out that combined with nature and group settings, it may be a very powerful, under-utilized stress buster," says Sara Warber, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.
Take a piece of paper (it can be a napkin, or the inside flap of a book you are reading, or a receipt!) and a pen, and jot down 5 things you are grateful for.
5 things that when you look at your situation, or your life, stand out as things that bring you joy, peace, pleasure, a sense of belonging, a feeling of freedom, that make you feel strong, or beautiful, or that allow you to have love in your life.
Don't overanalyze it - just write them down.
Then read your list over and actively give a little prayer of thanks for each item. This doesn't have to be a religious prayer - a simple "thank you" will do.
Slip that piece of paper into your pocket and pull it out again a few times during the day and then hide it somewhere you can find it later...
I hope these techniques help you remember that you have the strength and tools you need to tackle ANY challenge, and when you don't there are always ways to figure it out. The first step is a calm mind and an optimistic approach.
How do YOU deal with stress? I would love to hear more great ideas!