Stress is a bit of a trigger word for people. Either you relate to it, because the feelings of overwhelm are all around you, or you don't think you feel stress at all. Let me explain stress a little bit more, which could serve to change your perspective.
We commonly perceive stress as a bad thing, or even a failure in some cases, but the reality is that there are some benefits to having some stress in your life. There are physical, emotional, chemical, and other forms of stress. For example, exercise is a physical stress that allows you to build stronger muscles and preserve bone. Also, some nervousness can activate the sympathetic nervous system and allow for clearer thinking in the short term, like for a presentation, a test, or quickly reacting on the road when you are driving.
Stress can become problematic when it is occurring longterm, without letting up. What I commonly see with my patients is that it's not necessarily bad stuff, but rather just constant busyness that keeps people in a state of overwhelm.
When lives are so busy, adding on one more thing - like the holiday season - can feel like it's just too much to handle. In order to get yourself out of that "fight or flight" mode and reduce your stress levels quickly, we need to focus on our thoughts and our breathing. By retraining our minds and our nervous system, we can change our reactions.
Fast Stress Relief Techniques
Steps: Take 2 fingers and quickly tap the following points repeatedly for one full breath each
- middle of forehead
- side of right eye (edge of eyebrow)
- side of left eye
- centre of right cheekbone, then left
- space between nose and upper lip
- middle of chin
- centre of chest (heart)
- right collarbone, then left collarbone
- below right armpit, then left
- outer right hand (below baby finger), then left hand
- one full deep breath to finish
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Beginning with your toes and working up towards your head, slowly contract and release one muscle group or body part at a time. Hold each contraction for 5-10 seconds, or one full deep breath. This activity will take the tension out of your muscles, a place that we tend to store stress.
Steps: Toes > Feet > Ankles > Calves > Knees > Thighs > Buttocks > Abdomen > Shoulder Blades > Chest > Shoulders (rise upwards) > Neck (bring chin to chest) > Face
Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, and out through your mouth for 6 counts. Try to bring air down into your lower lungs by placing your hand on your belly and allowing it to rise each time you breathe in.
Having your exhalation longer than your inhalation sends your body the message that all is well and it can relax.
4. Dance it Out
Sometimes we have the need to get out our pent up energy. For this, blasting some music and singing or dancing your heart out can help to reset your mood. This also works well for kids, if you are noticing them carrying stress or bad moods.
Try these strategies once or twice per day, whether you are feeling overwhelmed or not. With practice, the ability to take yourself out of stress mode will come more easily, and your brain will begin to recognize manageable stress.
I hope you find these strategies useful! There a plenty of other ways to help you manage stress levels, or cope with your busy life (herbs and acupuncture work wonders). For today, I wanted you to have easily accessible ways that you can quickly lower your stress response.
You've got this,
"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." ~ William James