This article is by Justin Baksh and published by Foundations Wellness Center
Stress is a human reaction to many events or environments. Acute stress can appear and disappear quickly, without lingering effects. Chronic stress, however, can take a toll on a person. Living with chronic stress can damage the mind and body. It could also fuel an addiction, unless you have go-to methods for quickly calm down when stressed.
Use A Deep Breathing Technique
Breathing techniques are a foundation for combating stress or anxiety. Breathing is something we can control, making it useful for relaxing and clearing the mind. Learning how to use these breathing techniques in times of stress can be an easy and fast way to eliminate reactions such as increased heart rate and sweaty palms. It’s something you can do anywhere, anytime something starts to get to you.
Close Your Eyes
First, close your eyes. Make sure you go somewhere safe and calm, where you can focus on breathing for a few seconds by yourself. Shut your eyes and begin to breathe deeply, in and out. If you can, take a comfortable seated position on the floor, with your hands relaxed in your lap or out on your thighs. Otherwise, sit relaxed in a chair or stay standing somewhere safe. Keep your back straight.
Breathe In Intervals
Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth to start your relaxed breathing. Then, press your tongue gently against the tissue behind your upper front teeth. Keep your tongue in this position throughout the exercise. If it is difficult to exhale past your tongue, purse your lips slightly.
Use the simple 4-7-8 interval technique for relaxed breathing in the face of stress. Exhale completely, pressing your air out of your stomach. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of four. Then, hold the breath for a count of seven. Exhale, letting your breath wash over you, for a count of eight. Repeat the cycle three to four times.
Focus On The Breath, Not The Stress
During any breathing technique, let your mental focus fall on the breath. Let your thoughts become background noise, rather than your main focus. Concentrate on breathing in, holding the breath, and breathing out. Exhale twice as long as you inhale. If you are feeling panicky, a technique that may work is pressing one nostril shut, inhaling through the open nostril, then switching nostrils for the exhale. Many simple breathing techniques exist to combat stress and anxiety. Breathing is a tool you can use anywhere when stress becomes overwhelming.
Try A Physical Workout
Getting physical can get endorphins flowing in your brain, triggering good feelings in the brain’s reward system. Flooding your brain with endorphins can relieve stress and give you a sense of happiness and well-being. Physical exercise can also increase your overall health, improving your immune system and cardiovascular wellness. This can build up your tolerance to stress over time. If something in your life has you feeling spread too thin, try a simple, stress-relieving exercise routine. Yoga can be enough to combat stress. Try a quick sun salutation:
- Stand tall, with your shoulders down away from your ears.
- Lift your arms over your head during an inhale, then exhale and fold down over your legs.
- Plant your hands by your feet and step back into a high plank position.
- Slowly lower yourself to the ground, lying on your stomach.
- Lift your back slightly into a small backbend.
- Press back into downward dog, with your body forming a triangle. Your legs and arms should be in straight lines, with your butt forming the peak of the triangle.
- Walk your feet up to your hands, folding over your legs.
- Return to a standing position.
Repeat this cycle at your own pace, as many times as necessary to feel calm. Plan more vigorous workouts as part of your stress management plan. Sticking to an exercise routine can be a positive distraction from chronic stress or daily struggles. It can improve your mood, pump up endorphin production, and do your mind and body a world of good.
Use Cooking To Unwind
A positive after-work hobby can give you something to look forward to during especially long days, and be your opportunity to unwind. If you are someone who struggles with addiction, cooking can be a positive way to take up your time when you might normally turn to substances to relax. Purchase a new cookbook or find a website with recipes you think you can handle. Use cooking as an escape from stressors. Then, eat your creation as part of fueling the brain’s reward system.
Start Mornings Off Right
Waking up on the wrong side of the bed can set you up for stress the rest of your day. Mornings are critical for your overall attitude and resistance to stress during the day. Set your alarm early enough to give yourself time to enjoy and appreciate your mornings. Create an enjoyable and easy morning routine. This may include a light workout, shower, and breakfast, or you may have just enough time to sip a cup of coffee while listening to a pleasant morning playlist. If you have enough time, try writing in a gratitude journal in the mornings. Writing a list of things you are grateful for, can put you in a positive state of mind before going to a stressful job.
Take A Break From Screens Before Bed
Your sleep schedule can make all the difference in how quickly you get stressed during the day. Improve your sleep quality by turning off your TV and phone before bed. Spend at least 30 minutes before bed doing something relaxing that doesn’t involve a screen, such as taking a long bath or reading a book. Use a noisemaker app/machine or ear buds to block out noise from neighbors and get a good night’s sleep. You’ll awake feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.