5 Tips to Decrease Stress
If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, hit the pause button, try one of these calming tips.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month-a good time to learn some techniques to help decrease stress, influence emotions and engage in self-care.
These evidence-based exercises can bring you towards balance by decreasing the stress response and calming the body and mind. Everything is connected—the thoughts you think are related to the feelings you have and the sensations in your body. Slowing down your breathing helps to slow down your mind and body.
5 Quick Steps to Lower Stress
#1 Steady Breathing
Using a breathing exercise can bring you towards balance by decreasing the stress response and calming the body and the mind down.
- Allow your inhale and exhale to be equal in length, strength, sound, and effort; allow your breath to be deep, even, smooth, seamless, and silent.
- Find a comfortable seat and breathe this way through your nose with eyes open or closed for 1-5 minutes.
- To make this extra relaxing, calming, or soothing, breathe into your belly so it rises on the inhale and softens on the exhale.
- This is the foundation for all the rest of the breathing exercises.
Everything is connected—the thoughts you think are related to the feelings you have and the sensations in your body. Slowing down your breathing helps to slow down your mind and body.
#2 Box Breathing
- Your breath will make up the sides of the square. Start with a count of 3 for all four sides of the square. Breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 3, breathe out for 3, and hold for 3. If a shorter or longer count feels better, do that.
- Adjust the length if a shorter or longer breath count feels better to you and if the holds make you panic or uncomfortable you can shorten them so it may look like 3-1-3-1. Find what works for you.
If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, try “self-holding.”
- Place one hand palm down on the center of your belly and the other on the center of your chest.
- Breathe in and out gently and effortlessly through your nose; close your eyes if that feels okay.
- Become aware of any warmth or movement you can feel under your hands.
- Send yourself love, compassion, grace, serenity, ease, patience, or gentleness.
- Hold this hand position for a few minutes and see what you notice.
- You can also try this at night as you’re falling asleep. Lower your upper arms so they’re flat on the bed (this may mean that your hands will be on the sides of your torso instead of in the center.)
When caught up in the swirl or chaos of big feelings, expectations, or events, take a few moments to be still and quiet
When caught up in the swirl or chaos of big feelings, expectations, or events, take a few moments to be still and quiet. This could be in the form of prayer, meditation, journaling, or simply sitting in stillness and noticing what you notice. Think of it as allowing the snow to settle in the snow globe.
- Spend some time in nature—feel the sun or breeze, notice the trees or sky, watch the animals move around.
- Try to feel your feet on the earth; it doesn’t matter whether you are inside or outside or whether you have shoes on or not.
- Press your feet down and sense or imagine that you can plant them into the soil (even if you’re inside, connect with the sense of the earth below the building).
- If you like this imagery or visualization, you can take it to the next level by imagining or sensing that you have roots coming out from the soles of your feet and burrowing down into the earth. Allow yourself to feel connected, rooted, and supported.
- Hold this sense of grounding, of connection to the Earth below you, for a few minutes while you breathe deeply and gently in and out through your nose. Notice what you notice.
#5 Engage your Muscles
If you are able, find something to engage your muscles (try 12 repetitions)
- Push on a wall
- Carry a gallon of milk or water
- Pick up a backpack
- Hold yourself using the arms of a chair
- Hold yourself in a sitting position with your arms out
Hold this pose long enough to notice your muscles engaged.
Notice how it feels. Notice any changes. Take some deep breaths.
About SouthLight Healthcare:
Founded in 1970, SouthLight Healthcare is one of the area’s largest nonprofit providers of substance use treatment and mental health services. SouthLight partners with individuals and communities to provide innovative treatment solutions delivered with compassion and dignity. With outpatient and community-based programs, SouthLight provides prevention, education, and treatment services in the Triangle and beyond. Call 919-787-6131 for help or more information or visit www.southlight.org.