These are busy days, when there are many demands on our time and our attention. We tend to multitask our way through breakfast, lunch and dinner. As a result of our task overload, many of us begin to experience stress, which when unchecked can lead to anxiety.
Here are some options that have helped client to feel some immediate relief from stress and anxiety. What works one day, may not work at another time; what works for each person is different, so keep trying until you find what works for you.
- Move your body. Anxiety is often experienced in the body, so moving our body to release the trapped sensations can provide some immediate relief. A brisk walk around the block, dancing, wiggling and shaking, squats, jumping jacks: all of these can be ways to release some of the trapped energy that is agitating us.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This technique involves tensing and then relaxing muscle groups. You can use a guided script such as this one on Youtube, or if you need immediate relief, you can try this:
Inhale for a count of four, and while you inhale scrunch up and tense as much of your body as possible, make fists, curl up, scrunch your face, move shoulders to ears, and hold this for a count of four. And then with a loud exhale, release all of the tension and wiggle your body, letting go of anxiety as you do. Do this three times in a row and notice the difference in your mood and your muscle tone.
- Make a list: Sometimes, it can be helpful to just list everything that is making you feel tense/stressed/anxious and to imagine putting it into a box for safekeeping. Many people note that they are afraid that they will forget to do something. This can be a source of great anxiety when we already have too many balls in the air. So I invite clients to write things down and make more room in their body and mind for calm.
- Grounding: When we are anxious, we can feel spacey and ungrounded. Use your favorite grounding technique to center yourself. One of my favorites is to imagine that my body is the trunk of a giant Oak tree, and that through the soles of my feet, there are roots that go deep into the earth. Through these roots, I imagine all the tension pouring out of my body into the earth. Within about five breaths, I start to notice a difference. Then I scan my body from head to toe, inviting every cell to release a little more tension through the roots into the earth. At this point, I invite Mother Earth to transform the tension into energy, so it can be more beneficial. I picture myself inhaling grounding calming energy from my feet to my head, and I imagine myself receiving the blessings of the universe with each exhale, coming from my head to my toes.
As I continue to inhale and exhale for a few breaths, I imagine grounding, calming energy rising from toe to head with each inhale, and expansive, healing energy moving from head to toe with each inhale.
Within a few moments, the cycle of anxiety has been interrupted and I feel more ready to approach my next task with ease.
- Visualization: If you find it easy to visualize, then you can get creative with stress-busting options. There are endless possibilities, and here are a few ideas suggested by clients that can help you get started:
- Open a window and inhale deeply. Then close your eyes and exhale with your mouth open. As you exhale, picture all the anxiety leaving your body through your mouth.
- Picture a video arcade with various screens that each show stressors from your life. Now imagine, using a remote control to turn off the screens one by one, until the only remaining screen has a soothing image, perhaps a beach scene, or a favorite childhood memory.
- Picture each stress as a thought bubble in your mind and imagine them passing by like clouds in the sky, until they become more and more distant.
- Some clients report that the idea of a giant storage container can be a helpful image. You can put images of various items in this imaginary container for safe-keeping. This way, you can pull out one item at a time to work on, rather than getting overwhelmed by all you have to do.
- Time in Nature: Research shows that time in nature can reduce our heart-rate, blood pressure and have overall health benefits. If you can take a quick walk around the block and spend sixty seconds noticing a tree, playing with a dog, looking up at the sky, or in some way connecting to that which feels bigger than you, it can help to destress and re-set.
Ongoing Ways to Improve Stress Management:
Learning to manage stress and anxiety is a lifelong process.
- Yoga Nidra: Yoga Nidra is a set of deep relaxation exercises that can induce restful sleep. Clients report that falling asleep to a Yoga Nidra every night improves the quality of sleep and therefore allows them to function more optimally all day.
Here is a Youtube Link with the option of downloading an MP3 recording
- Online tools such as Trello, Asana, OmniFocus can help you to organize your tasks, priorities and goals in ways that can reduce stress in the long run.
- Lifestyle Changes: Simple changes can add up to major lifestyle benefits. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Add fifteen minutes of exercise to your day
- Turn off all electronic devices one hour before bedtime and use the time to relax, stretch, and unwind before you fall asleep
- Try to make simple home-cooked meals with leftovers for lunch, so you can eat more nourishing meals and spend less money
- Money Management: Finances can be a big stressor. Learning to budget and to create savings goal can feel intimidating for many clients. Talk to your therapist about resources to support you. You can also explore budget management tools like Mint, YouNeedaBudget.Com, BudgetPulse etc.
- Personal Therapy: If you’re overwhelmed and need some support, personal therapy can be a wonderful way to invest in yourself and your relationships.
- Creativity: Incorporating creativity into your weekly routine can be a wonderful stress-outlet. Playing music, writing in your journal, sculpting, knitting, drawing, painting, singing, dancing, or other creative acts help us to let go and help to soothe our nervous system.
I like to draw mandalas (see image) and color them as a way of allowing the colors and shapes to express my feelings. Sometimes, they are pretty, sometimes, not so much. In the end, it is not about the final product, but about the process of exploring and expressing the emotions in a healthy way that leaves me refreshed.
How do you like to soothe away your stress? Write and tell me what works for you! Here’s to a stressfree 2015!