Simple stress management techniques
Stress management is a key way to help maintain a high level of health, especially in our fast-paced modern lives. Stress affects different people in many different ways. When we can start to become aware of how stress affects us, this can help us in choosing effective ways to relive our stress. Here are some simple stress management techniques. Feel free to try out a few or come up with your own. Follow your intuition and listen to your body about what feels right to you.
Deep breathing, it sounds so simple, and it’s something we have access to all the time. Deep breathing allows us to connect the mind and the body, and it helps shift our nervous system from “fight or flight” mode into “rest and relax” mode automatically – like flicking a light switch on or off. As we breathe in, the belly rises or expands – all we need to do is relax and let it expand. As we breathe out the belly falls or returns to normal. Try taking three to ten deep belly breaths and see how you feel. People who are trying to quit smoking may find it helpful to do deep breathing instead of taking a smoke break. The simplest form of meditation is simply following the breath – perhaps you’d like to say “I am breathing in” as you breathe in and “I am breathing out” as you breathe out.
Spending time in nature
Many people find spending time outdoors is a great stress release. Many studies have been done on the relaxing effects of connecting with nature. In fact, the effect of spending time in nature has been studied in several health conditions including ADHD, chronic pain, and anxiety. Our nervous systems evolved being surrounded by the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and tactile sensations of the natural world, and for many people, being outdoors helps put our nervous system at ease.
Laughing can be a great stress-buster for some people. Consider spending some time reading comics, watching a funny movie, watching baby animals do cute things, or doing something that makes you laugh!
Connecting to the world through your senses
This practice involves systematically connecting with the world around you through your senses. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you feel? What do you taste? Exercises like this one can help us to get out of our head, and to connect with the present moment through our senses as we experience the world around us.
Feeling gratitude or appreciation
Sometimes it can be helpful to attempt to bring a feeling of gratitude or appreciation, or the feeling of a smile into your heart. Find something you are thankful for, be it how the sun feels on your face, for the rain, for the view, for someone in your life, and let yourself experience gratitude or appreciation.
Progressive muscle relaxation
This can be great for people who carry their stress in their muscles. Basically, in this practice, you gently clench groups of muscles in your body for 3-5 seconds, and then release them systematically. For example, you can start with the muscles on your scalp and face, and gradually work your way down your body.
This practice involves taking a few deep breaths and centering yourself, and then scanning your attention to different parts of your body systematically to notice what is happening in your body with a gentle curiosity. What do you notice? Does any emotion or sensation come up? Imagine you are examining what is happening throughout your body through the neutral eye of a camera lens without any judgement. Just observe. Perhaps you’d like to start at the top of your head and gradually work your way down to the tips of your toes.
Some people find imagining or visualizing or even looking at images of baby animals or natural landscapes helpful for stress release. This technique can be used in many different ways, such as in creating a space in your mind’s eye where you feel relaxed or at ease, or in visualizing goals or future endeavors, or in visualizing the person you would like to become or the state of health you would like to achieve.
Shifting your perception
Sometimes playing with shifting your perception of a situation can be helpful to manage stress. (eg. stepping into another person’s shoes, thinking about things in a different way)
Many authors and scholars have written about the importance of finding or making meaning in your life and your work. Meaning-making can help give us purpose and navigate life’s challenges.
Cultivating supportive relationships
Building a supportive social network whether it be through community involvement, a hobby, or simply building relationships can play an important role in our health and well-being. Many authours and scholars have written about how social networks provide us with resilience in times of stress.
Originally published in the Valley Naturopath clinic newsletter October 2013Related to: healthy living . personal growth . resilience . stress . stress management