7 Simple Stress Busters
I found this article by Rachael Collins and wanted to share her powerful advice, activities and suggestions for identifying, and beating, stress.
7 Ways to Relieve Stress by Rachael Collins
Think about how often you sit down without disruption and intentionally relax. Many people don’t even know when they are feeling stressed because they are so used to it. Stress typically causes physical or emotional symptoms. It may be an acceleration of heart rate, perspiration, headache, stomachache, shallow breathing, tight neck and shoulders, crying, etc. In order to reduce stress in your life, you first need to understand what it is. Some stress is unavoidable in life and can even be productive. The kind of stress that is uncomfortable, rather than motivating, is the source of energy drains. Negative stress is easily recognized if you are in touch with how your body feels.
When you ignore the signals and stay in the threatening, stress producing situation, you are literally endangering yourself. Adrenaline and cortisol pour into your body and may damage your organs and cells.
Most individuals have their own perceptions of what is stressful, as well as their own tolerance for stress. Some people perceive change of any kind as stressful and others thrive on it, intentionally choosing jobs and life circumstances of significant challenge and change. Some environments are stressful to you, as are some people and some tasks. This all depends on what you have the capacity and skills to cope with. Reactions to stress are often rooted in childhood experiences, not actually based in our reality as adults. Therefore, we have a “gut” reaction that a particular stimulus or event is stressful. Yet when we analyze it, the event may not be threatening to us at all.
Of course, some events are stressful because they do threaten you in some way. Usually the threat is related to security—the breakup of relationships, financial hardship, death or illness of loved ones, overloading our bodies with work, or other difficult activities or fears. Sometimes, several events may happen at once, which can overwhelm and create stress in even the most adaptable person.
You need to know why you get stressed, and what stresses you, in order to consciously reduce stress.
Stress Symptoms Activity
Take a notebook to a quiet place, close your eyes and focus on what stress feels like for you. Title the top of one page “Symptoms.” Under this title, list all of the symptoms of stress that you experience – one per line. Next to each symptom, list all of the ways that your body tells you that you are in a stressful situation (signals). These may include a general feeling of anxiety or a stomachache or stiff neck. When you are done, go back to the list and make a note next to each symptom of how often you typically experience that symptom (twice a day, three times a week).
Stress Symptoms Assignment
Every time that you begin to experience a symptom from your list, notice where you are, what you are doing, who you are interacting with, and anything else that could be a cause of your stress signal. Try to recognize the “triggers” of your stress. Take out your notebook and title the top of a page “Stress Triggers.” Describe the stress-producing situation in one sentence on one line. Leave 5 lines of space below where you will fill in details about why the situation happens and then list the next situation. Over the next week, add to your list every time you notice a stress symptom and can identify the stress trigger and why it is happening.
At the end of one week, sit down in a quiet place for an hour and study your lists. Notice any patterns or similarities between people or events that stress you out. Title a sheet of paper “Who, What and Why” and list the people, places, and events that have caused you stress recently. Flip the page and title another sheet of paper “What I Am Going To Do.” Develop a plan or strategy for how you would like to handle each person or situation listed in order to reduce your stress and energy drains. Decide when you will take the action for each item and put a realistic date next to it and DO IT! You will feel more and more empowered as you realize how much control you have over reducing the stress in your life.
1. Deep Breathing is the simplest and most important form of stress reduction. Most people breathe only from their upper diaphragm. This is not the way we were intended to breathe. We are particularly prone to breathe incorrectly when stressed, by taking quick and shallow breaths. The exaggerated form of this is hyperventilating, which some people do when experiencing an anxiety or panic attack. The proper way to breathe is to inhale deeply from the abdomen. You should be able to feel your lungs fill up with air as you inhale. If you do not breathe from the solar plexus, you are not getting enough oxygen. You may think that it looks better to hold your stomach in but you are losing out on vital oxygenation of the body. Deep breathing is a very quick way to release tension, particularly noticeable in the neck, shoulders and head (headache).
Stand any place and inhale deeply so that you feel the air expand in the lower part of your abdomen and your stomach extend out. Hold the breath as long as it is comfortable and then exhale slowly. Repeat this for 5 minutes and notice the tension in your body fading away.
When you notice yourself pushing too hard, straining your body and feeling the stress washing over you or the adrenaline pumping, try this technique that I developed to deal with my own difficulty in slowing down. It is important to have a quick and easy reminder or mantra to chant when you are getting into a stress mode.
When you are getting stressed, STOP what you are doing and walk away from it. If possible, sit on the floor (DROP) to ground yourself, and close your eyes and focus only on taking long, deep breaths (BREATHE).
Deep breathing is the quickest and most effective stress management strategy. The simple act of taking in a great quantity of air—filling your lungs and holding it—will immediately release tension in your back and neck muscles, clear your head, and bring a sense of peace. This technique was instrumental in my burnout recovery as it enabled me to gain awareness of stress as I began to experience it and disengage before doing more damage.
At least three times a day, try to use the STOP, DROP, and BREATHE technique. As you do it, notice how quickly you calm down and break the adrenaline stress response. Then notice what brings on the stress response each time you experience it. Write those down in your notebook on a page titled, “Stop, Drop and Breathe: What I Learned Today.” Choose a strong word that works for you like eliminate and write it next to each stress trigger that you want to get rid of. Try to keep yourself out of situations that induce those stress triggers. Remember that it’s all about choice, and it’s your choice to live a healthy life. You can eliminate relationships, jobs, relatives, neighbors, pets, email, cell phones, or whatever stresses you. Doesn’t it feel powerful to recognize this? You are back in control!
2. Massage. You probably know the wonderful feeling of tension melting away that is induced by massage. There are many forms of massage that focus on different areas of the body and have various purposes. Techniques can include shiatsu, trigger point, deep tissue, lymphatic, hot stone and many more. They are all designed to relax the muscles and release built-up toxins from the body.
3. Meditation is commonly practiced in many countries to calm the body and focus the mind.People who practice meditation regularly have been found to require significantly less medical care, have astoundingly less heart disease, cancers, nervous disorders, and infectious diseases, have sharper minds, and even look biologically younger. Meditation usually involves controlling your breathing and using a chant or mantra to quiet the mind. It is best done in a quiet, private area twice a day or as often as you can, and want to. There are many excellent books and classes available on methods of meditation.
4. Aromatherapy is a wonderful way to improve your mood quickly and to calm down. Scented candles, incense, bath salts, lotion, and oils are all products you can use at home to create an environment that soothes you. You can choose from dozens of scents. Some of the most calming scents are eucalyptus, lavender, sandlewood, cinnamon and peppermint.
5. Music Therapy is also a simple way to influence your mood and make you feel better. When you go to get a massage, notice that almost every spa pipes in relaxing music to soothe you and create a peaceful environment. It is easy to take a music break almost any time and anywhere by having a set of headphones and a portable radio or CD player. Stock up on music that makes you feel good. You may enjoy taking one or more music breaks a day.
6. Reflexology is a massage concentrating on the feet. Benefits are thought to include clearing up disruptions in the energy meridians of your body, improved organ functioning, and relaxation. You can find reflexology charts in many book stores and learn more about which areas on the soles of the feet correspond to particular organs.
7. Vacation is a wonderful way to rejuvenate your satisfaction with life and restore energy–if you do it well. The standard vacation in most companies is two weeks. That is not much time at all to relax and repair yourself from the stresses of everyday life. However, the key to constructive vacation is to make sure it will be relaxing for you, however you define that. The greatest mistakes of most vacationers are 1) going too far away from home so that at least a day of the vacation is spent traveling, 2) cramming too many activities into the vacation so they are exhausted when they return, and 3) making unwise decisions about whether to bring children along. Couples could benefit from at least one vacation alone together each year to remove the distraction and obligations of childcare and to rekindle their romantic relationship. That’s much too important to feel guilty about.
Write It Down to Sort It Out
“Memo to Self”
I am in a situation of __________________________________.
It feels _____________________________________________.
I would like to change __________________________about it.
I need to make a decision to _____________________by _____(date)___.
I can ask ________________________ to support and help me.
1. Be Powerful.
Make decisions that are best for you.
Take action to make your desires come true.
2. Be Realistic.
Do not expect unachievable things of yourself.
Modify aggressive timelines and reduce a heavy workload.
3. Be Aware.
What is your body telling you?
Are you doing what you need to make yourself happy?
4. Be Grateful.
Give thanks every day for what you have (health, friends, great personality, work).
Know that you are a wonderful and unique person.
5. Be Loving.
Practice daily acts of kindness toward others.
Tell your family and friends how much you love them.
6. Be Supportive.
Encourage others in their efforts and mentor someone who wants your help.
Support yourself by making choices that are good for you.
7. Use a Coach.
Ask for assistance to resolve the problems that are roadblocks for you.
Get perspective on your situation, options, and best choices.
8. Let It Go!
Release things that trap you into feeling bad.
Write down the issue, burn up the paper and free yourself from it.
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