Tip #1: Be Mindful of your Feelings
Mindfulness involves slowing down and paying close attention. Whether you are in your car, at work, at home, or out and about, take a mindfulness break to check in with yourself. Oftentimes, we keep going and going without pausing to assess how we are feeling–until we reach the point of mental exhaustion. By taking short breaks throughout the day to assess how we are doing, we can be proactive in alleviating our stress before it builds up. After all, we can’t “fix” something if we are not aware of it. Ask yourself the following questions:
- “How am I feeling right now? Am I stressed or anxious?”
- “On a scale of 0-10, how stressed or anxious do I feel? (0=not at all, 10=extremely)
- “Where in my body do I feel that emotion? Do I feel it as butterflies in my belly, tightness in my chest, a frog in my throat, etc.?”
Once you have identified how you are feeling, you can take some steps to relax and feel better.
Tip #2. Breathe It Out!
The breath and mind are closely linked. When we are stressed or upset, we tend to take shallow, faster breaths, or even hold our breath. When we are relaxed and calm, our breaths tend to be deeper and longer. Just as our emotions can influence our breath, we can use our breath to calm our mind. Here’s a simple breathing exercise, developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, to try when you are feeling stressed or anxious:
- Take 3 deep breaths inhaling through your nose and exhaling with a sigh through your mouth.
- Close your mouth and breathe in through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a mental count of seven.
- Exhale through your mouth, making a “whoosh” sound to a count of eight.
- Repeat this cycle 3-5 times.
Tip #3. Shake It Out!
Just 1-2 minutes of shaking can be very effective in relieving some stress and tension. A very simple shaking exercise used in Qi Gong is the following:
- Breathe in through your nose and out though your mouth–maintain this breathing pattern throughout the exercise.
- Start bouncing up and down by softly bending and then straightening your knees.
- While still bouncing, start shaking your hands, by rotating them forward and backwards. You should feel the shaking in your fingers, hands, and arms.
- Keep breathing, bouncing, and shaking for 1-2 minutes.
Tip #4. Tap It Out!
Tapping is another effective way to reduce stress and anxiety. It involves tapping on meridian points on your body, while you are thinking of a stressful experience or situation. It helps calm down your nervous system and restore the flow of energy in your body. While there is a lot more involved to using tapping proficiently, here is a very basic way to use it to find some stress relief:
- Tune into how you are feeling
- Using two or three fingers, start tapping with one or two hands on the following points-about 6-8 taps on each point (or as many as feel comfortable to you):
- The top of the head (in the middle, towards the back)
- The inside of your eyebrows
- The side of your eyes
- Under the eyes
- Under the nose
- The chin
- Do at least 3 rounds of tapping and then take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
The key to this exercise is to keep tuned into your stressful emotion as you are tapping. Keeping track of the number of taps is not necessary or important.
Tip #5. Meditate!
Meditation can be a great tool to calm you down and get you centered. Just 5-10 minutes of meditation can do the trick. If you are not an experienced meditator, there are plenty of guided meditations you can easily obtain online or on a meditation app. Choose a guided meditation for relaxation and stress relief and take a short break from what you are doing to meditate. Just remove any distractions, close your eyes, sit upright and still, and meditate!
After you have tried some of these techniques, check back in with yourself. How are you feeling now?