Sometimes you need to relax your mind and body QUICKLY. Stress can take a toll on your emotions and your long term health, so it is good to have a few strategies that you can use anywhere, anytime to keep your baseline stress level low before it becomes chronic.
Imagine this scenario. You are running errands, racing against the clock, your phone is buzzing in your pocket and you are late to a meeting at work. Or you are trying to make an important phone call, the baby starts crying in the other room and you feel your blood pressure start to rise. There are 50,000 things to do today and no way you will get them all done, but right now they all seem like urgent priorities. Sometimes your thoughts ping from one thing to the next and you feel like your head is spinning. And that’s on a good day! Does this sound familiar?
Or maybe it’s the really big stuff like the death of a loved one, financial stress or the health of a family member that makes life feel unmanageable. Regardless of the specific stressors, we need a way to relax our minds and bodies and get calm quickly before stress takes a serious toll on our mental, emotional and physical health.
I know when I get stressed out like this I can make myself literally feel sick.
When we are under stress, our bodies start flooding with adrenaline, cortisol and nor-epinephrine. These chemicals are incredibly useful if we need to escape a lion, not so much if we are just trying to get through our day. When our stress levels remain high without returning to normal, our bodies lose their ability to recover and we enter a chronic state of stress. This takes a toll on our health, affecting mood, weight, sleep and cardiovascular health, among other things. If you are interested in learning more about the stress response and the effect on our bodies, read more here.
Stressed Out Americans
According to the American Psychological Associations Stress in America Survey, more Americans than ever are facing stress related to political and societal factors. Women and older adults (72+) have seen an increase in stress levels. The most common symptoms include irritability, anger, anxiety and insomnia. Not good symptoms to have if you are trying to, well, function as a human!
Here’s a way to bring your stress level down, relax and get calm quickly.
This will work for you, and it is also really great for your kids! I came up with the reminder “Feet, Seat, Shoulders, Breathe” as a way for my daughter to center and ground herself before a test, lowering her anxiety and helping her focus. It only takes a few seconds and no one knows you are doing anything!
Step 1: Feet.
Feel your feet underneath you. Simply notice where they are. Notice the color of your shoes. Feet the floor or ground underneath your feet and notice where they make contact. Notice the space between your feet and the surface below.
Step 2: Seat
If you are sitting, notice your lower body in the chair. Feel the weight of your body pressing down and notice the chair supporting you. Imagine gravity causing you to sink into the chair. If you are standing, you can do the same by imagining your legs grounding into the earth like a sturdy tree, rooted deep into the earth.
Step 3: Shoulders
When we are stressed, many of us hunch up our shoulders and clench our jaw like we are bracing ourselves. “You don’t want to wear your shoulders as earrings!” – a wise massage therapist once told me. Scrunch your shoulders up toward your ears, push them back then drop them down as if you are putting them in your back pockets. Let your shoulders relax, and notice how that opens up space between ears and shoulders and gives you a little more room to breathe.
Step 4: Breathe
When I am really stressed out, I finding that taking a deep breath can be really difficult and can even feel a little panicky. Instead, take a nice SLOW breath. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth nice and slowly. Once you feel a little more calm, then take a deep belly breath.
You can do this as often as you need to throughout the day. The idea is to try to stay on top of your stress and keep your baseline low so it doesn’t get overwhelming.
More stress resources