Stress is like a bottle of Coke. For every thing that stresses us out, it’s a shake of the bottle. For example: you’re late to work, forgot your homework, dropped your phone in water, just to name a few. If we don’t learn how to relieve our stress, that bottle will eventually explode from all the built up stress. Sure some stress over-loads feel more like Mentos and Coke, but you get the idea. No matter what we do, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to relieve your stress in a positive way. Relieving stress sooner is better, rather than waiting for the top to pop. Here is a short list of some quick things that you can try to relieve your stress. This is, by no means a complete list, just some beginning ideas if you feel a little stuck on how to relax:
1. Take a Walk.
For many, exercise is either too difficult or too time consuming. So rather than watch one television program, or play one hour of your favorite game, get outside and walk. You don’t have to turn into a Marathon runner or anything, just go walk around at your own pace. This helps to get more oxygen to your body, and the blood circulating. Plus, it gets you out and away to take time to clear your mind.
2. Just Breath!
Some of you might be thinking, “Really? Come on now…” Don’t just breath, try deep breathing. When we get stressed, we tend to hold our breath or take shallow breaths. Deep breathing can help you to focus on being in the present, to focus on just your breathing. Allowing us to take a step back to refocus ourselves before we jump into a problem. Try this: Get comfortable, close your eyes if you feel alright to do so. Take a deep breath in, fill up your tummy as much as you can. Hold that breath for one second. Then slowly, release your breath (make sure the exhale is longer than the inhale). Do this three to five times, then see how you feel. You might even notice your stiffest muscles begin to relax. If you feel so inclined, you can do it again.
3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
This is so much easier than you might think. All this entails is systematically going through different muscle groups in your body, tightening them as much as you can, holding, then releasing. (Sort of like the breaths.) You can start with your hands: Make a fit, and squeeze your fits as tight into a ball as you can. Hold that for about 5 seconds, then release. Do this same pattern throughout your body, working from the hands, arms, neck, shoulders, back, stomach, legs, feet, and if you want to, your face. By doing this, you get a feel for where your body stores stress (that would be the tightest parts of the body). This practice can also alert you to the different muscle groups that are effected in moments of stress. So when you suddenly get extremely stressed out, you can do a short hand version of this by targeting the parts of the body that store your stress.
4. List of Affirmations.
I know that sometimes, stress can come from the negative thoughts that we form in our heads, or from negative things others say about us or to us. By keeping a running list of self-affirmations, compliments we’ve received, or positive critiques, it can give us that boost of confidence to get through the stress. For example: at work, you aren’t doing as well as you are used to. You start thinking, “I’m doing a terrible job. My boss is going to be mad that I’m not performing up to standard.” But say, during your last review your boss told you, “You are a strong employee, and we really value the work that you do here.” By remembering the positive things that your boss said about you, that could help to relieve your stress, because you are valued. Thereby clearing your mind so you can focus on work, rather than on the pace you were working at. Additionally, it’s always helpful to look back at positive things that you’ve said about yourself. By doing so, it allows the most powerful voice you know to be boosting you up rather than bringing you down.
5. Tap Into Your Artistic Side.
Do something you like, or try something new… like one of the many forms of art. One of my favorite things about art, you don’t have to be the best drawer or painter to enjoy it. It’s not about what others will think about the end result, it’s about the process of releasing your stress. Pull out paints and put the brush to the canvas. Pick up that old sketch pad and sketch or draw something. Pull out that clay that’s been sitting in the bag. Go back to a passion that you once had to design new fashion, rooms, etc. Listen, write, sing some music. Whether it’s your A-Tracks or ancient iPod, listen to some of your favorite music. Listen to some classics that can make you smile by listening to it. By doing this, you can be brought to a better moment that can help you through the stress. Listening to an old favorite song can bring back fond memories, or painting can bring you to a very focused and almost meditative state.
By journaling your thoughts, it helps to release all your raw emotions that could be contributing to those already stressful situations. This can be a safe, non-judgmental outlet for you to write down literally everything you are thinking and feeling without the repercussions of taking out frustrations on those we love the most. It’s a way of emptying your mind and releasing the stress by putting those important and valuable thoughts and feelings in a safe space. By putting that pen to the paper, you can actually go back and see the emotions coming out from the pen via the different styles to your handwriting. For example, when you’re angry, the pen gets heavier, more bold and underlining occurs,. Or scribbling frantically to get out what you are really thinking in a safe way. I’d include typing a journal, but we can get lost in the whirlwind of the moment and do something rash. Especially during those angry moments, one might be tempted to simply copy and paste the entry, and send it off to someone without giving time for the strong feelings to dilute. Plus, you wouldn’t want to need to purchase another keyboard from pounding the keys in a journaling frenzy.
7. Laugh It Off.
Laughing helps for many reasons. Laughing requires you to draw in larger breaths, activating a deeper breathing within the body, getting more oxygen to the blood stream, which helps reduce stress hormones that are released in the body. Laughing is a natural ice breaker. It eases tensions at times, calms nerves, and just plain feels good when it’s a hardy and meaningful laugh. Laughing paves the way for a better mood, that reduces stress.
By: Michelle Cook, Marriage & Family Registered Intern-IMF79712
Clinical Supervisor: Janelle Novell, LMFT, RPT-S-MFC32101