Five Quick Ways to Ease Stress and Release Anxiety
You’re stressed. I’m stressed. Everybody gets stressed. Fast paced modern life has replaced the saber toothed tiger as our biggest threat, and global internet connections, and a 24/7 news cycle keep us in fight, flight, or freeze mode much of the time.
In one sense, anxiety is the normal response to ongoing stressors. When anxiety becomes the chronic response, however, is when our health, both physical and mental, is negatively affected.
Anxiety is based in the brain, but it affects the body.
Anxiety is our physical reactions caused by negative thoughts traveling down certain neuro-pathways in our brains. Easing anxiety and reactions to stress can begin in either the brain or the body. The brain and body have a quid pro quo. Following are some ways to change neuro-pathways quickly through activity or thought, or a combination:
Breathe. Breathe, and then breathe some more. Take deep breaths that fill the lungs, distending the abdomen, not lifting the shoulders. Notice the next time you feel stressed that you are probably holding your breath. Our brain uses the majority of the oxygen we take in, so breathing actually feeds the brain. And a brain with plenty of fuel operates better. Breathing out deeply, can release physical tension in our shoulders and other parts of our bodies. Breathing out also eliminates toxins. The alternative is not breathing, and we know how that ends up.
Walk. Walking releases some of the pent up energy caused by anxiety. When you feel the inner shakiness of anxiety, get up and walk it off. That feeling of inner shakiness is sometimes the way our body tell us it needs movement. So give your body movement, especially by walking outdoors, and feel the stress drain away. Shake your hands occasionally while walking. It shakes out the anxious energy.
Use Peripheral Vision. Using peripheral vision while walking has been shown to lower blood pressure. Since stress can cause a rise in blood pressure, walking and using your peripheral vision kills two birds with one stone. That’s probably why it works. Not because we need or want to kill birds, but because it’s in our DNA to be on the lookout for danger. If the cave people only focussed straight ahead, they missed danger from the sides. Today, using our peripheral vision can make us feel safer, even if we don’t realize why. We are calming our inner cave man or woman.
Meditate on the go. What comes to mind when you think about meditating? Sitting cross-legged on the floor for forty-five minutes to an hour? Complete silence or meditative music? Chanting Om loudly? Yeah, I’m not talking about any of that.
You can learn to use meditation any time anywhere, and for any length of time. First, notice everything you can feel physically, such as the chair you are sitting in, and the feeling of the clothes on your body against your skin. Then listen to all the sounds where you are. Notice you already feel more relaxed.
If the brain chatters or tries to define what you are feeling or hearing, pretend it’s a puppy or kitten trying to get your attention. Put it in the other room in a kennel with lots of toys, tell it to chatter away in there, and that you will listen later. Then feel your body and the sensations surrounding it again, and listen again to every sound you can hear. Your eyes can be closed. Or, if you prefer, find something to look at, as if you’ve never seen it before. Notice how relaxed you feel.
Be aware of your Inner Body. Eckhart Tolle calls the energy inside of us our Inner Body. Others call it the Force, or chi, or ki. Still others call it the soul. Whatever name you call it, notice it. Become aware of the energy you can feel, beginning at your skin and filling your entire body, down to and including the cell level. This energy fulfills the role of Observer, according to Tolle. It’s the part of you that animates you, beginning at birth, before the brain can understand or speak words. It simply observes our emotions, the world, and other people with compassion and without judgement.
I meditate even while driving. Especially while driving. Combined with breathing, meditating on the go, and being aware of the Inner Body are the ultimate calming actions. And they can be done anywhere for any length of time. When I guide people through a meditation based on these principles, I can do it in five minutes or thirty, depending on the time available.
You can shorten the process even more, while at your desk for instance. Try it now.
Feel one thing.
Hear one sound.
See one thing as if for the first time.
Feel your Inner Body energy.
Realize how relaxed you feel.