Ten Stress Fixes That Take Just One Minute
Clenched teeth, racing heart, body aching from muscles that won’t sit still. Mind firing around a tangled web of thoughts and no solution in sight. We all know what stress feels like!
Exercise, meditation, changes to diet and ‘one to one’ support can all help to reduce stress and improve the skills needed to cope with it but sometimes you’re stuck in a moment, at a meeting, with friends, at a party or some social situation where you need an instant fix. The plaster for a lot of us, is to flick onto social media, to make a coffee or smoke but are there healthier and more effective solutions?
Here are 10 ideas that might help
The physical symptoms of stress can include tension, increased heart rate and short shallow breaths. Try using your ‘one minute’ for three long, deep breaths. As you breathe in, allow your stomach to relax out, hold the breath a moment and as you breathe out, let all of the air escape from your lungs. These deep breaths can help to slow your heart rate and relax muscles, while promoting feelings of calmness.
Place your thumbs at the top of your nose and firmly press in and together. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat under your brow bone and on your temples. Try to take deep, relaxing breaths and quieten your thoughts to a pleasant memory.
Keep a notebook by the side of your bed and in your handbag. Whenever the tension creeps try writing. It could be lists, a schedule to achieve what needs to be done, reminders or even a scramble of words that you need to remove from your head.
Take a minute to close your eyes and imagine someone, currently in your life that you love. It could be a friend, relative, partner or even a pet. Imagine what life would be like without them and then fill yourself with massive gratitude that they are here, they do exist and they are part of your life.
Go and find a hug. You’d be surprised how many people around you are craving physical contact, without even realising it. This year a work colleague and I made a new tradition that we’d hug every single day and it’s been a game changer! During that hug, for just a minute, the stress seems to disappear, you can feel loved, safe, important, grounded to the world and while you’re hugging your body is releasing Oxytocin, a hormone which promotes these feelings, while reducing the heart rate. Win win!
It could take just one minute to step outside or into a different room but a change of environment can help to balance perspective. If getting outside is possible, then go. Feel the sun, wind or rain, look at the clouds and breathe. Even in a busy social situation, there is nothing wrong with stepping out for a minute!
Stress often hides in your shoulders, neck and jaw. Try uncurling your shoulders and pushing your shoulder blades together. Allow your head to gently fall back and then forward and try opening your mouth as wide as you can and as you close it, quietly smile. If the tension has crept through the rest of your body, try tensing every muscle and consciously relax, starting with you face and head, working all the way down to your toes.
Often stress is caused by something that you simply cannot change at that moment, so distract yourself until the physical symptoms of stress begin to calm. Count tiles on the floor, look for everything blue in the room, focus on what you can smell or try reciting a poem or script from a film. I always fall back to my times tables, just enough to distract myself and find perspective.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert or have never meditated before. Think about what you can feel, slowly working from your head to your toes. Imagine someone drawing an outline of your body, feel your collar against the back of your neck, feel your hands resting against your legs. Don’t panic when other thoughts creep in. Watch them float in and watch them float out.
Don’t force it but quietly smile and let your body relax. Allow your body to convince your mind that everything is okay.
Stress is common for most of us and it’s useful to have a toolbox of ideas for when it attacks. However, long term, chronic stress can have a devastating effect on a life. It can damage relationships, sleep patterns and lead to mental health problems, along with increasing risk of hypertension and heart attack. If you’re suffering from stress on a daily basis, take steps now to change it. Chat to your doctor, make an appointment with counsellor or sit down with someone you trust and look at what is happening and how it can be improved.
Be kind to yourself. If stress is impacting your life, take positive steps to action change but don’t punish yourself. Stress is often caused by caring and that’s a quality to be proud of.
Originally published at www.imustnow.com on October 7, 2017.