Three Simple Steps for Stress Relief
There are three simple steps to stress relief: breathing, grounding and mindfulness. So let’s start by taking a moment to check in with yourself and pick a number between zero to 10. Zero means that you are absolutely 100 percent, not stressed at all and 10 would mean you are so stressed out that you're going to lose your mind. So think of that number and just kind of write it down or hold onto it we’re going to come back to that at the end of our segment. So what is stress? Sometimes people think that stress is a really terrible, horrible bad thing and that if I just had no stress in my life, everything would be so much better. The thing is that stress because it's a natural response to help keep us safe and protected. If you didn’t have stress and had no worries in the world you’d be making a lot of really bad decisions. Now too much stress is also something that leads us to make really bad decisions as well. So we’re always looking for that balance. But if we had no stress at all that would not actually make the world a better place. The correct amount of stress keeps us safe because it reminds us that there is something going on that were not comfortable with or there's too much going on or that there's something that we're doing that we really don't want to, but we're kind of forcing ourselves to. If you know your limit then your stress can come down. When we don’t understand our limits are stress goes crazy because our bodies just were not meant to hold onto that amount of stuff: all of the feelings, all of the difficulties of managing through too much stuff. Our lives now are full of technology and everything is very instantaneous and there's a lot of stuff going on so we want to try to remind ourselves and remind our bodies that “I can manage through this, this and that” and maybe I’ll, let this other thing go for now. So understanding stress and how it helps us is important because you’re never going to get to a place where you have zero stress. One of the things about stress that makes things tough is when, we're stressed our bodies get really tight.
Have you ever noticed when you’re stressed out you're not breathing, our shoulders are probably a little hunched and really tight. Our necks are really tight, our jaws might be clenched. Some may grind their teeth. All of these body actions are a response to stress. When we have stress, like that, it limits the amount of oxygen that goes into your blood when you limit the amount of oxygen that goes into your blood, your nervous system starts to freak-out a little bit and it thinks that there’s something wrong. The message to your brain is “oh no something's wrong” and it starts to cut off all of the activity to the frontal cortex, the front part of your brain, that's where we are reasonable and rational and it stays back here, which is like the limbic system. The limbic system is where we have “Fight Flight, Freeze and Old Memories.” So when we're really stressed out we’re not putting enough oxygen into our body, our brain is going to a place that is not the smartest part of our brain, it's very reactionary, it’s got a lot of old memories and it rifles through things and it says “I know what I should do here.” And oftentimes, more often than not, that thing that the brain pulls out from Old Memories is not even close to what is going to be best for us, but it worked for us in the past so a lot of it is really really old. It comes from our childhood so those things may have helped us to stay safe and to get through our adolescence and to get through our childhood, but as an adult it's just not very useful.
When we’re coming from the back part of our brain it's keeping us from thinking logically and thinking rationally and reasonably. Hence a big part of reducing stress is to reduce the amount of tightness in the body so that the blood flows more smoothly and evenly, there's enough oxygen and our brain can access the front part where we can make really good decisions.
This is also the part of the brain that develops last. That’s why kids and especially adolescence sometimes they do things that are kind of crazy because this frontal part of the brain is not fully developed. For boys it can take up to 23 or 24 years of age to develop. And for girls it’s somewhere around 21 to 22 before the pre-frontal cortex is fully developed. If you're an adult, you have a fully developed frontal cortex. Let's use it.
If you find yourself feeling stressed out and you're, not in “imminent physical danger” because that's when you should feel stressed out, then we need to figure out how to relax your nervous system and allow the stress to kind of leave your body. If we can do that and tell our brain that it's not an emergency we'll be able to access the prefrontal cortex and you'll be able to get through whatever it is that you need to, without feeling, super, stressed So if you find yourself stressed and you're not in danger, please consider the next three things. I’m going to tell you to try to reduce the amount of stress and increase the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream to calm your nervous system
Okay so now we’re going to get into secret number one which is breathing. This may seem super simple and easy, but breathing is the number one way that you can calm your nervous system and get your brain to access the part that is reasonable and rational. When we are stressed out we hold our breath, our body gets tight, there's just not enough oxygen. So breathing is super important and it’s really easy, because air is free and you can breathe anytime, anywhere. It's not even embarrassing if you practice and learn how to do it in a manageable way. I'm not talking about the kind of breathing that's hyper exaggerated. We’re talking about the type of breathing were you can be sitting at your desk, you can be in a meeting, you can be in the car, you can be talking to someone and once you feel that anxiety rise when they feel the stress coming you’re going to just breathe. This specific method of breathing is going to take a little practice. It’s breathing in for three seconds, you hold it for one second and then you breathe out for five seconds. You want to get as much Carbon dioxide out of your system as possible, because that's going to make more room for oxygen. When you're breathing in you want to feel it so that your tummy gets kind of full or you could feel it in your diaphragm. It’s going to be a nice deep inhale for 3 seconds, hold for one second and then exhale for five seconds.
If you can do that type of breathing just two times you'll notice a significant difference in how your body feels. If you were to check in right now versus when you first started reading this article when I asked to pick that number that represented your current stress level. If by breathing just two times like that, you feel like your number may have reduced by even one point or even half a point that's better than nothing. And then, if you breathe a little more you're going to, find yourself coming down lower and lower and lower. so when you’re breathing take your time; the key to stress relief is to go slow, so when you think about counting, count slowly, 1-2-3 and then count slowly when you exhale 1-2-3-4-5. Try to get as much air as you can in and push out as much air as you can or as much carbon dioxide. This will really help reset your nervous system. The great thing is if you're feeling stressed you can do this in 30 seconds and if it doesn't work when you do it once try it again, but it's really effective. Just try it and you'll see
Now there are times when just breathing actually might not be enough, even if you were breathing like 10 times. So this leads to our second secret which is called grounding. This is a way to get your body to settle down. It's trying to get your nervous system to understand that there’s nothing dangerous going on everything’s okay and it doesn't have to be on high alert. Remember stress equals the body thinking you're on high alert. When you’re grounding, one of the key things is to breathe. You can ground, while you’re standing up. It’s really helpful if you’re sitting down or if you're lying down in the bed. If you are sitting make yourself comfortable make sure your back is leaning up against the back of the chair or if you're laying down just make sure you can really feel all of your body on the bed. So you sit down get comfortable and you're going to breathe. The exact same type of breathing discussed above. Breathe in for a count of three, hold for one second and then breathe out for five seconds. Then we’re going to take it to the next level. Go very slowly and check in with your feet. If you're standing just feel your feet on the ground, if you're sitting feel your feet on the ground. Just notice that your feet are firmly connected to the ground Once you can feel your feet, then you move up to your calves. See if you can feel your calves. Maybe they’re pressed up against the legs of the chair or the back of the couch. Maybe they're pressing down on the bed or if you're standing maybe you could even feel your pants on your calves. Once you feel that you breathe again and you move up to your thighs. Feel your thighs or your glutes on the couch, feel the cushion feel your body heavy into the couch or the chair. Same thing if your lying in a bed. Feel your body touching, making contact with the bed and then you want to take another deep breath. Inhale 1-2-3, hold one second then exhale 1-2-3-4-5. Now move up to your chest and your shoulders. Often times feeling stress our shoulders tighten up, even when we’re breathing, sometimes people will breathe in a very tight, constricted manner.
These types of breathes are not getting enough oxygen into your system, so check your shoulders. Make sure they are loose; keep them down check in with your chest. Does it feel tight? If it does try to loosen it up, relax your arms, your fingers, your hands. Don't cross your legs, don't cross your arms, and don’t cross your fingers. Try to leave everything nice and straight and loose. Now come up to your neck and your jaw. Can you feel the weight of your head on your neck? Can you notice your jaw? Does it feel tight and, if it does just try to crack it open, just a little bit try to crack it open, not like a snake, but so that it's just not as tight. Try to relax the hinge of your jaw and then we're going to breathe again; three second in five seconds out. Next try to relax your brow, your forehead, your eyebrows, and your scalp and then do one more breathing cycle. Breathe for 3 seconds, breathe out for 5 seconds. Now going all the way back to the start of the article I'd like you to check in. What's your number from 1-10. Zero means perfectly calm and 10 means you’re completely losing your mind. Take note of what your number is now. When we’re feeling stressed adding oxygen by breathing and then grounding let’s your body know that it's safe and there's no danger. That's going significantly help how you're going to manage your stress. It’s going to push away a lot of that feeling of overwhelm. So try to relax, try to slow down and pay attention to your body. Okay so, we’ve covered breathing and grounding. Now we’ll discuss the third secret - mindfulness
What does it mean to be mindful. Mindfulness is not some sort of altered state. For our purpose of stress relief being mindful means that you're doing something with purpose, that you're paying attention. As long as you're paying attention, then you have choice. If you're not paying attention you're just reacting, and that’s not a way to go through life because usually if you’re reacting, you're, not making the best choices. So we want to slow down and be mindful so that we can make choices in our life. When you are adding mindfulness to breathing and grounding you’re letting your body know, it's safe and there's nothing dangerous by accessing your five senses.
When we talk about our five senses, one of the easiest ones to do is sight. When you are feeling stressed, you want to stand or sit or lay down, you're going to breathe, in for three, out for five. You're going to fill your body and try to make sure that it's relaxed and loose and then you’re going to look around the room and you're going to slowly scan from right to left and from the left to right. You’re going to go slow and you want to just call out to yourself you can do it out loud or you can do it in your mind, what you see in the room. “I see a lamp. I see a door, I see a vase, I see a window. I see a curtain I see a door. I see another lamp I see a mirror” You're going to go through and just scan the room right to left, left to right. That’s what you do for sight. Next we want to check in with hearing. So breathe in and what do you hear? Can you hear the air conditioning running? Can you hear the traffic outside? Can you hear the television from the room? Can you hear people talking, can you hear water dripping? Take some time and really think about what you hear. Next thing is going to be touch and that’s a lot of what we did just previously with the grounding exercise. So you want use your hands and you can feel your pant legs? Can you feel the armrests of a chai? You can feel your feet on the ground. This again is a way to tell your body that it’s not in danger. It’s like when you have a baby and it's upset and what do you do? You patted on the back right. They patted the baby to let it know it is OK. What else do you do? You kind of hold the baby tight or you swaddle the baby; it's the same thing. We want to tell our bodies it’s okay and breathe so that our brain knows it’s okay. That our nervous system knows it's okay. Next thing after touch is you want to consider smell. When you’re sitting and you're breathing, you want to take your breath in and notice what you smell. Maybe it's nothing. Maybe it's just nice and clean you're, just breathing something nice and clean. Maybe you can smell dinner being cooked in the oven or on the stove. Maybe you can smell fresh cut grass. Maybe you can smell fresh laundry or flowers from outside. These smells are very soothing to our nervous system to know that everything's okay, because I smell pleasant aromas.
The last sense that I want to talk about is taste and again we live very busy lives and sometimes we're eating so fast that we do not actually taste our food. So when we're trying to reduce our stress, we want to focus on being slow and taste. So even if you're not eating at the moment, think, what does your saliva taste like? Or ladies, if you like, lick your lips; you might even taste like a little bit of lipstick or lip gloss. There are a lot of things that you can still taste. Maybe you, you taste, coffee from this morning because it's still in your mouth or maybe you just had a cough drop or a mint and you can still taste that flavor in your mouth. When you can engage all five of your senses and it doesn't even have to be in this particular order. Start with whatever you can think of. Start with your eyes. Think about your nose. Think about your mouth. Think about your ears. Think about your body and what it currently feels. As long you just focus on incorporating these five senses, it’s going to make a big difference for you and how you manage your stress to leave your body, because your body does not believe it is in danger anymore.
Take A Moment: Zero to Ten?
So I'd like you to take a moment now and check in after we've done breathing after we've done grounding and then we added a little bit of mindfulness, where are you from a zero to ten right now, with zero being 100 percent calm and ten, where you're going to like lose your mind because there's so much going on? My hope is that, after doing these three things breathing, grounding, and mindfulness that your stress level will have at least gone down one or two points. Even if it went down just a half a point it is progress and the more that you practice the more that you develop the skills to do these things the lower your stress is going to be. Try to focus on just these three small things or even if you can only focus on one to start, just breathe. I have great confidence with practice you'll feel a little more relaxed.