3 Tips to De-Stress

Stress can be viewed in many different ways. For some, it can be a motivator, while for others it can feel like something they need to overcome or avoid. For moments when you feel like your negative stress is too high, I have compiled some tips to try out. Keep in mind, the following ideas can be considered skill-oriented and will strengthen with since with more practice, the stronger they become.

Deep Breathing

Breathing exercises are an excellent way to reduce and even alleviate both physical and emotional stress. Taking deep and purposeful breaths increases the amount of oxygen to the brain, which has numerous benefits including reducing heart rate and breathing, initiating muscle relaxation, and decreasing blood pressure. These effects are experienced almost immediately after just a few minutes of deep breathing.

You don’t have to be an expert in meditation to practice deep breathing.

All it takes to benefit from this exercise is firstly, understanding how important it is to set aside time to breathe, and secondly, making it a habit to practice this important exercise. Ideally, deep breathing should be done for just a few minutes, three times daily. If you can build up to 5 to 10 minutes then you will experience even more optimal effects.

Just find a quiet place to sit down and relax. If you can’t find a semi-quiet refuge or private place, it’s okay. It’s better to get your deep breathing time in, even if your surroundings are a bit hectic. Start by breathing in through your nose, gathering your breath from your diaphragm. This is also known as “belly breathing” and has numerous benefits for reducing stress compared to ‘regular’ breathing or ‘chest breathing.’ Inhale slowly and then exhale through your mouth. You can place your hand on your stomach so you can feel your abdomen contract inward as you gather your breath and outward as you exhale. Repeat these breaths for just a few minutes at a time until your comfort increases and you can practice deep breathing for longer periods of time (i.e., 5-10 minutes, three times daily).

Grounding Exercise

Grounding is a type of active meditation where you perform exercises that help you stay in touch with the present moment. These exercises are an excellent way to decrease stress because oftentimes, stress is caused by and maintained when your thoughts are in the past or the future rather than in the present moment. If you spend too much time lamenting or regretting the past or worrying about the future, you will likely have difficulty enjoying the here and now.

You can practice grounding exercises if you feel overwhelmed, distressed, or have intense emotions of anxiety or depression. 

The purpose of grounding is to experience and focus your attention on what is going on around you by engaging your senses. If you are outdoors or in a public setting, notice the people walking by, the birds flying around the trees, or maybe the various shops and businesses around you. If you are indoors you can focus your attention on the sound of footsteps as people walk past you or the noise the ceiling fan makes. Engage your sense of touch by running your hands under the faucet and noticing the feeling of the cool water running through your fingers. You can even drink some cool water and notice the taste and sensation. Observe the scents of the outdoors if you can sit outside or notice any familiar scents around you. These observations are exercises that bring you directly to the present moment and help you take a temporary break from worries and concerns of the past or future.

Leisure Time

An excellent way to reduce stress is to engage in self-care activities. One of the best ways to practice self-care is to set aside time for leisure or hobbies. Oftentimes, people who experience high levels of stress (or chronic stress) spend more time on work and/or taking care of others and abandon much-needed time for themselves. In order to truly do your best at work and in helping or caring for others, you must reenergize yourself and recover on a regular basis. Without self-care, burnout is inevitable.

Choose a hobby or leisure activity that is fairly accessible, meaning that you don’t need to travel far, spend too much money, or require special or complex tools or equipment. Save the more elaborate activities for the weekend, but on a daily basis, try choosing an activity that you truly enjoy and are passionate about that you can do from home or otherwise access pretty easily. Think artwork, cooking, crafts, building, gardening, sports, or music. Participating in these activities is critical for breaking your routine and increasing your self-esteem by doing something that makes you feel good and accomplished.