BY: Janine Mitchell
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It affects so many of us. Even though we now have many resources to lower stress, we are more impacted and affected than ever.
Many years ago, our caveman ancestors were living in survival mode, they were in high stress response much of the time.
Now, many years later, we are still living by the hormones of stress. There are many life stressors than can contribute to this such as life events, or a build up of factors.
I’d like to share with you my 6 top stress management techniques.
They are all practical and you can implement them straight away.
They all lower the stress hormone, cortisol which is on overload when we are in a state of stress. Who wouldn’t want some of that!
This is a very simple but powerful technique. You take long slow breaths and I’ll show you how to do this. This is also know as abdominal or belly breathing.
Breath in slowly through your nose (and allow your belly to expand) to the count of six. Hold your breath in, for the count of seven. Then let go, slowly through your mouth to the count of eight (so 6 – 7 – 8). Practice this several times.
You may feel light headed at first and that can be natural. Just go with it. We often are not used to breathing properly and definitely take more shallow breaths when we are in any state of stress or anxiety. Breathing in a good amount of oxygen right into the body in order to help the blood flow through to all the organs helps massively.
This allows us to focus on each area of our body and relax it. When we are in a state of stress, we find it very hard to be either in the moment, or in any state of relaxation. This exercise helps you do both!
Find a quiet space you won’t be disturbed and lie down, or sit down on a comfy chair. Gently close your eyes. You are going to relax your entire body from the top of your head, down to the tips of your toes. Intention here is key and encourage yourself to do this nice and slowly!
Imagine a wave of relaxation entering the crown of your head. Now allow that relaxation go down past your forehead, past your nose, your jaw, your chin, down the back of your head, down the neck. Simply imagine all these areas relaxing. Let go of ALL tension. Allow that flow of relaxation to drift down through your upper arms, lower arms, hands and fingers.
Allow that flow of relaxation to drift down thorough your upper body, lower body allowing all your internal organs to slow down rest and relax. Allow the wave of relaxation drift down through your upper legs, lower legs, feet and toes. So you’re relaxing from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
If any thoughts float in, thats fine, just disregard them and let them go. You may find some flip in and out as you are getting used to this exercise! You can now spend some time with your eyes closed, enjoying this relaxing space. Stay there for as long as you feel comfortable practicing some slow breaths. Then gently open your eyes. Perhaps have a nice stretch and drink some water.
Visualisation and Guided imagery
To continue the above and to make this a longer exercise, you can simply stay in the relaxed space with your eyes closed. You can then use the power of your imagination to visualise a special, relaxed space. So it may be you are on a nice relaxing beach or by a lake or in a forest. You can imagine all the scene around you. Or you can spend some time visualising what you would really like, that would bring happiness. A big house, a wonderful holiday. Really imagine yourself there.
Alternatively, you can follow a guided imagery. There are many of these on YouTube. They can guide you to a special space and really allow and help you use all your senses to be there. This will really help you to get into a relaxed space. This doesn’t need to be long 5-10 minutes could be perfect! The more regularly you practice this, the more you will notice a lowering of stress.
You can practice being mindful practically anywhere. It is about using all your senses to really experience where you are, and what you are doing at that given and precise moment. So take a walk in the park for example. Use all your senses, your sight, smell, what you can hear, touch.
Really be aware of what you can see, the trees, the grass the colours be totally present and aware of what is going on around you. Notice the sound of the birds or the wind, anything else you can hear. Notice the feel of the grass on your feet. Touch a tree or leaves. Use your sense of smell, really take in whats around you.
When we are in a state of stress, we aren’t in the present. We are usually in the past. Connected to an old emotion that is keeping us stuck.
You can be mindful with any activity including eating and even the washing up! The more you employ it into your daily living, the better.
Practicing yoga is an amazing way to lower stress. Following the special body movements of this ancient practice and all the exercises that you can follow with your yoga teacher including exercise and learning to control the breath, clear the mind, and relax the body. As yoga becomes increasingly popular, more and more people are discovering it! There are also some wonderful classes online you can follow.
There is even much scientific research that backs this up! Check out some local classes today and regularly incorporate this into your life!
This is the most amazing way to lower stress and also help you be present. You don’t need to sit on the top of a hill for hours either like a Buddhist monk. You can start with 10 minutes. Practice daily wherever you can. Simply close your eyes and follow your breath. Breath in and out slowly and purposefully.
You can even do this with your eyes open focusing on a candle or dim light. If any thoughts pop in (which they will!) Observe them and then be prepared to let them go. You want to focus on there here and now. You can also follow lots of guided meditations on YouTube, which you may find lots easier.
The plan is to be still, and focused. Remember, meditation is a practice. It takes time. Don’t just do it once and give up and think its not for you! Take some time out your day and look at making it part of your daily routine. You will notice a HUGE difference when you start practicing meditation regularly, it will really take you on a journey.
These are some simple strategies to get you going and to help you lower stress. They are easy, straight forward and simple to use, but HUGELY effective!
I would love to hear how you get on and happy stress busting to you!
Janine is the founder of Change for Success
She specialises in transforming mental health and mindset. Janine helps people create calm, clarity and focus, banishing stress, anxiety, worry and negative thinking. She also works with companies and organisations by helping them improve their performance and productivity by reducing stress in the workplace. She has a Masters’ degrees in Psychology, is a published researcher and a hypnotherapist, NLP and EFT practitioner.