How Can I Overcome Stress?
From the earliest age, our brains are molded and shaped by our reactions to certain situations, like learning not to touch the hot stove. Our brains associate certain moments or situations with particular feelings and reactions. And whether these moments are real or imagined, our body triggers those emotions and reactions. Every thought or event is processed in the limbic system where it is processed emotionally. Whether these moments are real or imagined, our body responds.
Through self-calming techniques and focused attention we can retrain the brain – at any age – to process situations differently and ultimately have a different reaction to stressors that used to cause angst. Self-calming techniques are the quickest way to quiet anxiety and strong emotional responses.
The antidote for stress is resilience – it comes naturally to some and is learned for others. For those who must learn resilience, self-calming techniques have been shown to be highly effective.
Utilize the self-calming techniques we highlight below to reverse the fight-or-flight response and the negative side effects. The benefits are powerful:
- Less anxiety
- More efficient work
- Quicker stress recovery
- Easier concentration
- Less depression
- Clearer thinking
This paced breathing exercise is designed to help you move out of a stressful, emotional state and into a calmer, more balanced state. Research shows that generating positive emotional states creates emotional changes, increased access to intuition and creativity, cognitive and performance improvement, and favorable changes in hormonal balance.
Here's how to do it:
- Slow your breathing to 5-7 breaths per minute by breathing in for 5 counts.
- Try to focus on people, places or activities that you love and appreciate; as you do this, focus on the feeling of love and appreciation.
- Incorporate it into your day, like when waiting at a stoplight, sitting in a meeting, walking down the hall or watching TV.
Listening to music or calming audio can help you relieve stress symptoms on your own, relaxing the mind and body. The right music can be a distraction from the stress and bring peace. For some, meditation music might be helpful. Others might find audio readings soothing. Watch this calming YouTube video to help you relax.
A relaxation or meditation exercise can have powerful effects. It can change your reactions to stressful situations and can make you less influenced by stress. With 20 to 30 minutes a day of relaxation, you'll see a noticeable difference in how you handle and bounce back from stressful events. Listen to this audio file to guide you through relaxing meditation, or watch the video with calming music to help reach a deep meditative state.
Imagining yourself in a peaceful situation is one way to reduce stress. Picture yourself in a situation that brings calm. Examples include images from vacations and trips, nature images or family pictures.
Try these easy-to-use tips to add self-calming exercises and activities into the things you do on a daily and weekly basis. These are a few ways to incorporate effective de-stressing activities into your life, if you need more suggestions check out these self-calming activities and add others that fit your habits and routines:
- Health – Practice progressive muscle relaxation every night at bedtime.
- Lifestyle – Remove distractions from meal times, including televisions, cell phones, tablets and computers.
- Career – Remember to do relaxing breathing techniques before major meetings and presentations when you're feeling overwhelmed at work.
- Spirituality – If you attend a religious service, arrive at least 10 minutes early to reflect on the week and practice breathing gratitude.
- Finances – Play calming music while tackling bill paying and budgeting tasks.
- Relationships – Encourage a family member or friend to join you at least once a week for a nature walk, yoga class or other relaxing activity, like getting together for coffee or lunch.
- Awareness – Get to know each emotion. Be mindful of how you're feeling at any given time so you know which technique to use and move through your stressful moods quicker.
The hobbies you enjoy in your free time can be a way to move your mind away from harmful thoughts and toward a more peaceful place. Think of the hobbies that bring you peace and joy as a tried and true way to calm your mind and reduce stress.
- Study the arts
- Read a good book
- Go outside and garden
- Listen to music
- Become a pet owner
- Relax with sewing or knitting
An additional breathing exercise you can incorporate into your toolkit for reducing stress is yoga breathing. Using yoga breathing techniques while you do yoga, or just throughout the day, can help you learn to control your breathing and reduce stress. Watch this video for a basic routine to help you focus on breathing.