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5 Relaxation Meditation Techniques for When You’re Stressed to the Max

5 Relaxation Meditation Techniques for When You’re Stressed to the Max

Saying you’ll avoid stress is like saying you’ll avoid sweets for the rest of your life; unlucky for you, it probably won’t happen. And while that sounds like a losing battle for both the chocoholics and the super stressed out there, it’s not all bad news. Even though stress is something we all get hit with on occasion, and many times when we aren’t expecting it, we’re lucky enough to have a few tools out our disposal to help combat that gripping feeling of helplessness.

Meditation assists a great deal in battling the daily grind, and while I highly suggest making it a regular practice, not all of us are at that point in our lives. But there are other smaller techniques we can utilize to battle the overwhelming feeling we can often get when the stress is getting the best of us.

Keep in mind, all of the following can be done on the spot in an instant to help put you in a more relaxed state. It doesn’t hurt to try them out — it could be a game changer in your day. These techniques below will help you achieve relaxation no matter where you may find yourself when stress hits hard.

1. The 16 second rule

If you could take just a few seconds to shift gears, would you consider that impossible? That’s a trick question — because it’s not.

Enter the 16 second rule. Davidji, a well-known meditation expert, broke it down very simply: take 16 seconds, whenever you need it, to reset yourself. Whether you need a moment to calm down, to tone down the anger, or get into the present moment, following this simple process causes a small “pattern interruption”. What’s a pattern interruption? Think of it as a reset button, or saying no when you usually say yes. Anything that causes you to snap out of the pattern you’re in and refocus.

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Simply breath in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, release for a count of four, and you guessed it, pause for a count of four. Four minor steps at four seconds each, and you’ve got a 16 second reset. Use it whenever you need a moment or feel overwhelmed.

2. The finger trick

This trick can also be done absolutely anytime you want; on the subway, at your desk, or even waiting in line for lunch. If your mind is getting the best of you, simply place your thumb on the side of the bottom of your middle finger (closest to the base of the finger) and close your eyes. Then, breath in and out slowly a few times while putting light pressure on the middle finger with your thumb.

You should feel a slight head-rush or ever-so-small light-headed feeling when following these simple steps. Once you open your eyes, you feel a renewed sense of calm.

3. Deep breaths

This is yet another simple exercise that can be done on the spot, anytime you’re feeling overwhelmed with what life’s throwing at you.

Your eyes can be open or closed, but the idea is to inhale as deep as you possibly can. At first, you’ll probably feel your chest expanding and opening up as you inhale fairly deeply. But if you continue inhaling past that point, make it your mission to slowly expand your stomach with the last bit of that inhale.

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You might temporarily look like you just ate Chipotle’s largest burrito, but it’ll only last a second. If you can do this for five or ten breaths, you’d be surprised how relaxing it is. Most people, unfortunately, don’t breath deeply enough on a daily basis. It’s time to change that.

4. Be grateful

This one is a classic, and for a good reason.

You need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, and the best way to do that is to consistently note what you’re grateful for in your life. In order to do that, you have to actively think about the things that support it.

It can be anything from physical to mental, to intangibles like relationships, family, the work you do, or really just about anything.

Can’t find three things? You aren’t looking hard enough. I guarantee you that they’re there, and in plenty more numbers than three. The reason we don’t actively take note of what we do have is because we’re so busy comparing our lives and possessions to everyone else, there’s literally no time left to “stock your own shelves”. Social media, my spicy friends, can be the devil.

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Watch it carefully.

5. Visualization

Our brains are super powerful. In fact, scientists are still actively trying to understand our brains; there’s a lot we don’t even know.

They’re so powerful, it turns out, that we can ultimately create situations and have our bodies respond accordingly, without the situation actually occurring. Confused? Here’s a great example: imagine you have to give a public speech. Before you even get up there to deliver the speech, you already know what happens. Your palms get sweaty, your heart rate increases, you feel weak and nauseated.

But wait, you haven’t even given the speech yet. Your brain has successfully tricked your body into thinking you’re seconds away from getting in front of that crowd and spewing out your monologue.

We can see how powerful it actually is. Now it’s time to use the brain’s power to your advantage, but this time in a good way.

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Close your eyes and put yourself in a situation that you find peaceful. Is it sitting on a porch by the lake? Is it sitting on the beach, overlooking the ocean? Is it on top of a mountain soaking in the incredible valley view?

Whatever it is, really put yourself there. Feel the breeze. Smell the air, whether it’s tinged with the salty ocean or crisp pine from the forest. Hear the sounds. See the sights. Get into it. You can snap back to reality in a couple minutes, but in the meantime, you’re there — wherever you choose.

Once you make it back to the actual present moment, you’ll feel more relaxed.

Go on and be calm

The bad news is that stress is real and it’s nearly impossible to shed from your life. To try would be fruitless; life is about navigating those moments as they arise.

The good news is that there’s a multitude of tools at your disposal to help you in the moments where you’re feeling overwhelmed. You just need to be aware of them and realize they’re not hard to implement.

So the next time you’re feeling like the stress has gotten the best of you, try to use some of the techniques above. Whether it’s one, two, or all five, you’ll feel more relaxed and calm as the day wears on. Besides, knowing that you have the power to reset your day at any time should give you confidence that stress, while rough, is only temporary.

Featured photo credit: Isabell Winter via unsplash.com

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Adam Bergen

Adam Bergen is the founder of Monday Views, a movement dedicated to showing that with focus and self-discipline, your potential is limitless.

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Published on September 25, 2020

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

Stress doesn’t discriminate. It affects everyone, invariably in different ways. Regardless of how stress shows up in your life, I think we can all agree that it’s present. When it does show up, it takes over the show. It then becomes difficult to stay in the present moment or show gratitude for what and who we have in our life. In the eye of the stress storm, everything is tossed around into oblivion. This is probably when self-care finally comes to our mind.

How Does Stress Show Up?

On a physical scale, stress tends to be behind many of our typical ailments, such as headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, or body aches and pain.[1] When we’re in stressful situations, our body activates our fight-or-flight response. According to the American Institute of Stress, when the body is in this mode due to stress, “the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands, triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.”[2]

Why is this important? While our fight-or-flight response is extremely helpful when we’re in situations that risk our survival, not every situation is that dire. However, the body doesn’t know how to differentiate between such scenarios. Rather, we become accustomed to seeing every stressful situation as dire, and essentially locked into this fight-or-flight response automatically. This causes us to burn out because our body is constantly fighting or fleeing from threats that are not causing us any real harm.

On a mental and emotional scale, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior.” Everything is interconnected. When our physical body takes a toll due to stress, this has a domino effect on how we process our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see correlations between depression and anxiety when it comes to dealing with stress.

How to Combat Stress?

Below are five self-care ideas for combating stress in your life. Consider implementing them into your daily routine for the best results.

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1. Start a Brain Dump Writing Exercise

When you’re overwhelmed with thoughts, it can become very difficult to stay present and focused. This could affect you at work, in school, or in your relationships. It’s as if your mind were filled to the brim with thoughts that are constantly competing for your attention. If left unattended, this can affect your performance or your state of being. Stress is just brewing!

One exercise to get this under control is called a Brain Dump, and it’s exactly how it sounds. Start by getting comfortable with a pen and paper or your favorite journal. Without any special formatting or introduction, just start writing any and all thoughts that come up. Consider your paper a blank canvas onto which you’re going to spill every thought, no matter how small or unimportant. This can look like a laundry list, a jumble of words, or a paragraph. Don’t think too much of how it looks. The idea is to give your thoughts an exit. Once they’re on paper, they’re no longer swimming in your head for attention.

Once you have them written down, leave them as they are. We have a tendency to want to fix our thoughts. Instead, allow them to simply exist as they are — they’re not right or wrong. Consider coming back to this exercise daily or whenever you feel like you have a lot on your mind.

2. Sweat It Out

There is nothing more therapeutic than moving the physical body when it feels the weight of stress. Energetically, we carry our day in our body! If we’ve had a particularly difficult day, that energy is going to feel tense and unsettling. This is why it’s so important to move and really break a sweat!

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America,[3]

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“Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.”

Find what exercise regimen works for you, and commit to it for a few days per week. Scientists have also found that even 10-15 minutes of aerobic exercise can have a tremendous effect on your body. Go for a run, take a spin class or a power yoga class, or dance the stress away in Zumba. Whatever gets your heart rate up and breaks a sweat is one of the perfect self-care ideas to keep the stress away.

3. Seek the Care of a Therapist

Sometimes writing out our thoughts and feelings doesn’t seem quite enough. This is common and to be expected. After all, we are complex human beings who want to understand and process our emotions on a deeper level. This is why having a regular therapy session is so beneficial!

In the presence of a professional, we can open up about what stressful situations we’re going through. We don’t have to keep our emotions bottled up, and we know that our honesty will be protected and safeguarded.

Additionally, when we’re feeling stressed, we often want to simply vent and get things off of our chest. Having someone on the receiving end who will simply listen and hold space is a truly healing gift. We can often leave the session feeling more empowered, seen, and offloaded of the stress we brought in.

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Lastly, we may be able to receive guidance from our therapist on a particular situation we’re struggling with. Having someone else’s perspective on something we’re too emotionally close to can be just the right solution.

Here are more self-care ideas from a therapist: Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice).

4. Interrupt Your Day

This may seem like a derailing technique, but give it a shot! Interrupting your day means introducing something entirely new or random into a routine that is very monotonous or typical.

If your work or school day is the same sequence of events every single day, bringing in an interruption can be quite conducive to your productivity and creativity. This can look like pausing in the middle of the day for a yoga stretch at your desk or in your office. It could be playing your favorite playlist in-between meetings or taking a walk outside for lunch. Not only does this stir up new energy for your day, but it can also de-stress your day.

As I said in the earlier tip, when we’re too close to a situation or conflict, we have a harder time breaking away. We’re so emotionally and mentally invested that we don’t see how that proximity is affecting our health. So, interrupt yourself when you’re feeling stress coming on, and do something fun, random, and refreshing.

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5. Get Some Energy Work Done

Energy work is anything that is being done to improve the circulation and energetic flow of the body. This could be a massage, Reiki session, chiropractic adjustment, or acupuncture. As I said in a previous tip, moving the body helps move the energy that is blocked or stuck. This is why exercise is so important. However, sometimes we need a session where that work is done for us by a licensed professional. In such treatments, we have the luxury to relax and receive the benefits of the treatment. It’s a beautiful way to self-care!

Final Thoughts

Stress is unfortunately a common part of our life. It affects everyone, but to what extent it affects you is personal. One thing is for sure, and that is that stress has a tremendous effect on our physical, mental, and emotional state. This is why regular exercise is so important, as well as mental stimulation and emotional release. These self-care ideas won’t necessarily guard you from ever feeling stressed, but they will help you manage it better.

More Self-Care Ideas

Featured photo credit: Alisa Anton via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Mayo Clinic: Stress Management
[2] The American Institute of Stress: How the Fight or Flight Response Works
[3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Physical Activity Reduces Stress

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