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.
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.
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.
Watch it carefully.
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.
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