Stress Busting Relaxation Tips
When we are hugely busy it can feel overwhelming and that we have no time to relax to manage stress. I understand this but the first step is to recognise that we are stressed and the second step is to make some small changes to help improve how you build resilience and manage your stress.
Relaxation can help to relieve the symptoms of stress. Any of these may help depending on the amount of time we have available. Making an effort to identify and manage our stress reactions will be hugely rewarding for our overall health and wellbeing as well as reducing our risks of developing a chronic illness. We know what unmanaged stress is a huge contributor to the risks of developing Heart Disease, Type II Diabetes and Depression. We can eat badly when we are stressed, we reduce our exercise, we sleep badly, we snap or get ratty easily, we overuse alcohol or caffeine, we stop doing the things which give us joy.
We offer a structured stress management coaching course and here are some small things which can help make a change to our feelings of stress or overwhelm.
When you have very little time
When we are stressed our Sympathetic Nervous system (Our Internal Alarm!) goes into overdrive. A very simple way to deactivate it is to spend a few minutes with some slow heart focused breathing. Bring your attention to your heart as you slowly breath in and out. Imagine your breath flowing in and out of your heart or chest area as you breathe. This process of taking deep breaths of air into your lungs will ensure that the lower lobes of your lungs get adequately filled, not only will this ensure that all your body gets oxygenated, this will also stimulate your nerve endings attached to the Vagus nerve thereby activating your Parasympathetic nervous system which helps calm the stress response in your body and relax. A breath in for 6seconds and out for 6seconds is a perfect rhythm to strive for to help you destress. Even 2 minutes of this will help.
Get Away from the situation for few minutes
Any parents out there will know what I mean when I say take a time out – this is literally taking yourself out of the situation which is stressing you out so that you can take a moment to get things into perspective, calm down and revive yourself so that you have the energy to re-enter the fray. This is especially useful in interactions where blood pressure, tempers and stress levels are starting to rise.
Get Outside for a Walk or a Run
Time outdoors for a brisk walk or a Run will help calm yourself and reduce the feelings of overwhelm or stress. Even 10 minutes away from the desk will help calm you mind and if you bring a friend or colleague and talk also then you get the added benefits of the ‘Tend and Befriend’ stress response. Being with people we like and enjoy reduces our feelings of stress.
Take Control Back
Often we get stressed when it seems that we have so much to do and not enough time to do it. A good way of getting control is to make a list of everything that is in your head and then prioritise it. Allocate a few headings such as ‘things that must be done today’, ‘things that can wait till tomorrow’ and ‘things that can wait till next week’ to get a handle on the list. It also helps you realise that there are a lot of things on the list that are simply stuff and that nothing major will happen if it isn’t done. There will always be a to do list, sometimes the top thing should be ‘Do Nothing’.
Listen to Music
Music is amazing for helping us feel happy, to relax, fall asleep to, to sooth emotions and for me is a great way to help with stress or moments of overwhelm – I love to put my favourite tracks on and then turn the music up really loud to really connect with the music and forget what is going on.
Remembering the Positive
Whenever you feel yourself getting too stressed out, grab a journal and a pen and head somewhere quiet. Brainstorm a list of the positive things that are going on in your life or a list of things that you are grateful for.
A screen free eating break
Many of us eat in front of our computers during lunch. This keeps cortisol pushed up and will exacerbate feelings of stress. Take 15 minutes to eat without keeping your screen open and you will help reduce stress in the body.
When you have more time try this deep progressive muscle relaxation exercise.
This technique takes around 20 minutes and would be great before bed.
Find a warm, quiet place with no distractions. Get completely comfortable, ideally lying down. Close your eyes and begin by focusing on your breathing; breathing slowly and deeply.
For each part of the body, only clench and stretch as much as is comfortable for you. Hold each for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat it a couple of times. It’s useful to keep to the same order as you work through the muscle groups and start from the bottom up.
Legs - Clench the toes for a few seconds then relax them Wiggle each of them if you can. Then point your toes clenching your toes under and away from you for a few seconds then relax, Next calves, clench for a few seconds then relax. Repeat with all the muscle groups in turn, quads, hamstrings then your buttocks.
Tummy- Clench the stomach muscles for a few seconds then relax.
Chest - Breathe slowly and deeply into the diaphragm then breathe slowly out, allowing the belly to deflate as all the air is exhaled.
Shoulders - Pull them up towards the ears (shrug), then relax them down towards the feet.
Arms - Starting with the fingers, clench them into your palms for a few seconds then relax them. Stretch the wrist by pulling the hand up towards you, and stretch out the fingers and thumbs, then relax. Clench the forearm muscles then relax followed by the biceps then relax. Stretch the entire arms away from the body, reach, then relax.
Neck - Gently tilt the head forwards, pushing chin down towards chest, then slowly lift again. Gently turn it to the left, followed by the right then return to centre.
Face - Close your eyes and gently scrunch your face then relax. Open your mouth wide as though screaming then release and relax.
Harness the Stress Reducing power of Heart Focused Breathing through the power of our breath
Learning to breathe correctly is essential but we take it for granted and usually don’t do it well enough. When we inhale the body receives oxygen which gets converted to fuel to charge or activate the body parts. When we exhale the body throws out toxic wastes in the form of carbon dioxide. Many of us put a lot of pressure on our body system unknowingly while breathing. Quick shallow breathing results in us feeling anxiety, and can mean that we are slightly oxygen starved.
The science of heartmath through heart focused breathing reduces stress, builds resilience, deepens insight and intuition. Shallow breathing blocks energy whereas deep, rhythmical breathing generates positive energy as the heart sends healing signals to the rest of our body.
The first step is to stop energy drains or help feelings of anxiety or fear though learning heart focused breathing.
Find somewhere to sit or lie down. Bring your attention to your heart as you start to breath. If you have trouble doing this, it can be helpful to place your right hand over the space on your chest where your heart is. Imagine your breath flowing in and out of the area of your heart or chest as your breath.
Inhalation: Take a slow comfortable inbreath. Imagine the breath covering your heart as you breath in. Don’t force inhalation but your belly should extend when you breathe in and aim to spend 5 or 6 seconds on the inhalation.
Tip - A brief retention of breath after inhalation helps further to slow down heartbeat, reduces blood pressure substantially, and triggers cellular respiration. This can be excellent in a very stressful situation but is optional.
Exhalation: Exhale slowly and as you gently try and empty your lungs. Aim to spend 5 or 6 seconds while you exhale (and by doing this you will be more able to breath in properly)
Continue to breath in and out slowly while bringing your attention to your heart. If it wanders simple bring your hand back to over your heart space and slowly breath in and out. This Heart Focused breathing helps to take the intensity out of a reaction or background feeling such as anxiety or fear.
Practise this when you feel energy drains starting to overcome you and you will find it much easier to recognise your energy drains, prepare for them and in time start not getting impacted by them.
Health and Wellness Coach
Stress Management Practitioner
Certified Heartmath Coach