Stress- Relieving Techniques
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
You have the power to reset your nervous system with several simple techniques.
Are you feeling more stress these days? What do you experience and notice in your body and mind when your stress level rises? What are your stress “tells”, a.k.a. symptoms?
Some people report noticing an increase in muscle tension (neck pain, tight jaw, uncomfortable tension in various parts of the body), headaches, heart rate increase, and queasy stomach. Others notice an increase in anxious or repetitive thoughts or low mood. Whatever you notice as your particular stress “tells”, these signals are alerting you to the need to regulate and resource in order to decrease the stress hormones that have disrupted your nervous system and left you feeling “off”.
Fortunately, in addition to our stress response, we also have a relaxation response that we can tap into and use to regulate our nervous system. Here are several techniques that help to de-stress and switch to an experience of more relaxation:
Sit or lay down comfortably.
Breathe into the area of your belly, relaxing your stomach.
Letting your shoulders relax away from your ears.
Relax the mouth and unclench the jaw, letting your tongue rest away from your teeth.
Taking a breath and wiggle like cooked spaghetti- lightly shake and jiggle, imagining that you are shaking the stress out.
Scan your body from head to toes and notice if you feel tension in your body- when you notice a place holding tension or tightness, imagine that as you breathe in you gather that tension and as you breathe out you release it with the breath.
Allow yourself to rest there for 1 to 5 minutes (or longer) as you take deep belly breaths and visualize the tension leaving your body.
5,4,3,2,1 Grounding Exercise
Take a deep breath and bring awareness to your environment and surroundings and to your body. Bring your senses online – SIGHT, TOUCH, SOUND, SMELL, and TASTE
As you look around, name (to yourself) 5 things you can SEE (examples: a pine tree, a red car, my dog, my hands).
Now name 4 things you can FEEL (examples: the shirt against your skin, the chair you are sitting in, the ground beneath your feet).
Tune into your what you HEAR- name 3 sounds that catch your attention (Examples: the birds chirping, the sound of your breath, the hum of the refrigerator, your heartbeat).
Now name 2 things you can SMELL (examples: the lotion you applied earlier, the coffee in your cup, exhaust fumes, the lunch you just ate).
And finally, name 1 thing you can TASTE or, if you have something to nibble on with you, truly taste it… (examples: toothpaste you used earlier, chocolate, a grape).
Then end the practice by noticing any areas of bodily tension, breathing into those areas, and doing a gentle stretch or moving that area of the body. Inhale, exhale, and repeat as needed.
In a quiet, comfortable place, sit or lay down comfortably.
Bring your attention to the breath. Paying attention to the inhale and exhale. Allowing the belly to rise and fall as you breathe in and out.
Notice where in the body you feel the breath. Do you notice it more at the tip of your nose, the back of the throat, in your upper chest, in the area of the belly?
Notice how your body feels as you are breathing.
When thoughts come in, imagine them like clouds and let them float out without attaching to the content of the thought. Return your attention to your breath.
Continue for 1 to 5 minutes or more, allowing yourself to just breathe in and out as the body rests.
Safe/Calm Place Imagery
Bring to mind a place, real or imagined, that feels safe, calm, or comfortable.
Bring attention to the details of this place- noticing colors, shapes, texture, tastes, smells, and sounds.
Notice the sensations you have in your body as you imagine this safe/comfortable place.
What emotions are you experiencing. Where do you feel them in the body?
Allow the feeling of safety and comfort and calm to be felt and experienced in your body as you imagine resting in this place.
Sitting comfortably, bring attention to your breath. Cross both arms over your chest, placing your hands over each shoulder.
Begin by lightly and slowly tapping each shoulder with the hand that is resting on that shoulder. Alternating shoulders between each tap.
Continue alternating taps and breathing calmly until you feel more relaxed.
Sit or lay down comfortably. Close your eyes or keep them softly open. Breathe in slowly through your nose, filling your belly with air. Hold your breath for 1 to 3 seconds. Then breathe out slowly through your nose or mouth, until all the air is out. Repeat 1 to 5 minutes or more and then rest, letting the breath return to your natural rhythm.
Connect to the ground and stability of the earth by removing your shoes and walking slowly on the grass or ground. Notice how your feet feel as they connect to the ground. Feeling the contact your feet make with the earth as you walk slowly. Taking deep breaths as you notice how your body feels connecting to the earth.
Animals are very therapeutic and a good source of emotion regulation. You can gaze into their kind, loving eyes or pet their fur to feel a sense of peace and calm.
Mental “dump” journal
Journal for 10 minutes, allowing yourself to write whatever comes to mind (without editing). It doesn’t need to make sense, be accurate, or coherent- just write whatever comes to mind.
A 30-second or longer belly to belly hug with a partner or loved one releases oxytocin and decreases the stress hormones of cortisol and adrenaline. Let your body relax into the hug and feel your breath synchronize with your partner.