Are you struggling with managing stress and feeling overwhelmed? Clearly, you’re not alone! Stress has been coined as the new pandemic. When you experience stress for a long period of time it has a negative impact on your entire life: your mental and physical health, your relationships, your career, and your overall happiness. Therefore, it is vital that we make our mental and physical health a priority.
The Good news is that there are many simple AND inexpensive ways to tackle stress! I have found that this 4-step process gives me the much-needed relief on those days when I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed. This process will help stop your brain from spinning with negative thoughts by slowing down the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Additionally, it will release happy hormones (endorphins, dopamine and serotonin) which will calm your nervous system and change your mindset from frustration and fear to peace, clarity, and contentment.
4-STEP PROCESS FOR STRESS RELIEF
1 – GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!
Stop what you are doing in that moment. Recognize that you are not effective in a state of anxiety and it’s in your best interest (and the interest of others---boss, partner, friends, and family) to give yourself a break. Just 60 minutes is enough to give your mind and body some relief. Often, when we are feeling stressed out, we don’t believe we have the time or capacity to take a break. Then that just creates even more stress! But 60-minutes feels more manageable so you will actually do it.
2 – CALM YOUR NERVES WITH BREATHWORK
Controlling your breath in certain ways can help calm your sympathetic nervous system which controls your “fight-or-flight” response. When we are stressed, we tend to take short breaths which limits the flow of oxygen into our body. By taking long deep breaths we activate our parasympathetic nervous system which controls our “rest-and-relax” response. Our breath is such a powerful tool!
The following breathing technique is a simple method that can help ease the negative thoughts and calm your nerves:
Set a timer for 15 minutes
- Sit in a comfortable position, with your feet firmly planted on the floor to help you feel grounded
- Softly close your eyes and place one hand on your heart and one on your belly to help you turn inward
- Simply breathe naturally for a few rounds
- When ready start lengthening your inhales and exhales to the count of 4
- Keep the amount of air that flows in and out about the same pace, so it’s a slow, methodic flow
- Continue this way of breathing until the timer rings
3 – RELEASE TENSION BY GETTING YOUR HEART RATE UP
Next, get your heart rate up in order to release endorphins. According to WebMD, these are natural hormones that trigger positive feelings, reduce stress and help you have a more positive outlook on life.
Set a timer for 30 minutes
Select a cardio exercise that you enjoy. My go-to is walking at a fast pace. I like walking because it’s a low impact exercise and you can do it anywhere. What cardio exercise do you like? Here are a few suggestions:
- Bicycling or spinning
- Rollerblading or roller-skating
4 – CREATE A POSITIVE MINDSET WITH GRATITUDE
Finish your 60-minute break with an uplifting gratitude exercise. Now that you are flush with endorphins, you are feeling less stressed and your mind is a little more clear you can focus on the positive things in your life. Neuroscience has shown that directing your thoughts to things that are going well in your life releases dopamine and serotonin which are mood enhancers. Plus, when you are feeling happiness, you attract more of the things that make you happy!
Set a timer for 15 minutes
Grab your journal and write down things you are grateful for and why. The more time you spend feeling all the good things in your life your feelings of happiness will intensify and the happier you are, the more you will attract positive things to you.