It’s no secret that stress is on the rise in our society. Everyone is feeling the elevated energies and the adrenal overload. We may also be feeling tired, anxious, overwhelmed, imbalanced, and even physically ill from poor digestion and unsatisfying sleep.
No one else can have a more profound or immediate effect on our wellness as we can have for ourselves. Here are six simple things you can do anytime to reset your system. Try these in order, allowing them to build on one another, or simply try one or two at any moment throughout the day.
1) Acknowledge. Don’t ignore your stress, deny it, run away from it, or try to run through it. Take a pause and just allow yourself to know what is.
2) Breathe. There’s a reason people tell you to take a deep breath when you’re experiencing a heightened state of stress. Breath has an immediate effect on our brain and body. Take a deep breath in and a relaxing breath out. Repeat 3-10 times.
3) Ground. Find your feet and ground yourself. If you’re feeling really overwhelmed, sit or lie down on the floor. If you can’t do that, stand with your back against a wall. Allow yourself to be more connected to stable structures and to feel all of the parts of your body that are touching the earth or wall. Continue to breathe as you do this.
4) Identify. Now that you’re grounded and breathing, notice the sensations of the stress– where and how do you feel it in your body? Tightness, tingling, constriction? Chest, neck, jaw, stomach? Noticing the specific physical sensations of the stress can help to bring it out of the mind– where it tends to become exacerbated by getting attached to our thoughts.
5) Expand. See if you can notice and connect with the part of yourself that is witnessing your experience– not the thoughts or feelings about the experience, but the part of you that is simply aware of the thoughts and feelings. This part of your experience is naturally free of judgement or reaction and connecting with it can have an immediately calming effect.
Allow this calm presence to expand your field of awareness by letting it rest in each of these areas simultaneously: Become aware of feeling your feet on the floor, become aware of feeling the rhythm of your breath, and become aware of noticing the sensations that arise. Now try doing this all in the same moment.
6) Reset. By breathing consciously and deeply, we are effectively letting our adrenal system know that there is no immediate danger and that it is fine to return to a calm and restful state. You can add to the effect of the breath by repeating a calming mantra that you are safe and present in this moment, which signals to the brain that it’s okay to turn off the stress response.
You don’t need to be in the grips of a panic attack to apply these tools and see immediate changes. Try feeling your feet on the ground and taking a deep breath while you’re in an interview. Try breathing and expanding your awareness while driving or cleaning the kitchen.
And definitely try taking a few moments for these practices before eating a meal– conscious breathing, especially when combined with other calming practices, helps to shift our bodies out of the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight system) and into the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest system)– meaning that you can actually improve your digestion, and consequently, your energy, rest, mood, and immune function, through simple breathing.
Can you do this in a heated moment? Yes! If you find yourself in an intense moment with another person, follow these same steps– you can even ask the person in front of you to give you a moment. Here’s how:
Recognize that you feel stressed and reactive, take a deep inhale and a long, slow exhale, feel your feet on the ground, notice the sensations, and begin to expand your field of awareness (you can even do this literally by looking around the room).
Take as long as you need to feel more calm and grounded, and try to maintain some of this connection as you re-enter the space and conversation with the other person.
Thanks for reading! Share your thoughts and replies in the comments below. – xo