One-Minute Strategies to Manage Stress
Everybody has stress in their lives. And everybody also has at least one minute. These one-minute stress strategies are simple, and they can make a real difference in how you handle stress. I encourage you to try them!
Muscle Tension and Release:
- Start from your head to your toes, one large muscle group at a time.
- Connect with your breath.
- Inhale and Tense the muscle, hold.
- Exhale and Release your muscle. Melt into your bed/couch one muscle area at a time.
- Take a deep breath and hold it as you curl your toes for 5 seconds, then exhale your breath completely
- Next clench your calves, thighs, glutes, arms, shoulders, jaws and finally squeeze your eyelids.
- Exhale and let your muscle fully release.
- The good news about breathing is that it can really help us calm down in the moment and ride the emotion wave so we can tolerate it (ie anxiety) and it will subside.
- The other good news about breathing:
- You are already an expert breather; you’ve been doing this your whole life!
- These breathing strategies will teach you how to breath in a different way, so it may feel a little strange at first. But, stick to it and practice a few minutes a day.
- You can do breathing anywhere; at work, school, at sports or activities, with people or alone.
- When you are taking some deep breaths, other people do not necessarily know you are anxious or need to calm down.
- Connect with your breath.
- When we get stressed, our breathing gets short, shallow, and from the upper chest.
- A full, deep breath from your stomach helps relieve tension. Practice this 5 minutes per day.
- Take a deep breath, letting your abdomen expand fully.
- Fully release, exhaling and release your jaw, shoulders (away from your ears), melt into your seat/lying position.
It may help to have a specific focus, or image when you’re breathing.
- Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach
- These physical pressure points can help to calm us down
- On the inhale, feel your top hand on your chest rise.
- Reach your peak of your breath
- On the exhale feel your bottom hand come out, on stomach
- The up/down symbiotic motion can be soothing, like a see-saw
- On the Inhale, envision a balloon filling up with air.
- On the exhale, envision the balloon releasing all of its air.
- Envision a box, trace it with your breath (and even your finger to start)
- Inhale on one line/side of the box, hold at the corner
- Exhale tracing the other line of the box, hold at the corner
Specific Counts: 6-2-7
- Inhale 6 seconds
- Hold for 2 seconds
- Exhale for 7 seconds
Mind/Body Connection and Connecting With Your Breath
Let your breath out all at once (with a sigh if you want). Melt in your seat/couch/bed. Ground yourself to where you are. As you exhale, relax your jaw and shoulders. Keep them away from your ears.
When our minds are filled with stressful thoughts, our bodies become stressed. Stress can manifest physically in our bodies. Think tension headaches!
On the inhale through your nose, bring awareness and attention to the tension (ie in your jaw).
Exhale, release the tension in the muscle.
Focusing on body processes can help calm mental activity, which in turn can result in physical relaxation. This technique will help you take a break from stressful thoughts.
- With your eyes closed, shift your attention to the tip of your nose.
- As you breathe in, become aware of the air entering your nostrils.
- As you breathe out, be aware of the sensations of air passing back out. Do this several times.
- Repeat several times: breathe in… breathe out… breathe in… breathe out…
Your (Mental) Happy Place
- Picture a place (real or imagined) where you can be totally relaxed. It may help to look up pictures to get started with a mental image.
- With your eyes closed, take a moment to visualize an ideal place to relax. Make it any place attractive to you.
- Is this a peaceful mountain lodge, beach with salty-air and waves, or an exciting new city to explore?
- Using all senses, feel yourself in comfortable clothes, hear pleasant sounds, see beautiful colors.
- Try to use all of your senses. What do you hear? Feel against your skin? Smell? See?
- Visit this spot whenever you need to relax. Take a mini-mental-vacation!
Music & Words
- Listen to your favorite song or create a playlist of some feel-good tunes
- Music can help us connect to and process our emotions
- Sometimes when it seems that words fail, the lyrics and melody of music help put words to what we are feeling
- Reading an uplifting book or article or watching a video clip can also be a great strategy!
- Journal- write it out, even in bullet point form.
- Stop and pray. Revisit a Bible verse or quote that soothes your soul.
Get Up and Move
Even a brief walk around the room or outside, pushups, standing up and shaking it out can help shake off some stress. Who knows, maybe that one minute will turn into 20 or more and you get a good little workout in to boost endorphins and decrease some stress.
Change Your Physical Space to Change Your Mental Space
When our physical space is cluttered it can spike anxiety or stress in our mental space.
Organizing or cleaning can help in our physical space can actually help us feel better in our mental space.
“Mindless” tasks such as cleaning dishes can actually help relieve some of that extra, pent-up energy of stress and help us feel productive in small, but meaningful ways. These are areas that do not seem to make that big of a deal, but they really do! You really only pay attention to it when it is not done.
Use Your 5 Senses: Taste & See
Using our sense can help ground us to the present and practice really being in the moment.
So make an iced coffee (or tea), grab your favorite healthy snack (stay away from inflammation-causing foods as your gut is your second brain!), put on your favorite song or sound of birds chirping, look at some pretty pictures from Pinterest, and put on your favorite soft sweater or blanket.
Enacting your senses helps ground us to the present versus getting caught up in the “what-if’s” of the future (usually relating to stress and anxiety). These mood-boosters also help elevate or up-lift our moods.
Ground Yourself: 5-4-3-2-1
This is a fun grounding game to help get yourself to a place to then focus on your thoughts. Often when we are so stressed or feeling something intently, it is hard to dive right into our thoughts. We need to first ground ourself and calm down a bit.
- 5 thing you See: name the color, object, texture, etc. (ie ceramic, smooth, light-blue, mug).
- 4 Things you Feel (ie your feet planted on the ground, your soft sweater on your arms, your legs on the leather chair)
- 3 Things you Hear (ie the air conditioning unit, birds chirping, voices, your breath)
- 2 Things you Smell (your perfume, essential oil, coffee aroma)
- 1 Thing you Taste (saliva, pizza, coffee)
Reach out to a safe, trusted person in your life. This may be a friend, family member, mentor, someone from church, or a counsellor.
When we are overwhelmed, stressed, or feeling down in anyway we all tend isolate. Although alone time is needed and healthy to recharge, we often need to be around safe people to help us feel better and not so alone. Left alone with our thoughts, it is so much easier to believe the lie that we are the only one feeling this way and there’s nothing we can do about it. But there is something we can do about it– reach out!
As humans, we all have stuff. And we are created for connection.
Being with others helps us co-regulate our emotions. If one of us is elevated, often just being heard and or in the presence of a safe person calms us. I know it has for me, and I would love to be that for you. So, please reach out if I can be a support along your journey.