It’s a familiar feeling. You have a tight knot in the midst of the chest, your focus is scattered and there is overwhelming tension in the vicinity of your mind. Your stomach acid begins to burn, and the desire to snap at the next person that comes your way overwhelms your normally sweet disposition. You are stressed, bordering on full fledged anxiety. Your body has a message: stop the world, today is too much!
There are the big four stressors: love, money, work and health. You may be swamped at home or work, over obligated, underpaid, overworked. Although you can’t change the nature of your circumstances in sixty seconds, you have the choice in this minute to change your perspective. Stress is a result of mental, emotional and physical overload, too much stimuli or perceived need for one mind in that moment. Prolonged stress is bad for you; heart disease, relationship issues, illness of all sorts and unhappiness are all connected to long term stress. Who is most at risk? People who are poorly nourished, who get inadequate sleep, or who are physically unwell also have a reduced capacity to handle pressures and stresses of everyday life and may report higher stress levels, although everyone reacts to stress differently.
So how to stress bust in sixty seconds? When you do this exercise, go all in. Don’t let yourself feel stupid: let yourself feel better.
- Quiet your surroundings. Step into the restroom, a library, an open meeting room or some space that offers sixty seconds of individual quiet. Closing your eyes, breath in deeply from the nose, out through the mouth.
- Focus your mind on one object. You can imagine it, or open your eyes and think on that one thing. If it is a chair, describe it’s color, texture, your thoughts on it, etc. Pick something that holds no emotional attachment for you. Detail everything you can about the chair for fifteen seconds, breathing deeply through your nose, out through your mouth.
- Stimulate your relaxation response. Tap the pads of your fingertips together on each hand separately. Begin with your index finger to thumb, middle to thumb, ring finger to thumb, pinky to thumb. Be aware of your muscles, and let your shoulders drop, breathing deeply. Rotate your head dropping forward, side to side. Tap your fingers for a full thirty seconds while you relax muscles.
- Make a deliberate “change of state.” Shake all over. Really, like a big spazy dance, bounce up and down on your toes, wiggle your arms, smile really big, laugh out loud. One of my friends jogs in place waving his arms by his side, and our life coach Tim Shurr turns on the Black Eyed Peas “The Time/Dirty Bit” and does a robot dance. If I’m having a really off day, I can listen to this song and imagine Tim (www.timshurr.com) doing his dance ~ and suddenly, everything he’s taught me comes out with positive strength. Do you have a song that makes you feel confident? Laugh out loud, move and keep breathing. Make a deliberate change to your state, a willing change of your perception. Yes, you may have a huge contract due in several hours, or a client meeting that has you tied in knots. Stress busting is an important part of that preparation you need.
- Bring it all in. After a minute has passed, stop and do a self check. Why are you stressed, really? Is the world really about to end? Are you really going to lose your mind? Probably not. It’s all in the perception. Eyes closed, hands on the flat of stomach, breathing deeply. How is your emotional response in proportion with the reality of your situation? Are you allowing the stress to rule you? Your stress is part of the fight or flight respnse: are either of those appropriate for now? If they are, make a plan to do so. Stress from long term domestic or professional abuse is very damaging to an individual. Toxic environments are real, and are not part of the imagination. What can you put into better perspective? What needs to be changed? Do you need to vent or talk this out with a colleague or trusted adviser?
Affirmations. All forms of religions have their “magic spells,” like a mantra or a prayer that is said to gain a result. Stress is a tie that binds us to a situation or feeling that triggers our survival instinct, dumping
cortisol into the body’s and doing a number on the immune system. The “magic spell” of stress is super simple. Affirmations are a century old homeopathic treatment for self esteem and stress. Breath in and out, focus your energy and smile. Repeat “I am healthy, happy, whole and aware. Every day in every way, I am growing stronger and stronger.”
- Take charge of your life. Multitasking, while admirable, is a breeding ground for two things: stress and poor results. Focus your attention on what you’re doing and give 100% to task. While your head is clear, think about your current conditions. Can you clear clutter. Write a list in three stages: priority, passable and later. Focus on the priority item that is the focus of your day, delegate what is “passable” if possible and worry about later….later.
There are other things that you can preplan if your prone to stress.
- Working out is a wonderful way to relive stress, whether that is in the gym or taking a long walk.
- You need fresh air and natural light for at least fifteen minutes a day to combat chronic stress.
- Use music to pump you up and get you moving. Be smart about your selection. If you’re in emotional stress due to a break up, shy away from things that will encourage more stress.
- Realistically, are you drinking to much caffeine? How is your water intake?
- Sports such as golf and jogging have therapeutic benefits both psychologically and physically. Boxing or kick boxing with a weighted bag is my chosen outlet for anger, stress, sorrow and feeling of grief.
- Practicing meditation is very useful for inner peace; it requires only a few minutes a day and can be done anywhere.
- Having a pet that you can cuddle or stroke is also helpful to your stress response, but only if it does not create a situation of stress through it’s presence; for instance, my husband is so stressed over an in home pet that no amount of lap time is worth the relational problems that arise.
- Aromatherapy scents help with stress, such as lavender, bergamot (a type of orange associated with Earl Grey tea), orange, and sandalwood. I particularly find the scent of the Dragon Blood flower very relaxing and exotic. Keep these types of scents in lotion or oil form in your bag or on your desk, handy for the next overstressed moment.
- Take mini mind vacations with a good movie, book or walk in the park.
- Journal your feelings in a private place.
- Be creative, paint, explore a new country through books or photographs. Let yourself have a “time out” and simply be present with no demands on your time or emotions.
- Having a strong support network in your life is important, people that you are able to rely on and believe in, who help you manage and cope with life stress.
- If you’re a stay at home parent, make sure that you establish a grown up time where your children aren’t your focus; you require regular communication with other adults that share like interests and passions.
Use the sixty second stress buster regularly, and you’ll notice an interruption in the stress patterns of your life as your body begins to chose to relax once it feels you bouncing slightly on those toes, wearing a smile.