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Quick Stress Reducers

August 11, 2020

During this unprecedented time, all of us could use some extra tips on stress reduction. There is so much going on, and yet many people find they have less to do than they normally might, due to shelter-in-place, and the majority of in-person events being discouraged or cancelled. Lack of activity can make us more prone to depression and isolation, which isn’t helpful when it comes to trying and learning new skills. The good news is that there are many forms of stress reduction that don’t take much effort, yet the rewards can be great.


These strategies, based on an article from The New York Times,  are not necessarily a cure, but can help lower the intensity of overwhelming emotions, allowing you to recalibrate to better deal with challenges you face. 


Music Medicine

Focusing on relaxing sounds reduces stress. Explore different options and create a playlist that you find comforting when you need a break. Keep in mind that although it can seem cathartic to hear songs that validate your emotions (for example, listening to lyrics about heartache while feeling lonely), research concludes that we can improve our experience with a more uplifting soundtrack. 

Cool Off

One way to regulate intense emotions involves immediately lowering your body temperature by creating a mini plunge pool for your face. To do it, fill a large bowl with ice water, set a timer for 15 to 30 seconds, take a deep breath and hold your breath while dipping your face into the water. While this isn’t conventionally relaxing, it will slow your heart rate, allowing blood to flow more easily to your brain. 

Pace Your Breathing

The mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, likes to say, “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you.”  Slow your breathing down to six breaths a minute by consciously inhaling and exhaling (to practice this timing, you can use a secondhand and inhale for five seconds, exhale for five seconds, and repeat four times


Practice ‘Anchoring’

Another way to stay present rather than spin into a crisis is to notice if you are engaged in thinking that isn’t helping you. Anticipating, “This will go on for years!” in a moment of anguish will only inspire more hopelessness. Start by physically centering yourself by digging your heels into the floor — this evokes a feeling of being grounded in reality. Then take a moment to observe: What am I thinking? Feeling in my body? Doing? Then ask yourself: Is my response: A) Helpful? B) Aligned with my values now? Or C) Related to future worries or a past problem? While we can get stuck in specific thoughts, stepping back to more generally decide if those thoughts are helpful can get us out of rumination mode. It may also help to tape a list of these prompts on your wall to remember to take a step back and refocus when your thoughts are only making things worse.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Maybe this is a good time to start incorporating these strategies into our regular Zoom and FaceTime calls. We could all use the help.

The mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, likes to say, “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you.” 

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