BOX BREATHING EXERCISE AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE
Dealing with stress effectively begins with recognizing stress, managing it, and remaining or regaining calm, once a stressful situation is past. Some stress hits us totally out of the blue, but there are ways to notice when your stress level begins to elevate. AND there are things you can do to manage it.
Noticing Your Stress
You know common feelings of stress for you. You may feel nervous, agitated, sweaty, faint, or you may start to get a headache or experience other pain. Understanding and recognizing the symptoms you experience, is the first step to getting things back under control.
Ignoring stress will not make it go away. So the first step is to just notice and accept you are experiencing something stressful. Once you have noticed a stressful thought, it is easier to pin down the cause of your stress in your attempt to deal with it. Thoughts really are the biggest contributor to emotional and physical stress.
How to Manage Stressful Thoughts
Noticing stressful thoughts is a great first step, but managing the thoughts is where we want to direct ourselves quickly. Having said that, if you have experience with meditation, noticing thoughts and then just letting them go by is a really quick technique to begin reducing stress, since our minds are wired to send us thoughts that are meant to protect us, but more often than not just cause problems.
Going beyond just noticing, there are many ways to manage the thoughts that are giving us trouble.
Some common coping techniques include:
- Breathing techniques;
- Taking a break;
- Listening to music;
- Going outside;
- Taking a walk;
- Switching off your phone and other connected devices;
- Talking to somebody you trust, or
- Eating a healthy snack.
These are only a few things that can help you return to a calm state. They don’t all work for everyone, but you will find what works best for you. Maybe it’s reading a book or taking a bath or both! Find a few easy things that you can default to when you are feeling the temperature rise within.
Finding Your Techniques
Whatever works, as you try new practices, have patience with yourself. If you have never used any anxiety-relieving or stress-relieving techniques before, it can take time for you to discover which ones actually make a difference and which ones aren’t suited for you.
Don’t be discouraged if one doesn’t work, just keep trying until you find the one or more that does. Don’t be stressed about not finding what helps you with stress. Once you have figured out what works well for you and know exactly when and how to use it, you’re on your way to a more encouraging life which is calm and collected.
Finding Your Stressors
If you experience regular stressors, prepare in advance for your interaction with it. Some things will be more stressful than others, but you can practice in your mind how you WANT to respond and your body doesn’t know the difference between the actual interaction and the practiced version in your mind. That’s pretty cool! So, you can practice taking a deep breath and responding with a gentle voice instead of losing it. (If responding calmly feels like the right thing to do). But don’t stress about stress. Practice and patience go a long way.
By pinpointing your stress in advance, you’ll be better prepared and avoid some of the response in the actual stressful moment. I’ve learned with certain family members, to see them in my mind as a raging hurricane and I am standing in the eye of the storm in total serenity. By picturing this repeatedly, I am creating new neural pathways in my brain and it’s becoming easier and easier to just let them rage, and actually respond in the eye of the storm.
Discovering what stresses you out the most is being honest with yourself. When you are feeling particularly anxious, you can ask yourself what it is that you are worried about. What is the worst that can happen? Then answer the question. Sometimes answering the question helps us realize that we are capable of handling it and it isn’t as bad as we are imagining. If it is as bad as you are imagining, make sure to find competent help with that particular issue.
If you find yourself frustrated and stressed regularly and can’t figure out why, consider that it may be past programs or experiences that are the real contributor. Past stressors can trigger current stresses. If you find it all too much, find a good professional to help. A coach, counselor, or psychiatrist can go along way when you find yourself unable to get relief on your own.
Being In Control
Having more peace in your life comes from minimizing stress and staying in control. This includes reducing other stressors like finances, lifestyle, nutrition, and exercise. Learning to control your thoughts and emotions is an important part of lessening stress. What areas of your life can you make small improvements in to contribute to your happiness?
There are many tools to help you gain better personal strength in your life, whether it’s thoughts, emotions, or general stress. EFT is my go to tool. Here’s one more that will help you feel more centered and less stressed.
You can use Box Breathing as a simple exercise to reduce stress. It helps with focus, concentration, attention, presence, and balancing of the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
Make sure you are comfortable and sitting up straight.
Begin by exhaling.
Step 1 Inhale through your nose and push the breath down into your belly. (Breathe in slowly for 4 counts)
Step 2 Hold your breath for 4 counts.
Step 3 Exhale through your mouth 4 counts.
Step 4 Don’t breathe in again for 4 counts.
Repeat 1-4 times. If you are under a lot of stress, try it a few more times spread throughout the day.