Updated: Oct 14, 2022
You all know the feeling when your stress level goes through the roof. The adrenaline rushes through your body as you try and deal with a tormenting teenager, the ticking watch on your wrist as you sit in traffic on the way to the doctor, or the deadline at work that seems impossible to make.
When stress strikes, try one of these techniques for a quick cool-down.
These are techniques that I have personally used over the years as my children were growing up and I found kundalini yoga and the amazing pranayama (breathwork). Let's start with a simple breathing technique.
1. Practice breathing exercises
Focus on your breath, pushing all other thoughts aside. Be conscious of the breath coming in and going out, and focus on the sensation of inhaling and exhaling.
Or, try the square breathing technique:
Inhale your breath as you count to 4.
Hold your breath for 4 counts.
Exhale your breath slowly as you count to 4.
Hold your breath for 4 counts.
Repeat for a few minutes until you feel calm.
This is a great place to start if you are totally new to doing any form of breathwork. It will completely relax your mind and body. Keep your practice short to start with. For example, 3 minutes, and then after a week increase the time and number of times you practice during the week.
Most people shy away from meditation because they think that they are doing it wrong or that they will not be able to set still. The idea behind meditation is to help quieten your mind.
During meditation, you don't react to your thoughts—you just notice them.
Here’s a little tester for you on how to start, settle yourself into a comfortable, seated position and close your eyes. This doesn’t have to be on the floor it can be on your sofa or chair, use cushions for your knees or your sitting bones.
Take a few deep breaths, and then return to a steady, even breathing pattern. Focus on your breath going in and out, and return to that focus if your mind starts to wander keep bringing it back to your breath.
Even meditating for a minute can make a difference. If you want to try other forms of meditation like guided meditation, several free apps let you sample different meditation techniques.
Mindfulness helps you check in with yourself—practicing awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and senses at the moment without judging them. To start, do one thing mindfully each day.
Pick a mundane activity like eating breakfast or brushing your teeth, and practice being present in those moments for two minutes.
Here is an example:
Focusing your attention on the food you are eating is an example of mindfulness. Fully feeling and paying attention to its temperature, crunchiness, its flavour, and taste, and not to the people eating together with you or your mobile device.
Non-judging. Be an impartial witness to your own experience. Become aware of the constant stream of judging and reacting to inner and outer experiences. Part of mindfulness will bring you to being Patience. Is a form of wisdom, patience demonstrates that we accept the fact that things sometimes unfold in their own time.
Always allow for this Beginner’s Mind. Remaining open and curious allows us to be receptive to new possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of our own expertise.
Only then does the Trust develop? Developing a basic trust with yourself and your feelings.
Know it’s OK to make mistakes. Non-Striving. The goal is to be with yourself right here, right now. Paying attention to what is unfolding without trying to change anything. Acceptance is seeing things as they are. This sets the stage for acting appropriately in your life no matter what is happening.
Then the Letting Go.
When we pay attention to our inner experience, we discover there are certain thoughts, emotions, and situations the mind wants to hold onto. Let your experience be what it is right now. This is mindfulness.
4. Practice gratitude
We can't have joy in our lives without practicing gratitude. When practiced daily, gratitude helps to rewire your brain to think about the positives. Each day, write down three different things you're grateful for.
There are plenty of reasons to practice gratitude, including benefits to your overall mental health and well-being.
Practicing gratitude can mean different things to different people. From daily journaling to evening prayers, gratitude practice can take many forms.
Gratitude involves recognition of the positive things in your life and how they affect you. This can range from acknowledging a beautiful flower you pass in your garden to the feeling of thanks that comes from recovering from a serious illness.
You can practice gratitude in lots of different ways, like:
gratitude exercises, such as journaling, I personally love to journal each day for 10 minutes it allows one to write down our thoughts and what we are really grateful for.
It doesn’t even have to be a physical journal. It can be as simple as a note on your phone. This makes it easier to quickly record something you feel grateful for at the moment.
paying attention to the little things in life, like the birds in the trees
telling someone you’re grateful for them or for something they did, even if it was a long time ago
doing something kind for someone in your life to express your gratitude
meditating on the positive aspects of your life
giving thanks through prayer
Practicing gratitude can be a beneficial daily habit both for physical and mental health. It also offers potential benefits for relationships.
To get started with a gratitude practice, you can try meditation, journaling, or simply paying attention to the little things in life that bring you joy. If practiced regularly, gratitude will likely provide positive long-term effects on your mental health and well-being.
5. Call a support person
We are hardwired for connection—especially in times of stress. Calling a friend or family member for a distraction or to unwind after a stressful day.
Many of us today struggle with stress and anxiety, but most people don’t have the tools to manage these challenges in a healthy way.
Though relaxation techniques can be healthy solutions to everyday stressors, sometimes they aren’t enough.
You may need support to help de-stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out to a family member, friend, or co-worker and get the weight off your shoulders.
Talking it out with someone you trust can help shift your perspective and give you space to release your tension. It’s amazing how a supportive conversation can make you feel more relaxed.
6. Do relaxation exercises
Sometimes known as progressive muscle relaxation, practice tensing and then releasing each of your muscle groups.
In this relaxation technique, you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group.
This can help you focus on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. You can become more aware of physical sensations.
In one method of progressive muscle relaxation, you start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. This is best done in a quiet area without interruptions. You can also start with your head and neck and work down to your toes. Tense your muscles for about five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.
If your body is physiologically relaxed, then you can't be stressed.
This is something that I tend to include in most of my work with clients to help them completely relax their bodies.
Exercise can be a great stress reliever that releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals in the brain) and helps you blow off steam. In particular, walking or running provides rhythmic movement that can help you read just your focus and relieve stress.
Personal started going for a 5km walk in the local woodland, whenever I have too much on my head and need to let off the stream.
When you head out for a walk or run at a stressful time, it can provide a perspective that allows you to return to your situation in a new frame of mind.
The fresh air and the environment change can make a huge difference in to release of your stress.
8. Immerse yourself in a creative outlet
Doing something creative that you enjoy, like cooking, baking, colouring with colour pencils or doodling, or taking pictures, can give you a break in a stressful situation. For example, cooking or baking requires focus, concentration, and physical activity—especially if you're making bread or rolling out dough.
What I love to do is creating mandalas with flowers and leaves or drawing them and then colour them in, this I find helps with completely forgetting what you may be stressing about as your creative juices start to overflow and you are in a different space in your mind and things have shifted.
9. Express your feelings
Write about your stress in a journal.
Emotional expression is key to a healthy life. It gets bad feelings out of our system. It prevents the fight-or-flight state that leads to so many health problems. And if we express our emotions, we can take back control of our minds from the stress that can often overwhelm us.
Spend some time alone thinking about how you're feeling. Come up with specific words that describe exactly how you feel. Instead of saying you feel 'bad' – find more specific words like afraid, frustrated, upset, or anxious. Remember feelings are often described in one word (happy, excited, sad, angry).
You also can journal about a positive experience that happened that day. This daily practice can help increase positive thinking and help to rewire your brain to think more positively.
Sight, smell, sound, and taste—you'll be amazed how quickly the stress melts away when you focus on just one of them. Eat something that you crave and savour each bite.
Light a scented candle and breathe in your favorite scent.
Listen to a beautiful piece of music and let it take you away.
Look at something beautiful in your surrounding that makes you stop and stare.
You also can practice the 5,4,3,2,1 technique. Name 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things to touch, 2 things you smell, and one thing you taste. Engaging your 5 senses is a great way to ground yourself in the present moment and take your focus off your stress.
If one method doesn't work for you, try another. Learning to cool down takes practice. Be patient with yourself, and you will reap the benefits.