Stress Relief Strategies, Part I
As if there isn’t enough stress in our lives we now find ourselves locked-down for the third time and in the belly of a global pandemic, the uncertainty of which is causing no-end of stress and anxiety. Us humans don’t like uncertainty.
I am seeing people who are affected by this uncertainty 24/7, during their waking and sleeping lives.
To be honest, I actually don’t think anyone has really considered the long term toll this pandemic may take on our physical and mental health.
I don’t want to be Mrs Doom and Gloom, but I’m hoping that it would be useful and helpful for us if we can start to put into place regular and consistent strategies to help us reduce the stress and anxiety of this uncertainty.
The brain is extremely clever and one of the most useful things one can do to release stress and anxiety is to RELAX. Yes, I know, I hear you, ‘how can I relax when I’m stressed?!’
The truth is, you can’t be stressed and relaxed at the same time – it’s impossible!
Relaxation is a very personal thing,
but thank goodness there are many different ways to relax. So, I thought, over the next couple of weeks, I’d share some of the strategies I use to relax, and that have made a real difference for me.
This week I’m just going to talk about a breathing technique which calms the nervous system down.
When we breath into the lower part of our lungs and exhale with a longer out breath, we change the blood gasses in such a way that the pituitary gland will instruct our brain to turn off any stress responses. This will have the effect of causing both our mind and body to deeply relax. So,
- Schedule an appointment with yourself every single day for 15 minutes, at a time when you know you won’t be disturbed.
- Allow yourself to be comfortable. Sit in a comfortable chair, or lie down.
- Allow yourself to imagine that you have a balloon in your tummy.
- Breathe in, for say the count of 4 (not 4 seconds, just the count of 4) and imagine that you are inflating the balloon in your tummy.
- Hold for a second, and then
- Breathe out for say the count of 8 (not 8 seconds, just the count of 8) until the imaginary balloon is deflated.
- Repeat, focusing on the inflation and deflation of the imaginary balloon for 10-15 minutes. You don’t have to count the breaths, just be aware that the exhalation should be longer than the inhalation.
- Finish with 8-12 breaths at your normal pace.
It may well be you inhale for the count of 5 and exhale for the count of 8. The object of the exercise is to have the out-breaths longer than the in-breaths.
Stop if you feel light-headed and return to your normal breathing.
I personally do this exercise…..
anytime I’m feeling stressed or agitated and am still amazed by the difference it makes in such a short space of time.
I also find it a helpful exercise if I’m having trouble getting off to sleep because my mind is racing around about other stuff.
NOTE: This exercise is not intended for anyone who suffers from anxiety attacks or anything more serious. Discuss with your doctor/healthcare professional before doing this exercise.
Next week I’ll share some other strategies which can help diffuse stress and anxiety.
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