How to Alleviate Stress In The MomentJan 31, 2024
These days, life moves fast, and with that speed comes stress. It’s so inescapable even, that we often don’t consider how much stress really impacts our wellbeing, whether it be mental or physical. To effectively manage stress, it is crucial to develop a collection of effective techniques to alleviate the weight of stress when we experience it. So let’s have a look at some proven strategies to help you cope with stress in the moment when it arises.
1. Mindfulness and Deep Breathing
A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine in 2019 demonstrated the effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques in reducing psychological distress and improving the users mental wellbeing. One of the core parts of MBSR is deep breathing, which can be practiced in the moment to alleviate stress.
So, how does this work? When faced with a situation or event which causes you stress, take a moment to focus on your breathing.
- Inhale deep and slow in through your nose.
- Hold your breath for a few seconds.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth.
You will want to repeat these steps several times, concentrating on the air as it enters and leaves your lungs. This mindful breathing exercise can do wonders to relax your mind, in turn reducing your levels of stress. The beauty of this breathing technique is that you can use it anywhere at any time.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is another effective technique to alleviate stress in the moment. Studies show that this type of relaxation can significantly reduce your stress and anxiety, particularly in individuals experiencing high levels of chronic stress. PMR is the tensing and relaxing of various muscle groups throughout your body, a process which can help to relax the body and release pent up stress.
To practice PMR, begin by finding a comfortable position off your feet, so sitting or lying down is preferred. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, much like you would with MBSR. Starting with your feet, tense the muscles for a count of five, then release the tension, allowing the muscles to fully relax. Repeat this, gradually moving through your feet, legs, abdomen, chest, arms, hands, shoulders, neck and finally, face. By the time you reach the top of your head, you will feel much of the stress you’re carrying around, fade away.
3. Guided Imagery
Guided imagery, also known as visual imagery or mental rehearsal, is another powerful tool for stress reduction. This kind of visual imagery is often used by professional speakers wanting to calm themselves in high pressure situations.
To start, close your eyes and picture yourself in a peaceful, calming environment. The setting is personal to you, but some common examples could be a beach, a forest, a garden, or any other place that brings you a sense of tranquility. Focus on the details of the scene, including the sights, sounds, smells, and even touch. Allow yourself to become fully immersed in this mental sanctuary, effectively distancing you from the source of your stress.
4. The Power of Music
Playing an instrument or listening to music can have a significant effect on your mood. Music can slow a racing heart, reduce blood pressure and influence brainwave frequencies.
Consider how you would like to feel and choose your music accordingly. Mozart’s music is uplifting whereas Bach is generally considered to be calming. Modern popular music can be beneficial too, just be certain that any words in the music have a positive effect.
5. Brief Physical Activity
Finally, physical activity has long been known to reduce stress, but even brief bouts of exercise can provide instant stress relief. A study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2015) found that just 5 minutes of aerobic exercise can significantly reduce anxiety levels.
When feeling stressed, take advantage of the small things you can do to get your blood moving, engage in a short, brisk walk, perform a few jumping jacks, or really any other form of physical activity that elevates your heart rate. The release of endorphins, along with the distraction provided by the exercise, can help to calm your body's response systems, increasing focus and helping you cope with the situation at hand.
Alleviating stress in the moment is essential for maintaining overall well-being and improving resilience to life's challenges. By incorporating mindfulness and deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visual imagery, music, and brief physical activity into your stress-management toolkit, you can effectively reduce stress and promote a more balanced emotional state. Do these few things and take back control of your life!
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