Stress can be a terrible obstacle on your path to a fulfilling and peaceful life. Obviously, the best thing to do when faced with stress is to try to get rid of whatever's causing it, but, for better or for worse, that is not always an option. However, what’s also not an option is allowing elevated levels of stress to make you feel miserable all the time and put a lot of strain on your day-to-day life. This blog post presents to your attention a few useful techniques to help you cope with stress.
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Since excessive stress can lead to all sorts of problems related to your physical and mental health, your social life, and even your work life, it’s important to find effective healthy ways of coping with it and lessening its effects on your peace of mind. In this article are explained some quick and simple, yet surprisingly effective methods of lowering your stress and making yourself feel more relaxed and peaceful. Use them when feeling anxious, angry, or panicked for no apparent reason other than the high levels of stress that you’ve accumulated.
Collectively, the techniques I’ll tell you about next are referred to as “Grounding”, as their main goal is to ground you, both mentally and physiologically, in the here and now. More often than not, negative feelings and thoughts that are induced by stress cause our minds to race through space and time and arrive at imagined scenarios that make us panicked and anxious. The idea of the Grounding techniques are to yank us out of such imagined scenarios and bring us back to the present moment, where we are safe and nothing terrible is taking place.
This is one of the most famous techniques for coping with excessive stress, and it should be performed in the following way:
Look around you and name (mentally or verbally) five objects that you see around you.
Name four things that you can feel, such as the air coming from the air conditioner, the floor below your feet, or your arms, placed on the armrests of your chair.
Next, you must name three things that you can hear right now, such as the rain falling on the window or the cars passing in the street.
Now name two smells you can sense at the moment.
Finally, name a single thing you can taste and either taste it now (if you have the option to) or at least imagine tasting it. An alternative variant of this last step is to name one quality about yourself that you like.
Perform this technique whenever you start feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, panic, or another sudden and strong negative emotion triggered by the build-up of stress in you.
This simple exercise involves choosing an object near you and giving it a detailed description. Again, you can do this in your mind, or you can describe the object verbally. In either case, it’s best to imagine that you are giving the description to someone who has never seen the object.
Another way to get back to the present moment is to stimulate your declarative memory, by listing things you remember. For instance, you can list all the different breeds of dogs that you can think of or all the cities you’ve ever been to. Another example is saying the alphabet in reverse, though this one might be a bit too challenging for an exercise that’s supposed to be simple and easy to complete.
A mantra is a short phrase that you know by heart and repeat as a form of meditation. In this case, the idea is that the mantra reminds you of a fact that calms you down and lowers your stress levels. Examples of a mantra would be something along the lines of “I’ve been through similar situations, so I can handle this” or “The anxiety/anger/fear I am feeling now are only illusions in my mind - in reality everything is fine”.
Such mantras can be really helpful in stressful situations, because when under a lot of stress and pressure, we tend to forget some simple truths about the reality of things and about our own selves, so repeating our mantras can help rebalance us and steady our minds.
Another technique that works great with having a mantra is speaking out loud with the goal to simply listen to your own voice and to then try to change the way you sound. For instance, if at the start your voice is shaky and uncertain, make an effort to make it sound more firm and confident, and use your mantra when performing this technique.
Research in the fields of psychology suggests that the relation between a person’s state of mind and the way their voice sounds goes both ways. So if you hear yourself speaking with an assertive and firm voice, this will subconsciously make you feel less anxious and more confident.
There are all kinds of breathing techniques that can help with high levels of stress, and the goal with most of them is to make you focus on your breath and help stabilize your breathing pattern. Here are two of the most popular such techniques:
Raise one hand in front of you and draw an imaginary vertical line in the air that goes up, while simultaneously taking a deep breath. Hold your breath as you draw a horizontal line to the right. Then draw a third line that goes down vertically, while breathing out, and finally draw a horizontal line to the left to form a square, and hold again. Repeat this pattern as many times as necessary until you begin to feel more relaxed.
This exercise is very similar to the previous one, but instead of focusing on the imaginary square you’re drawing, instead put all your focus on your breathing. Start by taking a deep breath over four seconds, and then hold that breath for two. After that, exhale for another four and hold for another two. Repeat the pattern for several minutes, and remember to do your best to focus on your inhales and exhales. You will surely start getting distracted by random thoughts, so don’t worry about it. Just make sure to always come back to your breathing and to do your best to stay focused as much as possible.
Being able to have some control over negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger, and panic is an essential skill that everybody must have, yet a lot of people fail to recognize just how important it is. However, we cannot always escape from what causes us such negative emotions and then our only two options are to either succumb to the source of our stress or to try to limit its effects on our minds and bodies. The good news is that there are a ton of useful methods to do that and all it takes to get better at coping with stress is having the discipline and persistence to practice those techniques on a regular basis. Finally, If you are looking for access to more techniques, anger management training is always a good idea!
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