Having a first-aid list of self-care techniques means you are better prepared to respond to stress when it arises.
Understanding how your body responds to stress is a valuable start.
Stress is an experience of the body which can affect the mind. The best way to reduce stress is to work directly with the body, and not try and intellectualise or think our way through it.
Sometimes our level of stress increases simply because we don’t know what or why we are feeling something in our bodies – that can feel strange and scary if we are not used to it.
For example, shaking when we are nervous or upset is a normal response of our nervous system to help discharge stress – all mammals do this. It helps to discharge adrenaline that is produced when we are activated by stress or excitation. Yet many people don’t realise this and get frightened by it and try to stop it.
This list I have created is just a starting point to creating calm when stress hits you. You will notice it is very much based on working directly with your body. And it is based on plenty of research that shows how these simple techniques are effective in reducing stress.
In fact it’s so simple.
However, I encourage you to spend time noticing what helps feel calmer and create your own list.
1. SLOW DEEP BREATHING
Slowing down your breathing is the most effective way to calm yourself when you feel activated by stress or anxiety. You can focus on counting to 6 with each inhalation/exhalation.
2. GROUND YOURSELF
Connect with, feel and soothe your body. Massage, tap, squeeze or rub your body – whatever feels good. Walk slowly and mindfully, paying attention to the sensations in your feet. Rest in childs pose. Shake your body. Find ways that you like best.
3. SPEND TIME IN NATURE
Spend time in nature, talk a walk, go barefoot, do some gardening, whatever is most soothing.
Spending time in nature is proven to reduce levels of stress and to be good for mental health and wellbeing.
4. MOVE YOUR BODY
Any kind of pleasant body movement helps to downregulate our nervous systems and create relaxation.
Yoga, dancing, tai chi, martial arts are great. TRE (Tension Releasing Exercises) is particularly effective for releasing tension naturally.
5. HUMAN CONNECTION
Talk to someone you trust and who you feel safe with. Eye contact, body language and hearing the soothing voices of others is known to be very calming. As is feeling deeply listened to.
6. REST & RELEASE
Sometimes we just need to rest, nap, take a break, have a cry – whatever. Too often we ignore the urges to rest or release emotion, but all of these needs have an important function in restoring our bodies to calm and wellbeing.
Honour your needs.
Learning mindfulness involves meditation as well as many other useful techniques to help create calm and greater resilience in our daily lives. Having these tools in your self-care kit could be incredibly useful.
Play and laughter have so many therapeutic effects. If you have a pet, a child, a fun friend or feel happy doing it on your own – just spend time doing something fun and silly that you don’t ordinarily give yourself enough time to do.
I play with the neighbours cats when I’m stressed, I bought a cat toy on a fishing line so we can have an hour of fun in the garden. Everyone is happy!
What do you find are the most effective ways to reduce stress when it arises in you?