Try this visualization exercise when you feel stressed or anxious. Think of a place. Then notice the sensations of being there.
1. Pick your favorite place
2. Describe what you see
3. Describe what you hear
4. Describe what you feel
5. Describe what you taste
6. Describe what you smell
Take A Breath:
Deep breathing is not only a great intervention strategy during times of high stress, but also a great preventative strategy to work into your daily routine. A breathing pacer app can be especially helpful in ﬁnding a healthy pattern on the go.
Turn Up The Tunes:
Consider listening to a new genre of music. Want to calm down? Try classical or acoustic music with a relaxing, slow rhythm.
Step away from the noise of your tablet, phone, or gaming system. The lights and sounds that come from these devices are designed to capture our attention and activate our brains. Consider limiting your time on these devices, especially before bed.
Try a New Hobby:
Trying something new can be particularly rewarding, especially if you involve a partner or friend. Make time for things that you enjoy and keep an open mind.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be a powerful practice. Some journals offer structured prompts each day or a quote to inspire you. Get creative!
- Sit upright, take your shoes off and begin breathing in and out slowly (belly breathing) for about 2 minutes. Let your muscles relax and feel yourself become more calm.
- Now close your eyes and focus your attention on your feet while breathing in and out very slowly for about 2 minutes. Let your thoughts cease and just “think” about your toes. If new thoughts arrive, push them gently aside. Feel the tingling in your toes as more blood rushes to your feet.
- Now focus your attention on your knees; deep breath in, deep breath out for 2 minutes.
- Focus on your hips, shoulders, hands, neck, mouth, and then eyes — breathing deeply as you focus on each for 2 minutes.
- Repeat a calming mantra with your eyes closed (e.g. ocean, ocean, ocean, ocean, ocean) for 5 minutes; deep breath in, deep breath out.
- Now bring your focus back to your eyes and just concentrate on your eyes; deep breath in, deep breath out for 2 minutes.
- Then focus on your mouth, then neck, hands, shoulders, hips, and knees – breathing deeply as you focus on each for 2 minutes.
- Lastly, refocus on your feet and toes, again for 2 minutes, always taking deep, from your belly, breaths in and out.
- Open your eyes and sit for a few minutes while you return to your environment, then put your shoes back on.
- Begin walking at a normal pace, preferably in a quiet environment.
- Then start to observe your breath, appreciating how air enters in through your nostrils, your lungs, and comes back out from your throat and mouth.
- Gradually refine your breathing to take deep, diaphragmatic breaths.
- Now coordinate your breath with your stride, inhaling for four steps and exhaling for four steps.
- Once this becomes comfortable and automatic, take four, short, staccato breaths of air through your nostrils _one puff for each step.
- Focus on the audible sound of your breath, then exhale in the same fashion, contracting your abdominal muscles and pushing your belly button into your spine for four steps.
- Continue this pattern for 5 minutes, then walk and breathe normally for 3 minutes.
- Repeat as many times as you can during the course of your walk.
Progressive muscle relaxation is best done in a quiet space, free from distractions. We recommend you practice the following 10-minute exercise at least twice per day.
Sit in a comfortable chair with good back support and place your feet flat on the floor. Slowly work through the following muscle groups by tightening the muscles for five seconds and releasing the muscles for 10 seconds. Be aware of the pressure as you tighten, compared to the calming sense as you relax.
- Close eyes tightly for five seconds. Relax for 10 seconds.
- Clench jaw — not so tightly that your teeth hurt — for five seconds. Relax your jaw for 10 seconds.
- Slowly rotate your head in a circle to the left for three rotations. Rotate to the right for three rotations.
- Pull your shoulders up toward your ears and hold for five seconds. Relax your shoulders for 10 seconds.
- Pull your chin to your chest for five seconds. Relax for 10 seconds.
- Hold your arms out like you are pushing against a wall for five seconds. Then drop your arms for 10 seconds.
- Tighten your fists for five seconds. Relax them for 10 seconds.
- Tighten your stomach muscles for five seconds. Relax your muscles for 10 seconds.
- Tighten your thighs for five seconds. Relax your thighs for 10 seconds.
- Tighten your calves for five seconds. Relax them for 10 seconds.
- Curl toes to tighten for five seconds. Relax your toes for 10 seconds.
- Finish your muscle relaxation exercises with 60 seconds of focusing on all muscle groups and being aware of a calm, relaxed feeling within them.
- As you learn this relaxation technique, you’ll become more familiar with the physical sensations of stress. Once you know what the stress response feels like, you can make a conscious effort to practice progressive muscle relaxation, breathing, or other techniques at the onset of stress symptoms. This can keep stress at bay.
Invest in a good phone app — or an old-fashioned paper planner — and schedule your days and weeks in advance. Set time aside and set ten goals to achieve within the year. On the ﬁrst Sunday of each month, set goals to accomplish that month. Each Sunday, spend 15 minutes jotting down goals for the upcoming week. Every morning spend 5 minutes writing down tasks to complete that day, which will help to move towards the weekly, monthly, and annual goals. Knowing what to expect can greatly reduce your level of stress and help you avoid overscheduling.