Stress disrupts your body’s balance, throwing your nervous system out of whack. That’s why it can be tough to focus when you’re in a stressful situation whether you have to speak in public or fight the clock to meet a deadline. But it’s crucial to learn how to relieve stress not only for your personal success, but also for your health. A new Yale University study found that chronic stress reduces the size of your brain, leaving you vulnerable to an array of cognitive disorders.
To help you beat stress in every situation, I’ve rounded up my five favorite stress-relief methods. Try them out and use them the next time you need to calm yourself fast.
1. Five minutes before a big meeting, you’re feeling jittery and short of breath.
Stress-relief Method: Deep Exhales
When we’re stressed, we feel as if we can’t get enough air into our lungs. So we take rapid inhales, forgetting to exhale. But this tactic backfires; it’s actually long, controlled exhales that calm your nervous system and bring it back to a relaxed state.
1. Inhale for a count of four.
2. Exhale for a count of eight.
3. Continue for two to three minutes, or until you feel calm.
2. You’re about to give a presentation, and you can’t stop picturing all the things that could go wrong.
Stress-relief Method: Alternate Nostril Breathing
When you need to stop the what-ifs from taking control of your mind, try this stress-relief technique. It balances the right and left hemispheres of your body.
1. Sit comfortably and place your right index and middle fingers over your right nostril.
2. Inhale through the left nostril for a count of four.
3. Close your left nostril and exhale through your right for the same count.
4. Take your next inhale through your right nostril, close the right and exhale through the left.
5. Repeat, inhaling from the left.
3. Fourteen minutes before deadline, your computer crashes.
Stress-relief Method: Circle Breath
This technique helps you focus your attention on the rhythm of your breath. By turning all your thoughts toward relaxing, your anxiety quickly dissipates, and you regain your calm.
1. Sit comfortably and place your right hand over your abdomen.
2. Breathe in for a count of seven.
3. Exhale for a count of seven.
4. Breathe smoothly and with control for at least two minutes.
4. You’re on a diet, and you find yourself at a party full of food.
Stress-relief Method: Cooling Breath
This technique gets right to putting out any inner fires you may be experiencing. It requires a twist of the tongue, so sneak away to a private spot (e.g., a bathroom) for a few minutes before you do it. I’ve practiced this on a number of occasions, and I guarantee it’s worth the trouble.
1. Part your lips slightly and turn both sides of your tongue up toward the roof of your mouth so it rolls up in a taco shape. (Not everyone is anatomically capable of doing this. If that’s the case with you, do your best to turn the sides of your tongue up so that the tip is resting near the roof.)
2. Take a long inhale through your mouth.
3. Hold a moment, and then exhale through your nose.
4. Continue for eight to 10 breaths in this fashion.
5. You finally made it home after a long day, but you can’t release the tension
Stress-relief Method: Belly Breathing
This is a good, all-around stress relief method. For this technique, you must lie down. That alone should be helpful in de-stressing you.
1. Place your right hand over your chest and left hand on your abdomen.
2. As you inhale, notice if your chest is rising higher than your belly. If it is, breathe deeper so that the opposite occurs.
3. When your stomach rises, the breath is getting to the lower area of your lungs, which calms your nervous system. Close your eyes and enjoy the moment. Within the minute, you should be feeling like you again.
(Picture: Woman meditating from Shutterstock)
(Derek Beres, Completely You, June 2012)