You have the ability to control the effect of stress on your mind and body. As one may not be able to remove or avoid all stress the goal at some point is to change the impact it has on you. These simple stress management techniques are important tools you can use at home to help control the effects of stress.
Stress brings on hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol which are great during a true emergency, but very harmful day in and day out. Chronic stress is harmful and can have a bad impact on mood, sleep, energy, weight, pain, blood pressure, blood sugar, and more…
Our stress response is controlled by autonomic (automatic) nerves, with the sympathetic branches turning on stress response and parasympathetic turning off stress response. Think of sympathetic as the gas pedal and parasympathic as the brake. Regular stress management techniques are powerful ways to turn on the parasympathetic system and dial down your body’s stress response.
Choose any of the following techniques that work for you. It really doesn’t matter which ones, just do them several times each day. Even 5-10 minutes makes a difference.
- Assume a comfortable position
- Sit or lay comfortably. Use pillows, blankets and props to support you.
- Concentrate on the air flowing into and out of your lungs
- Inhale, Pause, Exhale, Pause – most find inhaling through nose and exhaling through mouth most natural
- If you would like to, you can place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest to feel the expansion and contraction of your breath
- Breathe clouds
- Imagine yourself inhaling and exhaling clouds. The deeper you inhale, the bigger the cloud in your lungs. The more your exhale, the larger the cloud grows in front of you
- Body breathing
- Imagine the air traveling into your body from the bottom of your feet. Allow your breath to fill your body going up to the top of your head. On your exhale, allow the air to travel from the top of your head, emptying to the bottom of your feet. Repeat this process
- Center expansion
- Imagine a glowing, yellow orb in the center of your body. When you inhale, imagine it expanding outwards. When you exhale, imagine it contracting back to the center of your body.
- Breathe clouds
Meditation and Mindfulness
- Mental repetition
- Repeat a word, phrase or counting
- VIsual focus
- Focus on a particular spot on the ground or wall
- Repeated sounds
- Repeat a word, phrase or sound out loud
- Mental repetition
- Body scan
- Mentally scan your body, moving through one body part at a time
- Sense awareness
- Bring awareness to your five senses – touch, taste, smell, sight and sound
- Eco-therapy awareness
- Find a peaceful environment, preferably outdoors
- Bring awareness to the environment around you. Engage your senses. Notice the people, animals, plants and weather
- Allow your senses to expand to notice all of the living things
- Sit in this expansion and breathe gently
- Body scan
- Movement in and out of postures with awareness and breath. It has been shown to increase strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity and decrease stress. I suggest finding chair yoga, gentle yoga, or restorative yoga. You may need to omit some of the postures or add some in. That is ok! You are great at listening to your body. Continue to do that.
- Yoga Nidra is yogic sleep. When one practices, they are lying down and listening to an audio recording or teacher. It has been shown to be effective for PTSD and chronic pain.
- Try to lie down in whatever position is most comfortable for you (on your side is okay).
- Make sure there are no distractions for the time period of the nidra session (typically 60-90 minutes).
- https://insighttimer.com/ (Yoga Nidra – Four Streams by Jeremy Wolf)
Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR)
- Move through the body and contract each area of the body one at a time
- Contract the entire body, squeeze the muscles, exhale and release
- Find a journal that is special to you to write in
- Make space in your day to write whatever you want in the journal
- Allow your thoughts and emotions to flow onto the paper
- Keep in mind, your journal is a safe space. No one else needs to read it. Your thoughts and emotions are put on paper to help you process. If self-judgement arises, write about the judgement that pops up with expressing yourself.
- If journaling or typing is not an option, you can try using an audio recorder
Brooke Kollman, BS, RYT, is the Nutrition & Wellness Coordinator at the Integrative Medicine Center. Born and raised in Minnesota, Brooke moved to Colorado to obtain her B.S. in Integrative Health Care at MSU Denver. She is a board certified Health and Wellness Coach and a registered Yoga Instructor. Call (970) 245-6911 for an appointment with Brooke or more information.