Don’t let the thought of de-stressing give you additional anxiety. These simple mindful, quick fixes are sure to have relaxed in a snap!
Breathe! – Yeah, I know, you’re already doing that, or you couldn’t possibly be reading these tips. When faced with stress, focusing specifically on the exhalation can help you relax. To produce a parasympathetic (calming) nervous response within your body, simply count while breathing and begin to lengthen your exhalation until it’s twice as long as your inhalation. Inhale and slowly count to four, as you breathe out count to five, inhale again to a count of four, on the next exhalation six, and continue until you are able to exhale to a count of eight, while continuing to inhale to four. Depending on the speed of your breath the numbers may vary, and you can always toss in a Mississippi or two in order to make sure you’re slowing the breath down, and not just speeding up the counting.
Mantra – Building on the breath work of the first tip, begin to introduce a mantra (repeated sound, word, or phrase). The mantra can be any word or phrase that brings you a sense of peace. Each time you inhale and exhale repeat it silently in your mind. The mantra Soham, meaning “I am that” can be especially grounding in stressful situations. During each inhalation, draw the sound so out long in your mind, and on the exhalation the long sound of ham (pronounced hum). Use this mantra to harness your inner strength, calm, and peace before making important decisions, or confronting stressors. Each time you inhale slowly repeat sooooooooooo, and each time you exhale haaaaaaaaammmmm. I am that… Acknowledge all that you are in the present moment, and know that the stress will pass; yet you will remain exactly as you need to be.
Vrksasana (Tree Pose) – Stand on one foot! Balance your mind and your stress by first finding balance in your physical body. Start by planting your left foot firmly on the ground, slightly bend your left knee, and then begin to bring your right foot off the ground. Find a steady drishti (nonmoving focal point at eye level) to gaze at. Place your right foot on the side of your calf or thigh (not on your knee, because you need it for stability), and open your knee out to the right, at a 90° angle from your body. Bring the palms of your hands together, lightly press your thumbs in towards your breastbone, and don’t forget to breathe. Repeat, using the right foot as the standing foot. As you stand on each leg find the balance between your left and right brain, and move towards harnessing both creativity and logic to utilize in the face of challenge.
Uttanasana (Standing forward bend) – Find ease in surrender. Standing with your feet hip width apart and knees slightly bent, simply fold forward and allow your fingertips to graze the earth. As your head descends below your heart the brain is calmed, and fatigue/anxiety are reduced. Take a few deep breaths while hanging out in this forward fold and then very slowly roll yourself back up to stand one vertebra at a time (*warning: standing up too fast may cause a lightheaded sensation). Forward folds are powerful tools to use before making tough decisions. Sending all of that blood to the brain will only encourage it to work harder, and help you to make wise decisions.
Gratitude – In stressful situations, stop and think about all that you have to be grateful for. As cliché as it sounds, whatever situation you are in could probably be worse. Perhaps take a moment for an inventory of your personal strengths, blessings, and successes, maybe even jotting down a quick list. Move forward with confidence after taking time to recognize your abilities and your motivation for success.
Always remember, a smooth path does not build character or increase knowledge. It is in the overcoming of obstacles that we learn and grow. Stress can only exist in the moment, yet the resulting decisions may have long term effects, so take time to make the right choices. The world is not going anywhere without you.