Breathe

5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Reduce Stress

Guys, I didn't believe it when they told me I would change from taking testosterone. I was like, "naaahhh. Those guys act all macho and angry because they think they have to."

I was wrong. So wrong.

I've always had a temper but this T shit is no joke. Lately I get set off for simple things like not being able to plug my phone charger into the wall or because my computer is running too slow. It is me or is that whirring sound killllllerrrrrrrrrr.

After years of meditating (not often enough) and learning to listen to my body, I can actually feel the temperature rising inside, like a rage tidal wave. Sometimes I let it out. Sometimes I don't. Most times, I DO laugh at how childish it seems and how much like my teenage self I've become. Again.

Hormones are powerful things, and I've heard similar tales of woe from my pregnant pals and friends experiencing menopause. The terms might be different, but the experience is certainly the same.

And if the hormone thing wasn't enough, life brings any number of stressors into our day. My mom just texted me that she woke up to a busted hot water heater and electrical wires down from a felled tree. Ouch.

Anyone will tell you that stress isn't good for our bodies. Being angry and stressed isn't our only option for whatever life throws our way.

Here are five things you can do right now to reduce stress and feel better fast:

 

1) get enough sleep. Aim for 8 hours a night, on a regular schedule. Sleep deprivation takes anything mildly annoying and ramps it up 1000%. It's hard to respond in a cool, calm and collected way when you're bleary-eyed and cognitively impaired. 

2) breathe. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. When you're feeling the pressure build, stop whatever you're doing and take 4 realllllly deep breaths. Repeat as many times as you need until the needle moves a few notches from RED ALERT.

3) meditate more. This isn't just for Buddhists or yogis, anymore. There is a ton of research out there supporting the physical, mental and emotional benefits of meditation. 5-15 minutes every day can work wonders.

4) reduce your sugar intake. Adults joke about giving kids sugar...

TMS

but rarely notice when they act exactly the same way. First comes the happy sugar high and then the moody meltdown. Don't believe me? Track your sugar intake for one week. Reduce it by half the following week and see what you notice about your mood, energy levels and response when triggered.

5) phone a friend. James Taylor's song "You've Got a Friend" isn't a huge hit by accident. People NEED pals. We really do. Next time your head feels about ready to explode, text someone on your recent calls list with this message: "I need to vent. Can you listen to me, unbiased, while I rant for a sec?" Then, set a timer for 2 minutes and let it all out. When the timer dings, you're done. Return the favor for your friend and you might get some perspective on your current situation. Maybe it wasn't as bad as you thought...

 

 

 

Got a quick tip that folks can do anytime, anywhere to reduce stress levels?

Feel free to share in the comments below. ;-)

 

Day 9: BREATHE

It's late evening on Christmas eve, but I'm keeping to my promise. 1 Tip each day until 2011.

DAY 9: BREATHE

Today's tip is quite perfect because this is literally the first chance I've had all day to relax.

It's late. I'm tired from a long day, a long week and a loooooong year.

I work retail and run my own business. I have wonderfully rich and challenging relationships. I am a Gemini and I am blessed with an active imagination and I am in touch with my emotions.

All of these combined make for many wonderful opportunities to breathe deeply in order to relax, slow down and/or get perspective. Oh and it's the holiday season. And winter is upon us. And it's cold...

Not all breathing is the same, and from what I have learned--it's important to do it right. And you'll know when you're not. A client recently asked me during a meditation session: "what is this actually doing for me?"

While involuntary most of the time, we can (and should) make breathing an intentional act as often as possible, particularly when we feel stressed, tired, challenged or as a way to practice when we aren't feeling any of those things. Physiologically, breathing correctly brings much-needed oxygen into our lungs, blood and brain. Next time you feel stressed and have a headache, try to stop and notice your breath. Have you taken in enough oxygen in the past 2 minutes? 15 minutes? 30 minutes? Hmm...

How about interpersonal experiences? How many times have you taken a deep breath before responding to "that person" who always has a way of triggering you? A work associate? A parent? A sibling?

This is what I do with my clients. See how it works for you:

Belly Breathing 101
  • lie flat on your back or sit up really tall in a chair
  • place your hand on your lower belly
  • take a deep breath in and instead of raising your shoulders when you pull air into your lungs, instead push out your gut so your hand moves an inch or more. I know. It feels weird. Do it anyway.
  • as you exhale, pull your belly back in toward your spine.
  • REPEAT the inhale.
  • REPEAT the exhale.
  • REPEAT the inhale.
  • REPEAT the exhale.
  • Teach this to someone else and practice it as often as possible.
Breathing correctly and intentionally can positively impact your mental and physical health in many ways. Notice how you are or aren't breathing from minute to minute, day to day. Make small changes when and where you can.
See what happens.
Good night and Merry Christmas.