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Diffusing the Stress Bomb: Part 3

--Adam Maisen, LPC-S/TA

· Diffusing Stress

Over the past 2 weeks, I have been sharing the importance of our mindset and our proactive self-care for maintaining sanity during stressful times. Today, I want to share 3 immediate practical strategies that you can use right where you are, right now, even in the middle of your stress.

How do I know that my stress fuse is lit?

These are common symptoms of stress in your body:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep problems
  • Too many thoughts at one time
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Low Energy

Try this right where you sit!

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most, rate your current level of stress. Be honest!

Take 3 slow deep breaths. Inhale through your nose until it feels like you can’t hold any more air and then slowly exhale through your mouth like breathing through a straw. The slower you go, the better this works. Squeeze all of your air out before taking another breath. Repeat this 3 times.

Now rate yourself again. When I do this activity with my clients in my office, they usually find that their stress comes down at least two points.

How long did that take? Probably less than 2 minutes. If your number came down with only 3 breaths, what do you think would happen if you did this activity for 5 or 10 minutes?

Put a pin in it!

Did you see Disney’s 2008 film Bolt? Penny and her dog Bolt were actors on a television set. Penny had important thoughts and questions that her agent did not want to address. He indicated that the conversation should be put on pause by putting a pin in it.

When you know that your fuse is lit, you can put a pin in it. This may mean walking outside or locking yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes. I find that listening to music and singing help me. If other people are involved, it is better to say, “I need some time to think about this” than to blow up, hurting your relationships.

Unlike these scenes in Bolt, I recommend that you circle back to the issue. Once you have taken some time, you can address stressful situations with a clearer head.

Get active!

Going to the gym, cleaning the house, working on a project, and doing yoga are just a few ideas for you to consider. Physical exertion of energy releases endorphins, or feel-good chemicals in your body. As a way of reducing stress in the moment, find something you enjoy doing. I will take this one step further to say that if you are not sleeping well, then your baseline stress level will be higher than if you are getting the rest you need. If you have a fairly inactive lifestyle, you may not be exerting enough energy throughout the day and find sleep harder to come by. On your lunch break today, you may consider going on a short walk.

The recommendations I have made are just a few helpful tips. In the comments section below, I would love to know what techniques you use to bring your stress down when you recognize that your fuse is lit or you are about to blow!

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