Stress is pernicious and all-pervading, when people come to see me for therapy for it and all the ways it presents (click here for more on that), they understand that it will take more than the one session to get a handle on it, but they also often ask, “is there something I can do now that will help?” And the short answer to that is, “yes.” If you do any of the below daily, it will help you take back control, if you practice all five things on a regular basis, you might well work wonders.
One: Walk away
Whatever the stressful situation is, if you feel your heart pumping and your pulse racing, if you feel dizzy or like that infamous red mist is descending, just walk away. Take time out, rest, relax, let your mind and body return to baseline and then, when you feel ready to, go back into the situation. Chances are that things will have calmed down by then anyway. And there is nothing wrong in taking time out, or saying, “I just need to take a few minutes to reflect on this,” and then getting the hell out of there.
Two: Regular breaks
Whilst on the topic of time out, taking regular breaks in your day needs to be routine. One job I had, back in the day (when I was still a fresh-faced teenager) not only had a full hour for lunch (with luncheon vouchers) but also mandatory 15-minute breaks twice a day. People who take regular breaks, those who come in on time and leave on time (special occasions excepting) are less stressed, more productive, less likely to take time of work sick and save money in terms of recruitment and training by staying where they are for longer. In terms of both mental health and business success, pacing yourself is the way!
Three: Get some nature
Nature is essential to your mental health and wellbeing. You need a daily dose of it and getting it will help. The more, the better! Go for a walk in a park, sit by a pond or river if you can (or a fountain in a square if you can’t). Visit forests, moors, and beaches. Even pot plants on your desk improve wellbeing and mitigate stress. One of the nicest environments I even walked into, there to deliver a workplace wellness seminar, had so much foliage within it that it looked like the Amazon jungle, only with desks and monitors poking out of the lush greenery instead of birds and reptiles.
Four: Box breathing
Your breath is a great stressbuster. When used properly that is. First up, remove yourself from the stressful situation. Then regulate your breathing. Sit or stand, close your eyes, or leave them open, and breathe deeply, preferably in through your nose and out through your mouth (but either/or works well too), but in a rhythmic fashion. First hold your breath for the count of four, then breathe in for the count of four, hold it in for the count of four, and then breathe out slowly for the count of four. And repeat this for as often as you think you need or until you feel calm and balanced.
Any form of meditation will work wonders on your stress levels, even if you do it for just five minutes a day. One of the easiest ways to meditate also involves your breath. Sit somewhere comfortable and just focus on your breathing, in and out, softly, and gently; in and out, either through your nose or through your mouth, or both. And really give your full attention to your breathing. Notice what it feels like, and what it sounds like. Feel the temperature of your breath, notice all the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between your in breath and your out breath. Try to become as vitally absorbed with your breathing as you can. Whilst fully accepting that your mind will wander. This is perfectly normal. Don’t become frustrated by this. Just accept it as part of the process. Whenever you notice your attention has wandered, just bring it back to your breath. With practice, you can stay with your breath for longer, your attention will wander less and less, and your mind calms right down pretty quick.
Chronic stress and situations where you often feel out of control will need a little bit more help than the above and I can heartily recommend both rational emotive behaviour therapy (click here for more on that) and clinical hypnotherapy (click here for more on that too). But, in the heat of the moment, the above things will help calm you down.