Stress seems to be a staple in our lives, these days. Everywhere we turn, there are people rushing, there is something else to do, or we have a sense that things aren't going the way we wish. Stress is usually an involuntary response – we get triggered. All too often, we don’t even realize it's happening.
Well, the opposite of the stress response is the relaxation response. The good news is that you can consciously "trigger" a relaxation response when things get stressful. It's simpler than it sounds – and can help you relieve mental stress every day!
Here are 3 things you might try to help you handle the daily mental stress of your busy, complex life:
- Re-acquaint yourself with gratitude, and begin to develop a gratitude practice. Whether it’s starting a gratitude journal, or ending each day by sharing three things you’re grateful for with your children or partner, gratitude is grounding. It re-connects us to what’s most important in our lives. It also helps us appreciate the little things that bring us joy — especially when the big things that scare us tend to capture our attention from sun up to sun down.
- Recognizing WHEN you're getting stressed. This comes up in our PSS coaching groups all the time, and it always helps. Take some time to notice the patterns that tend to trigger you. As soon as you begin to see when you’re getting triggered, you can either avoid those situations, or take immediate action to "reclaim your brain" from the amygdala hijack of getting stressed out. You can one of the 3 relaxation responses listed in #3, or do whatever you know works to help you recenter yourself when you get triggered.
- Practice 'triggering' relaxation physiologically. Literally, calm your body down until your primitive brain goes back to sleep and the frontal lobe is back in charge.
- Cleansing breaths. Take a gentle inhale, pause, and then lengthen the exhale, and pause. It doesn’t matter how big the breath is, but when the exhale is longer than the inhale, it relaxes the body.
- Relax your shoulders. If they don’t feel like they are by your ears, then lift them up toward your ears, and release them fully. This activates a relaxation response.
- Drink water — and keep a water bottle with you. Sadly, tea and coffee will not work here. Water triggers the primitive brain and sends a message of safety, as it might to an animal at a watering hole in the wild.
We can't stop the tendency for the world to create stress for us. But we can be intentional about choosing relaxation. And THAT choice – starting with the three tricks listed here - can help you relieve mental stress -- every day!