5 Stress Relief Techniques that Work
Over my 18 years of meditating along with all the courses, books and classes I’ve consumed, here are the five best meditation techniques to release and relieve stress quickly that I have found to work. They all take no more than a couple minutes to engage but can also be used for longer meditations when you have more time. Practicing meditation 10-20 minutes a day brings many long-term benefits but don’t rule out the helpfulness a few minutes can offer when you are facing a stressful situation. These techniques don’t remove what is stressing you out, but they do offer a few moments of calm and help to release the grip of stress on you. This allows for you to come back to whatever is going on in your life with a calmer perceptive.
For immediate relief in a stressful situation try these techniques to relieve stress:
1. Use your breath. It works. I start every meditation with a at least a few rounds of deep inhales and exhales. I find the trick to use the breath as a way to calm me down in a stressful situation or for built up stress is how I inhale and exhale. We want to take deep, slow breathes that go down towards the belly and not just rising of the chest. We breath all day and night every day without having to think about it. The difference here is to inhale and focus on it. Follow the inhale, be prepared to take in a little more air than an automatic breath, from your nostrils, down your throat, filling the top of your chest, down your rib cage and end at the belly. See if you can do this so the belly inflates. The breath itself takes place in the lungs as they expand and the diaphragm contracts. With these mindful breaths though focus or imagine internally that the whole chest and belly are inflating. With the same control start the exhale with your awareness from the belly following it up the rib cage then to your upper chest, throat and nostrils. Take three rounds of breathing like this. It soothes and calms the central nervous system.
Favourite technique to calm yourself
2. My all-time favourite technique to calm my mind and body right down. It sounds weird but it works. It is to relax the tongue, particularly the base of the tongue where it starts to go down the throat. Start with some deep, slow breaths preferably down towards the belly then put your focus into your mouth. Feel where your tongue lays, maybe it touches the back of your teeth, roof of your mouth or sides of your gums. Just notice it. As you exhale imagine your exhale breath going to your tongue. Or if easier, focus on how your tongue feels as you exhale. Shift the focus of your exhale to the base of your tongue. Take a few rounds of breath keeping the focus during the slow exhales on the base of your tongue. Close your eyes if you can as it helps you connect to your breath. The tongue itself is made of many muscles and makes micro movements with the internal dialogue therefore, it near constantly moving and not relaxing. Making the effort to relax the tongue helps give you a break from the non-stop mental chatter. This technique really gets me out of my head so I can gain clarity and calm.
3. My other go to for quick calming is to use my sensory faculties to shift away from what may be bothering me or stressful. I do find closing my eyes for this technique a bit easier but not necessary. Start with a deep mindful breath or two and then draw your attention to one of your senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell). Take hearing for example, bring your awareness to what you can hear. Listen intently to all the sounds immediately around you. Expand that listening to what’s further away. Just listen for a few minutes. Your mind stops all the thinking while you only focus on one sensory faculty. If you prefer sight, bring your focus to something you see close in front of you, nature works great here, breath and gently focus your gaze on that item. Your mind relaxes and your body starts to let go of the held tension.
Bringing your focus away from the mind chatter
4. Another option for a great meditation technique is to do a walking meditation. Being in nature is wonderful for this option but it can be done anywhere – on the street, back garden or in a park. Slow your walking pace down and take three mindful deep breaths where you slow it down and become aware of your belly rising and not just your chest. Exhale slowly from the belly to chest following it out your nostrils. Start focusing on each step you take. How the heal touches down, rolling towards your toes. How your foot lifts off the grounds from your toes and touches down again. Really feel into the muscles as your legs stride. If you can, take your time and bring the focus of your attention internally. A walking meditation can last for a few minutes or as long as you want depending on the space you are in and how much time you have. Focusing on the one action and breaking it down and feeling what is going on in your body, relaxes the mind from all the other chatter that usually is crowding that space.
5. Body sensing is also a very effective technique. By going inwards and focusing on parts of your body even for a few minutes will relieve the mind of the stress you are facing. Take a couple of those mindful deep breathes down towards the belly and exhale upwards out your nostrils. I prefer to close my eyes for this meditation and then I start by sensing my feet, the bottom of my feet. It is not how they feel from the surface of the skin, but the focus is how they feel or where they are at internally. I then move up one leg – the ankle, calf, knee, thigh and hip joint and continue with the second leg. I continue to move from hips to belly, ribcage, heart center to throat then carry on to one shoulder and down the arm – upper arm, elbow, forearm, hand and each finger. Repeat with the second arm. I move from throat to jaw, face, eyes, ears and top of head. You may feel a tingle or vibration in one of the areas you are sensing into. If I only have a very short time to calm myself, I move directly to my hands – the palms of one hand and each finger and then the second hand. Here is where I feel the vibration the most and it’s enough to help me relax.
I hope these techniques bring you calm in moments when you need the support.
With gratitude, Theresa