Have you ever felt stressed or anxious and struggled to relax? It’s like the more you think about how out of control the sensation feels, the less you’re able to do anything about it. This article hopes to provide you with simple but effective tools you can refer back to whenever you feel overly anxious or stressed. They may seem simple, but they can be quire impactful ways to relieve stress
But first — how do I know what I’m feeling is active stress?
Active Stress vs Chronic Stress
Acute or active stress is a stressor in the present, contributing to a short term stress response. Acute stress is limited to an event or a shorter timeframe, something that is causing you stress NOW. This could be the week you spent cramming for finals exams in school, or a confrontational fight with a significant other.
Chronic stress on the other hand is ongoing and has been accumulating for some time. It is when acute stress has built up over time and you have been unable to release stress and restore balance. Once it starts to impact your overall wellbeing via conditions commonly associated with resulting from stress even during non-stressful times. While the tips I’m sharing here can be part of the toolkit you can use to tackle chronic stress too, just remember. It takes time to get to a chronically stressed state and so it can take time to overcome it as well. The tools may be simple, but there is no quick fix.
Ways to Relieve Stress
If you’re looking to relieve active stress, the following 5 tools can have an incredibly powerful effect, fast!
1. Practice Left Nostril Breathing
Your left nostril is tied to your parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for helping you slow down and helps your body automatically run its day to day jobs of digestion, elimination, sleep cycles and more.
When you can’t calm down, feel overwhelmed, or otherwise unsettled, breathing through your left nostril can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Gently place a finger over your right nostril and take a slow, long deep breath in and out through your left nostril.
2. Ice Roller Massage
Ice facial rollers have become a popular skin care tool due to their ability to aid in lymphatic drainage, reduce puffiness and redness, and for their soothing, relaxing sensation.
But did you know that this relatively inexpensive beauty tool can also come in handy when you feel anxious or stressed?
Your vagus nerve is the main nerve of your parasympathetic nervous system, which as previously mentioned, helps with helping you relax, regulates your mood, and more.
A cold massage that stimulates the vagus can activate your parasympathetic nervous system, helping you regulate your breathing & feel a calm sensation in your body. And an ice roller is a perfect tool for the massage. Simply roll the massager along your vagus nerve: down the middle of your chest from the base of your neck.
3. Eat a balanced meal
When your body is under stress, it blows through nutrients. Even if you don’t think you’re hungry or that you need food, if you are trying to relieve stress, a balanced meal or snack (containing some protein, carb, and fat) can help give your body what it needs to find balance again.
4. Try an extended exhale breathing technique
Take a deep breath for 4 seconds. Pause for a second, and then exhale for 5 or 6 seconds. Repeat this a couple of times, and notice how tension releases from your chest (or other areas of your body). A slower exhale slows your heart rate down and stimulates your vagus vagus nerve (and therefore parasympathetic nervous system) — noticing. a trend yet?– which triggers a “relaxation response.”
5. Bring your awareness to your 5 senses with a mindful meditation
Wherever you feel the sensation in your body, whether it be difficulty taking a deep breath, tension in your shoulders or back, or a racing mind, bringing your awareness to what you can see, hear, feel, smell, and/or taste can prove to be a very grounding exercise.
Take a few deep breaths to center yourself. Look around you. What do you see? Pick one thing, focus on it, and describe it in detail in your mind. Spend a few minutes focused on it, and then move your awareness to what you can hear. Focus on the sound while you continue taking steady deep breaths. Next, what can you feel? It could be the chair you’re sitting on, the ground underneath your feet, the ring on your finger, or maybe something else if you are outside. What’s the texture? What small details can you name?
Complete the same exercise for smell, and if possible, taste.
I hope at least one of these tools resonates with you as a way to relieve stress. And at a minimum, I hope it inspires you to believe in the power of relatively simple tools that you can add to your toolkit and turn to in times of distress. Now, just one favor to ask….if you found this article helpful, please share it with a friend!
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