From something as minor as a traffic jam or disciplining a child to something as heavy as processing the pain caused by an unfaithful spouse or the grave illness of a loved one, stress can easily manifest in our lives, bringing along with it emotional, physical, cognitive and behavioral symptoms. That muscle spasm in your neck that you just can’t kick? Might be stress. Feel like you’ve been unusually forgetful or disorganized lately? Could be stress, again. Not feeling hungry? Find yourself clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth? Unable to sleep? Stress, stress, stress…
At our counseling center, we help clients learn to cope with a variety of situations—depression and anxiety, grief, relationship woes, familial dysfunction, and more. A common implication of most human struggles is – you guessed it – stress. And learning how to better manage stress can make you more resilient and generally just a happier person!
Of course, it’s unrealistic to think we can completely eliminate stress from our lives. But we can learn some simple mindfulness techniques for stress management that can alleviate whatever symptoms of stress you’re experiencing in your life. These mind-body stress reduction techniques can and should be leveraged whenever you start to feel those telltale signs of stress: heavy breathing, pounding heart, acute muscle tension, etc.
Focus on your breathing: This is as simple as it gets. Just close your eyes and take long, slow, deep breaths that fill your whole belly. Draw your attention towards your breath and begin to disengage from whatever distractions surround you. Thoughts will try to sneak into your mind, and that’s okay – just acknowledge the thought and set it aside, bringing your attention back to your breath.
Scan your body & release tension: After a few minutes of deep breathing – once you sense your mind is beginning to settle down – draw your mental focus towards one part of your body. We typically like to start with our feet. Mentally release any muscle tension from that part of the body, envision the tension floating away with your breath when you exhale. Move on to the rest of your body: calves, knees, thighs and hips, all the way up your back, down your arms and into the shoulders and neck. Ahhh…
Go to your happy place: Close your eyes and conjure a vision of your happy place: the beach at sunset, a secluded mountaintop, cozied up under your favorite blanket in the warmth and comfort of your own bed. Immerse yourself in your mental environment. Smell all the smells, feel all the feels. Scan every detail of your environment, and before you know it, you’ll be at peace with yourself and the world around you. If you have trouble imagining your happy place, there are plenty of guided meditations available online that can help set the scene.
Practice yoga or tai chi: These ancient Eastern arts combine the practice of rhythmic breathing alongside a series of poses or postures. The physical aspect of these practices will draw your mind away from racing thoughts or worries as you focus on moving through your postures. With regular practice, you’ll find your mind and body better equipped to deal with everyday stress.
Repeat your mantra: With closed eyes, while breathing slowly and deeply, silently repeat a mantra or prayer of your choice. All is as it should be. Even though I feel stressed, I love and respect myself. Not everything has to be perfect, I have done enough. Peace and serenity are within reach. Choose a mantra that resonates with you, and allow it to play on repeat, over and over again, in your mind.
Knowing how to trigger the relaxation response in our bodies is important for keeping stress to a minimum and being able to quiet our minds when they start racing out of control. Of course, based on the circumstances of your life, you may also benefit from therapy or counseling to get to the root of your greatest stresses.
Contact Creative Counseling Center
If you are having trouble managing stress in your life, speak with one of our counselors. Our team consists of the most highly-rated counselors in Denver, specializing in a variety of modalities to help individuals of all ages (children, teens, adults) cope with stress. Take advantage of a free 30-minute phone consultation to see if we could help you better manage the stress in your life, wherever it may be coming from.