Stress is everywhere. In fact, we are living through an exceptionally stressful time. As a working doctor, I know I’m feeling the pinch, and there’s a good chance you are too.
Unfortunately, in times of stress, a lot of us turn to familiar vices like unhealthy eating, or over-drinking to cope.
That’s why today I’m sharing my top 3 tips on how to reduce stress to you’ll feel calm and focused this Summer.
Types of stress
There are two distinct types of stress.
1.) Chronic Stress: This is the type of stress that no matter what you do, you just can’t shake the sense that “something is wrong”. It often feels like a knot in your stomach or tightness in your chest.
2.) Sudden Stress: Also known by a lot of people as “panic”. You may feel sweaty, and shaky, and experience racing thoughts and feelings of overwhelm.
The good news is, “it’s all in your head”. Our thoughts and feelings are the result of complex chemical and hormonal reactions so that means we can use tools to reduce and even eliminate stress!
Here are 3 of the most effective stress-relieving tools you can use RIGHT NOW:
Tool #1 – Box Breathing
Taking slow, steady breaths can have a calming effect when we’re feeling overwhelmed, but when you’re stressed you’re not as likely to feel in control enough to intentionally slow your breathing.
Box breathing is a great tool to help you do this because it can pretty much be done anywhere and it almost FORCES your body to calm down.
What it does is recruit one of your senses, in this case your vision to help you focus and control your breathing.
Even better, what’s you get the technique down, it’s almost automatic.
Here’s how to do it:
When you’re experiencing intense stress or feelings of overwhelm, look for any surface that has 4 or more corners and flat edges, like a box.
If you’re in a room with a TV in it, you could use the TV, or you could use a wall, or if you’re outside, you could use the four corners of a building.
Bottom line, you just need to find something that has 4 corners that you can see.
Starting at the leftmost, bottom corner, trace your eyes up to the top left corner. As your eyes travel along the edge of your “box” you breathe in.
There’s no counting, and no special timing to remember. Just let your eyes be your guide and breathe in as long as your eyes travel up the side of whatever box you’ve picked.
As you turn the corner and begin following the top edge of the box to the right, you guessed it… breathe out.
As you turn the following corner and your eyes travel down the box, breathe in again, taking a slow, steady breath the whole way down.
Repeat this process for as many times around the box as you feel it takes to regain your sense of control.
Personally, I never find it takes more than 2 or 3.
The important part is to let your eyes be your guide around your “box” and you’ll find that slowing your breathing down becomes almost effortless.
Tool #2 Body Grounding
This technique is a little more involved than box breathing, but once you’ve done it once or twice, it becomes second nature.
Basically, you’re going to actively “check in” with your senses to get yourself “out of your head” and into your body…
Sounds a little woo-woo, but it works.
When you’re feeling stress and overwhelm, or even full-on panic, it’s time to check in with your five senses which can really pull you out of your stressed state. It’s kind of like a quick meditation you do with your eyes open.
Don’t worry, there’s no special chants to remember. In fact, it’s as simple as 5-4-3-2-1. We’re going to count backwards, starting at 5…
5.) Pick out and name (preferably out loud) 5 things you can see wherever you are.
It can be anything:
*Your computer if you’re at a desk
*A tree if you’re outside
Literally just any 5 things you can see in your immediate environment
4.) Focus on 4 things you can FEEL right now.
Could be the way your feet feel in your shoes, or the way a chair feels on your backside, or noticing the way your shirt feels hanging on your torso.
Literally just focus on 4 things you can feel (physical objects of feelings in the real world, not, say, the feeling of tension in your stomach)
3.) Name 3 things you can hear.
*Is there a TV on?
*Or a dog barking somewhere in the distance?
*Maybe a nearby refrigerator motor…
Focus on your environment, and pick out 3 things you can hear.
2.) Name 2 things you can smell right now.
If you focus on your sense of smell, do you start picking up new scents in the room?
*Maybe the smell of your fabric softener?
*Or the scent of your shampoo?
*Maybe you can smell a nearby tree or the scent of grass…
Just find and name 2 things you can smell.
1.) Name one thing you can taste.
*Does your mouth still taste like toothpaste?
*Maybe the salad you had for lunch?
Whatever it is, identify whatever you’re currently tasting.
When you get to the end of the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise, you should notice that you automatically feel MUCH calmer.
That’s because your body isn’t very good at processing more than one type of input at a time.
So by focusing on physical smells, sights, tastes and sounds in the world around you, you almost force your body to “forget” whatever internal feeling was stressing you out.
This works wonders for slowing down your heart rate and giving yourself a sense of calm and focus.
This technique is simple, but POWERFUL.
Give it a try the next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed.
My last tip is more of a habit than a quick fix like the first two. I have found though that this habit has totally reduced the stress in my life, ESPECIALLY at times like this.
Tool #3: Maintain a healthy routine
A healthy routine, eating right, doing at least some light exercise every day, and getting enough sleep are VITAL to giving your body the tools it needs to fight off stress.
You already know my tips for a healthier diet and exercise, so I want to focus on the part that’s been the hardest and most important for me: SLEEP.
My whole life, I’ve been a pretty terrible sleeper, and it’s only seemed to get worse as I got older.
One thing that I found that really helped me was adding CBD or cannabidiol to my nightly routine.
Now, even though I am a doctor, please don’t take this as medical advice. I’m just sharing something that’s working for me, and that I think might work for you too.
You see, when I started taking CBD for sleep a little over a year ago, the first thing that happened was that I got an AMAZING night of sleep for the first time in years…
But beyond that, I noticed a lot of other parts of my life started to improve as well… It was really like flipping on a light switch.
You see CBD works with something in your body called your endocannabinoid system, which is the part of your body that regulates all those chemical reactions that happen in your head that determine your mood.
I’ve found that using CBD has really helped me to manage the stress in my life.