Stressful experiences are a normal part of life, and the “stress response” is a survival mechanism that primes us to respond to threats.
But we are currently living through a period of unprecedented stress, and this can impact every part of our lives—including our ability to accomplish basic tasks, maintain our relationships, and even use our bodies.
To help you, we have five quick, action-oriented things you can do to begin to manage the excessive stress we are currently living with and a little bit about the science behind each.
Slowly breathe in for four, hold it for four, and then breathe out for six. Repeat 10 times.
Why it works: Slowing our breathing allows our bodies to recalibrate and lowers levels of physiological arousal.
Slow your racing thoughts by counting backwards by three in your mind from 100 (100, 97, 94, etc.).
Why it works:
Focusing in a structured way and engaging your brain in a distracting task can disrupt unhelpful patterns.
One by one, tense each muscle group in your body for 10 seconds and then release. Notice how it feels to let your muscles relax and have the tension leave your body.
Why it works: Actively relaxing our muscles can increase energy and flexibility, helping us feel calmer.
Do a quick scan of your body and notice the air around you and any surfaces you are touching. If possible, close your eyes and focus on the sensations, textures, and temperatures.
Why it works: Focusing on our physical surroundings helps us become more attuned to details and make more balanced assessments of our environments.
You are dealing with huge challenges. Think about three things that went well today. If they involved another person, recognize and thank them whenever possible.
Why it works: Slowing down to recognize even small successes can increase our sense of control over our environment and help us help others more effectively.