(Effective Techniques for Managing Stress: A Guide to Finding Calm in Chaos

Introduction: In the last couple of months, I’ve had to let go of our beloved Great Dane, Merle, celebrate my oldest child becoming an adult and graduating high school, as well as deal with season changes that inevitably cause some of my chronic health conditions to flare up. Luckily, I have a huge toolbox and can pull from many different resources! Some of the simplest ones, like acknowledging my feelings, naming them to tame them, and really knowing where my boundaries were on what I could handle made a world of difference for me.

Stress management is one of the most important things we can do in our spiritual journey. If our bodies are constantly in fight or flight mode, we are in survival mode. When we manage our stress, we give ourselves room to breathe—literally!

Techniques for Managing Stress

Mindfulness and Meditation: One of my favorite mindfulness practices is “Name Them to Tame Them.” This doesn’t require much more than a feelings wheel ( The University of Arkansas has a great feelings wheel. Download it here). Try to really look at what feelings you are having beyond just anger. Is it frustration, sadness, regret, or jealousy? As soon as we name our emotion or feeling, we start to put light on it, and even this can cause it to dissipate some.

A simple meditation technique you can try is to close your eyes and start at the top of your head, scanning down your body. I like to picture a copy machine with a white light scanning down. Notice any tight spots or dark, gunky spots in your mind’s eye. When you hit them, just notice any thoughts or feelings that come up. Don’t try to change anything; just notice. Once you are done, take a deep breath and open your eyes. This can take as much or as little time as you need.

Meditation was a game changer for me. I started out with insight meditation, so it always has a special place in my heart. This is a great one because it doesn’t require you to tune out and ignore the world. You actually tune in and take away the labels. When I learned to calm the mind and react less to external stimulation, that was when I started living my life from a space of creation versus reaction.

Physical Activity: I know the running joke when people don’t feel well is “have you tried yoga?” As someone with a chronic illness, when I was in the deep stages of healing, when someone would say that to me, I had a lot of mental images. That’s all I will say about that! But yoga or stretching really is great for stress! Any movement can improve your mood greatly. They have just recently found that moving our muscles actually secretes an anti-depressant-like hormone. Doing movements like walking that slow the heart rate down is better for you than ones that speed it up!

Read the article here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-healthy-journey/202209/why-working-your-muscles-can-be-a-powerful-antidepressant

My personal routine when I am in a position where stress can be high includes walking for at least 30 minutes a day, yoga in the morning or just before bed, and engaging in non-contact boxing once a week.

Breathing Exercises: Box breathing is a great technique. Inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold for four counts. Another effective exercise is lion’s breath. Inhale deeply, then open your mouth wide and exhale forcefully, making a “ha” sound.

These exercises work by increasing the amount of oxygen in your body, which can create a euphoric and relaxed feeling. Practice these as often as you can, especially when you feel stressed.

Healthy Eating: Eating well can make a huge difference in how we manage stress. Consuming whole foods, staying hydrated, and avoiding processed foods can help keep our bodies and minds in balance. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and walnuts, can help reduce inflammation and support brain health. A simple, stress-busting snack is a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit. Remember, what we eat can directly impact our stress levels, so choose foods that nourish and support you.

Sleep Hygiene: Quality sleep is essential for managing stress. To improve sleep, create a bedtime routine that signals to your body it’s time to wind down. This could include activities like reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing gentle yoga stretches. Ensure your sleep environment is comfortable, dark, and cool. Better sleep helps our bodies recover from stress and prepares us to handle challenges more effectively.

Time Management: One of my favorite time management techniques is the Pomodoro Technique. This involves working for 25 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break. Repeat this cycle four times, then take a longer break. Writing down tasks is crucial. Don’t try to keep everything in your head—it will only stress you out! Write down all the things you need to accomplish, then identify those with real deadlines, like bills or job expectations. Categorize the remaining tasks by their importance to you.

Connecting with Others: Social support plays a significant role in managing stress. Growing up, I had an independent mindset as the youngest child with two older brothers. The motto “I don’t need anyone” was burned into my brain, but it was damaging. Over the past 20 years, I’ve found friends, family, and my husband who support me when I need a boost or just need to know I’m not alone.

Conclusion:

Managing stress is essential for living a balanced and healthy life. Remember, you don’t have to go through it alone. Incorporate these techniques into your daily routine, and don’t hesitate to reach out for support when you need it. You’ve got this!

Call to Action:

Ready to learn more? Check out any of my meditation classes here or sign up for a private lesson! Stay connected and follow my journey on social media for more tips and support.