Not all of us are affected in the same way by the same stressors in life. Some people may reel from relationship conflicts and others may be deep in despair due to more global concerns. It may be your job that is causing distress – too much to do, too little pay, too much insecurity about its permanence or too little faith in you from your boss. It may be your need to fulfil the needs of others that keeps you from finding peace or spaces for calm in your day or it may be a litany of worries over things that you cannot control that keeps you from enjoying a good night’s sleep.

Regardless of the source, the stress that we experience in relation to our own personal life hassles is likely similar to the anxieties of the person in the office or the apartment next door. Unfortunately, not everyone will respond to the same “stress-reliever” as well as another might, so here are 5 easy methods for finding a moment of calm or a larger space of breathing room during the daily grind or when the wee, small hours of the night are creeping in on you as you wrestle with anxiety or fears.

  1. Gently and softly allow your eyes to close. Feel the touch of your eyelashes against your skin and the gentle soothing pressure of your eyelids against your eyes. Let the soft darkness be a virtual blanket that slowly covers you safely and feel its gentle warmth as it falls across your arms, legs, and torso.
  2. Play a variation of the “I Spy” game with yourself. Find a window and focus your eyes on something a good distance away. You might notice a tree, a building, a lamppost, a playground. Spend a couple of minutes just gazing out at this object – intentionally slow down your breathing rate which will encourage your body to relax. You might count the number of branches on the tree or the number of windows in the building. These will get your mind focused on something beyond the immediate stressor and this gives you a mental break that can serve to defuse the body’s stress response.
  3. Go for an abbreviated “walkabout.” This is traditionally an Australian rite of passage between a young man’s adolescence and manhood. Use a personal walkabout as a passage from a state of stress and uncertainty to a state of readiness to address the stress. Clearing your head by clearing a path can be especially effective when you are feeling “surrounded” by stressors.
  4. Offer yourself compassion and warmth . . . literally. It’s been found that just the act of cradling a mug of tea, coffee, or just warm water can help a person feel centered and calmed. Just as the tea ritual in Asian cultures can bring the focus to the present moment, enjoying the grounding warmth of a cup of hot tea in your hands can be a time sensitive substitute.
  5. Color! Doodle! Sketch! Letting yourself engage in a non-threatening expressive activity can allow your mind to let go of its anxiety as you physically engage in a relaxing activity. It is not the product, but the process, that matters in this type of activity engagement with creative expression. Focus on the paper and the pen and allow your worried thoughts to fade away as you engage your mind in a totally different direction.

These activities tend to drop you back from your distracting thoughts and ballooning worries into awareness of your breathing, your body, and your physical presence in the world. Your head can get in the way of your heart and when your worries are screaming for attention, they block out the ability to easily stay present in the moment. The methods described above provide strategies for wrestling control from uncontrollable thoughts which gives you the pause to gather your wits.

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