4 Steps to Mindfully Manage Stress
Managing stress can take many forms and is different for everyone. The best ways I have found to manage stress involve breathing, movement, meditation, and journaling. Each exercise helps you become more mindful in your stress management routine and will bring your overall happiness up to a higher level.
Breathing Pranayama, breathing exercises are one of the amazing ways that you can manage your stress. The breath can hold things in or help us release. One of my favorite breathing exercises is called “Breath of Joy” - this breathing exercise is done by inhaling three times through your nose and one big exhale at the end through the nose. Step 1: Inhale and bring your arms out in front of you parallel to the ground. Step 2: Inhale and send your arms out to your sides parallel to the ground. Step 3: Inhale and send your arms over your head. Step 4: Exhale bend your knees into a forward fold and send your arms behind you. This is done in 6 - 12 rounds. When you are finished slowly roll up to standing, close your eyes, and notice the energy in your body and how it has changed. Breath of Joy releases stress and helps combat anxiety - it also gives you a burst of energy and helps you get ready for your day.
Movement This could be running, yoga, lifting weights or going on a walk. Giving yourself space to move can help physically move stress out of your body. Getting out of your head and into your body helps you process and manage your stress and anxiety. Movement also releases endorphins which is a chemical that makes us feel joyful. Find what form of movement works best for you and brings you the most joy.
Meditation There is no one way to meditate - it takes on many forms and can be done almost anywhere. Meditation can look like stillness and silence, like yoga, or like walking your dog. Being present with yourself is the goal of meditation - noticing yourself and your surroundings rather than thinking about the past or future. You can also sit in a comfortable position or lay down with one hand on your heart and one hand on your stomach and count your breaths in 1...2...3 and exhale 1...2...3 and repeat as many times as you would like. The grounded feeling we get from our hand on our stomach and heart helps bring us into the present moment and feel our diaphragm rise and fall allowing us to focus on the breath.
Journaling This can be long form writing called “free writing” where you just write anything that comes to mind and get all of your thoughts on on physical paper. Writing in this way is cathartic and helps you release emotions such as sadness, stress, or anxiety. This could also be writing down 3 things that bring you joy and why. You could also start a gratitude journal - writing down 3 - 5 things per day that you are grateful for. Over the long term - gratitude and joyful journaling bring us to a higher state of overall happiness and we are reminded more often of ‘the good things’ lowering our stress and anxiety.
Take note of what works and what changes you need to make in your everyday life to help you be more mindful in your stress management. Journal about your overall experiences of trying each suggestion and modify as you would like. Which practices do you already implement in your everyday life?