No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.
As human beings in today’s society, we all live with stress. The sum total of the stress in our lives can be sorted into two categories: day-to-day and long-term. When looking at day-to-day stress there are ways we can take action to reduce the inevitable pressure of our daily lives, and become the Zen-like beings we all know we inherently are. Of course, yoga is a number one stress management tool, so any time you can roll out your mat goes a long way to becoming calm. That time we spend on our mats is a beautiful example, as Buddha puts it, of us saving ourselves and walking the path.
However, it’s moving that peace off the mat where the problems occur. We get lost in the day’s distractions and that brilliant connection we forged between our body and mind during our practise takes a back seat. So, where to start?
Reconnect And Reassess
Given that we can’t just stop anywhere, roll our mat out and bust out some yoga moves, let’s begin with a 2-minute exercise that helps us quickly reconnect with our bodies and move more consciously throughout our day.
- Find a quiet space where you are on your own and either sit on a chair or lie down and gently close your eyes.
- Begin to scan your body from your toes all the way to your head. Going through the ten toes, the calves, the back of the knees, and so on. Pay attention to how each body part feels, specifically your hips, shoulders, jaw and forehead.
- Now listen to your breathing. How does it sound? Are you breathing from the top of your chest or tummy? Is it shallow or deep?
- Move your awareness to your energy. Do you feel tired or alert? Still or fidgety? How have you been feeling throughout the day? Does your head feel quiet or busy with thoughts?
- Once you feel satisfied that you’ve fully ‘checked in’ with yourself, flutter your eyes open, shake out the feet and toes, and do a couple of shoulder rolls. Take a deep breath and exhale.
If you noticed any tension, breathing from the chest rather than the belly, quick shallow breaths, busy thoughts, or tired and fidgety sensations then likelihood is your body is responding to stress.
5 Ways To Deal With Stress
The next step is to manage it — being able to control your stress rather than letting it control you. Below are our top five techniques to manage immediate effects of stress:
1. Take A Breath
Seems simple right? Wrong. Most of the time we breathe in the most ineffective way, shallow and unconsciously. Instead, try the opposite. Take one to two minutes to sit down and take deep, conscious breaths; fill the belly full of air, then the lungs, then the throat and when you can’t fill up any more slowly release the air from the throat, chest and lastly belly. Repeat this several times and anytime you notice your thoughts have drifted slowly bring your awareness back to the breath.
2. Pick A Mantra
Choosing one word or sentence that gives you a feeling of calm and repeating this can be extraordinarily effective, e.g ‘calm’ or ‘peace’, or maybe ‘I am still.’ Any time you notice feelings of stress or anxiety, close your eyes, visualise the word or sentence and repeat it three times slowly. Combining this with the breath by silently repeating the word on an exhale can really boost the positive effect.
3. Use Replacement Thoughts
Having a few positive replacement thoughts ready to hand can be a great way to undermine the negative. For example maybe you know that every time you come face to face with your boss he will do something that will leave you thinking something negative like, “I will never have the time to do this,” or “What’s the point?” Instead, arm yourself with some positive replacement thoughts such as “I am doing the best I can, and that’s okay,” or, “He’s just doing his job.”
4. Find A Distraction
This is simply involves changing tasks and taking a break from your main job. Go make yourself a cup of tea, or listen to something on your iPod. Just 10 minutes of distraction can help bring those stress levels down.
5. Make Time For Yoga
I know, I know, as I said earlier we can’t all just crack out our yoga mats in the middle of the workplace, but a quick rag doll inversion would be possible, right? Lowering the head below the heart has a great way of calming the nervous system and gives the heart a bit of a break. Stand with your feet hip width apart, and fold forward from the hips. Take either elbow with opposite hand and allow the head and upper body to hang heavy. Take a slight bend in the knee to protect the back if needed. Hang here for 30 seconds to a minute, then rise back up to standing on an inhale. There’s also a lot of interest in chair yoga, or yoga you can do at work to help keep you at your best throughout the day.
…And Back To Your Day
That’s it! Pretty simple right? Give them a go, all of them or some, it’s up to you. Do you have any preferred stress management techniques that aren’t on the list? Feel free to add them in below, or let us know how you got on with some of these suggestions!