Fall is a time when schools start up and habit-forming routines become the norm again along with added activities that tend to sneak into our daily schedules. This means added stress and anxiety around what needs to get done personally for not only myself but also for my family.
Not to mention, we’re still in the middle of a full-fledged pandemic. If you have been on edge for the past six months, this fall might seem more daunting than ever to face.
Corona-related anxiety is real and it can impact our everyday lives. If you feel like your anxiety and stress have heightened during the past few months, you’re not alone.
Today, I am sharing a few simple techniques that can help anyone reduce stress and anxiety.
Breathwork is an excellent anecdote to anxiety because it pushes our body out of fight-or-flight mode and back into a more restful state.
Your body doesn’t know the difference from the stress of a busy day to the stress of running for your life.
Because of that, your body experiences stress and anxiety much the same way - by going into that fight-or-flight mode.
Breathwork is a form of meditation but solely focused on your breathing technique. When you can control your breath, it naturally calms the body down, telling it, “I’m okay, no need to panic.”
This signal puts your body back into a restful and normal state.
You can practice breathwork in a few different forms:
Box breathing is a breathing technique that originated in Navy Seal training. It helps slow your heart rate and regain concentration during high-stress situations.
You can also perform this breathing technique anywhere - on a walk, in line at the grocery store, or even while driving. It’s very inconspicuous so that you can calm your heart rate at any time of the day.
You can practice box breathing by following the 4-4-4-4 technique:
First, release all of the air out of your lungs and hold your breath for 4 seconds. Then, inhale for 4 seconds, hold the air for 4 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds.
Repeat this cycle at least 3 times. Ideally, practicing for 5 minutes produces the best effects.
Another name for relaxing breath is 4-7-8 breathing. This breathing technique is very applicable daily because long-term practicing allows us to create more space between our inhales and exhales.
You can practice relaxing breath by doing the following:
First, release all the air from your chest. Then, inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold that breath for 7 and then, exhale out for a full 8 seconds.
Typically, we breathe at a rate of 2 to 3 seconds per breath. This technique focuses on slowing down our overall breathing rate.
Short terms results of slower breathing are first seen in the overall calming of the body. Long term effects may include better sleep, concentration, and the maintenance of heart health.
You can practice this technique by:
First, breathe normally and try to notice the average rate of seconds your inhales and exhales last. Then for a minute, try to extend these times by 2-3 seconds per inhale and exhale. Eventually, the goal is to get up to 10 seconds each from 5 to 20 minutes.
And this doesn’t exclude merely taking a walk! Movement is a crucial factor in reducing stress and anxiety because it releases positive calming chemicals in our brain.
Exercising doesn't have to be complicated. I used to think daily exercise involved carving out an hour to go to the gym and sweat as much as possible.
In reality, most people don’t have the time, and it causes more stress trying to stick to a rigid workout routine everyday.
Because it seems not to be as accessible these days, so I have found easy and fun ways to incorporate more movement into my normal daily routines.
Simple ways to incorporate movement into your day:
When you are extremely busy though, it is natural to get caught up in that go-go-go life. Taking a 5 minute break in your day just to practice ‘gratitude’ is more important than ever now!
I recommend keeping a gratitude journal and writing 5 moments that you are grateful for at the end of each day. It takes 5 minutes of your day, and you can do it before you hop into bed.
Especially during this continuing pandemic, it can seem like there is bad news all around us. This practice helps us slow down and focus on the good moments of the day - the times when things went right or a moment that actually brought forth an unexpected or joyful surprise.
Another staple in my toolkit to reduce stress and anxiety is my morning routine. I love using my morning routine as a tool to set myself up for a productive and powerful day.
I shared my full routine on Instagram (you can watch it here!).
While our lives might seem out of control sometimes, it’s important to remember that the only thing you can control is your routines and your perspective - so make it count!
And remember, start slow at first. The best way to build a new habit is through consistency. Add one practice at a time and see how well it works for you.
Eventually, you will have an arsenal of tools to use every day to combat stress and anxiety.