Three Simple Tips for Stress Awareness Month

April is Stress Awareness Month. Everyone gets stressed. It is basically an inevitable part of life. But we can choose to learn skills to manage and control our stress so that it doesn’t impact our lives in negative ways.breath

Here are three easy tips to help reduce your stress this month:

  • Exercise! Getting up and moving is a great stress reliever. Not only does it loosen up tense muscles but it releases endorphins which can protect the body from the harmful effects of the stress response. Try enjoying the spring weather by taking a brisk walk/jog or run around a local park or maybe try some gentle stretching and yoga to loosen up.
  • Sleep! Being well rested is important to maintaining a healthy stress level. Rest helps to rejuvenate the body and replenishes our resources so we can handle stress with ease. Being tired makes it more difficult to focus and control our moods which could exacerbate the stress response.
  • Breath! When you feel like you are getting stressed, take a moment (close your eyes if that feels comfortable for you) and pay attention to your breath for about 5-6 breaths. You can place one hand over your belly button and the other over your chest and focus on how it feels to breath as the belly and chest rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Conscious breathing has been proven to lower the stress response by decreasing heart rate and relaxing the body and mind.



Mountain Meditation

Practice this visualization technique to help stay grounded and centered.

  • Begin by sitting in a comfortable position on the shins or with legs crossed and back straight. Close the eyes if comfortable. Focus on your breath for a moment without changing it. Then take one deep inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
  • Imagine a mountain. In your mind, visualize the most beautiful mountain you can. Picture its peaks that reach high towards the sky and its solid base that is rooted deep in the earth. Your mountain is solid and unmoving. Imagine what it looks like in your own mind, it may be covered in snow and rock or green trees and flowing rivers. What would you find on this mountain? What creatures may live here or travelers may pass through?
  • Remember these observations and think of yourself and body as forming the same shape as the mountain. Your head and shoulders representing the high reaching peak and your tailbone and legs representing the base of the mountain. You are solid and unmoving like the mountain. As the mountain sits in stillness, many suns, moons, seasons and weather pass through. The moment that the mountain experiences is always changing but the mountain always stays grounded.
  • Inhale through the nose, exhale the breath and gently and mindfully move and stretch the neck and any muscles that may feel tense.
  • Then slowly open the eyes.


Guided Gratitude

It is important to remind ourselves of all the blessings in our lives during this thankful time or Thanksgiving holiday. Appreciation and gratefulness for the things in our life, whether person, place or even an idea, can expand our awareness and acceptance skills, enhancing our ability to live in a mindful mental state. With gratitude, we acknowledge what gives us meaning and purpose or that spark of joy. Celebrate your fortunes, appreciate your qualities, acknowledge your commitment. All will boost your confidence and ability to see life from a non-judgmental perspective.


Guided Gratitude Practice –

Find a relaxed and comfortable space and body position. Close your eyes and follow the prompts creating visual images using your mind and feelings using your emotional experience of gratitude.

First, think of the people in your life you are grateful for. It could be family, friends, teachers and peers. People who are in your life now, people who used to be in your life, or even people you hope to meet. Visualize what they look like and how they support you, guide you and give you strength. Take a deep breath in, and on your exhale imagine saying thank you or sending gratitude and compassion to those people.

Next, think of a place you are grateful for. This could be your home, a forest, the beach. Wherever you feel safe and can appreciate what is around you. Visualize the colors and shapes you may see here, imagine the smells and sounds that you find in your grateful space. Think about what it is about this place that you feel grateful for. Take a deep breath in, and on your exhale imagine saying thank you or sending gratitude and compassion to that place.

Lastly, think of yourself. Think of all your qualities and attributes that make you, you. Visualize yourself doing actions you are proud of, appreciate your skills and characteristics that give you joy. Maybe you are grateful you are kind, hardworking, strong, or friendly. Experience gratitude for how your body works to keep you healthy and breathing strong, how your mind learns new topics and skills and holds memories or wishes, and how your emotions make you feel. Take a deep breath in, and on your exhale imagine saying thank you or sending gratitude and compassion to yourself.

Open your eyes and slowly take a moment to reflect on what you may have discovered during your contemplation. 

Taking a Mindful Minute, or Two

Try this quick mindfulness exercise to help you stay aware and present! The technique will take you less than two minutes to complete but the relaxing effects will last all day.

Begin by sitting on the floor or in a chair, finding a comfortable position where the spine is tall and straight and all the muscles of the body are relaxed. If in a chair, place both feet flat on the ground and if on the floor, sit on the shins or with legs crossed. Place the hands palms down on the tops of the thighs. Close the eyes if you are comfortable doing so.

Take a deep breath in through your nose, imagining a glass being filled with water. Fill your body with air just like the glass fills with water, from the bottom up. First filling the belly, than the ribs, the chest and then the collar bone. Exhale and imagine the glass of water being poured out, emptying from the top down. Exhaling air through your nose from the collarbone, then chest, then ribs and finally the belly. Breathe in this way for about 10 breaths and return to your normal calm (1)