Stress places immense demands on both physical and mental health. It has been proven to affect cell structure, which in turn creates a whole plethora of issues including sickness, anxiety, depression and can lead to destructive coping mechanisms such as drinking too much alcohol, taking drugs or adopting other obsessive behaviours.
Whilst employers have a duty of care to ensure that the physical environment is suitable for your employ and that you are sufficiently supported and trained to undertake your role, there is often so much emphasis on the employer’s responsibilities that we forget we are also accountable for our own ‘state’. No matter how much care an employer cares, there are still likely to be times when you feel a sense of overwhelm (often of our own making) and it is important that you are able to deal with these quickly and in the moment – rather than letting them build.
Below are some simple and quick steps that will enable you to immediately reduce stress ‘in the moment’. However before diving into the techniques, just take a moment to assess whether what you are feeling is temporary pressure or whether the feeling / your state is more acute. Remember, pressure itself can be a positive emotion, providing motivation and energy to meet the task ahead, it is when this becomes excessive that you need to pay attention to your body and act.
Breathe away anxiety (1-1.5 minutes)
This technique, which was taught by Dr Andrew Weil is a powerful anti-anxiety measure. The beauty of this technique is that it can be done anywhere and anytime, and it provides instant relaxation.
1. Place the tip of your tongue against the gum at the back of your upper front teeth throughout the exercise
2. Exhale through your mouth to the count of 8
3. Inhale through your nose to the count of 4
4. Hold your breath for the count of 7
5. Repeat for a total of 4 breaths (it is recommended you stop after 4 breaths to avoid getting lightheaded)
More information on this technique can be found at www.drweil.com
Spinning energy (2-5 minutes)
Again, this technique can be practiced anywhere and at any time and is very effective to calm anxieties, reduce compulsions and has even been known to help with physical pain. The technique is based on ancient Taoist practices and Taoists have been using it for years to calm their minds to achieve higher states of consciousness.
1.Identify the issue or problem that is causing you stress and calibrate the feeling on a scale of 1-10
2.Close your eyes and locate where in the body you are feeling it?
3. Keep paying attention to the feeling and identify which direction does it feel as if it is moving in (this may be difficult at first…but just relax and while your eyes are closed free your hands to move in free form as you are ‘feeling’ the energy). You will notice that it is spinning in one direction
4. Mentally slow the image down to a stop
5. Reverse the flow and spin the image faster in the opposite direction until it disappears or breaks up in some other way
6. Bring the issue back into your mind and re-calibrate the feeling on a 1-10 scale
This method is one that I often use when my OCD tendencies kick in and I am an hour away from home and can’t remember if I have left the iron on! You may need to repeat the exercise a couple of times – but it really is very effective.
- EFT or The Tapping Technique (5-10 minutes)
This third technique is perhaps a little more overt and you may wish to find a quiet and private place to conduct it, but EFT – which stands for Emotional Freedom Therapy is gaining momentum worldwide as a unique and effective method for reducing stress, balancing emotions and dealing with physical imbalances.
Developed by Gary Craig, EFT is said to rebalance the body’s energy system.
1. Identify the problem and rate the scale of stress from 1-10
2. Design an affirmation that states the problem around the following sentence: “even though I am feeling overwhelmed right now I deeply and completely accept myself”
3. Follow the following tapping procedure (see points below)
Tap on Karate Chop point whilst stating the affirmation
Repeat key words as you tap 5-6 times on – top of the head
Repeat key words as you tap 5-6 time on – the eyebrow point
Repeat key words as you tap 5-6 times on – the side of the eyes
Repeat key words as you tap 5-6 times on – under the nose
Repeat key words as you tap 5-6 times on – chin
Repeat key words as you tap 5-6 times on – the collarbone
Repeat key words as you tap 5-6 times on – under the arm
Repeat the sequence (omitting karate chop) 3 -4 times
4. Notice the results, rating your feelings now when you think of the issue from 1-10.
5. You may need to repeat the sequence 3 or 4 times adapting the affirmation if other feelings come up.
Free guided tutorials can be found:
- Relief from stress related headaches (5 minutes)
This technique can be done at your desk, but it is recommended you are able to sit comfortably, with your eyes closed and focus for a few minutes.
1. Rate the pain in your head on a scale of 1-10
2. Close your eyes and locate where the pain is in your head
3. Watch the pain and describe what it looks like
a. notice the shape, the colour, the size, the density
b. is it heavy or is it light?
c. is it still or is it moving?
4. If the pain moves, follow it and watch and notice if the shape, size and colour changes
5. Once you have a good fix on what the pain/headache looks like, imagine that you are sat in the front seat of a cinema watching yourself on the screen with your headache.
6. Reduce the size of the headache, mute the colour and lighten the density until it resembles a tiny balloon. The intensity of the pain should now be no more than a 1
7. Let the balloon slowly rise up into the clouds until it has completely disappeared
8. Your headache should now be gone!
- Stilling Your Inner Voice (2 minutes)
We can often create our own stress – simply by listening to our inner voice, or inner critic. This little voice on our right shoulder (or to be precise in the right-hand lobe of our pre-frontal cortex) can tell us things like “you’re not clever enough” when about to sit an exam; or “you will mess up and forget your words” when about to go on stage and present to an audience; or “you’re not good enough” when you are getting ready for your interview.
We all have different messages from our inner critic and the specifics will be determined by the environment in which we grew up.
There are methods for understanding and changing this voice permanently (although this is not a quick fix and is something I address in my one-to one coaching sessions); however, there are some things you can do to immediately quieten this voice and regain our power – in the moment, reducing our stress.
Have a word or a few words that resonate calm and resolve within you. For me, I will often use the words ‘peace’ or ‘power’ or ‘focus’.
1. If you start to hear negative criticism from your inner voice – close your eyes and repeat the word you have selected and which most suits your situation – over and over again. Allow yourself to feel the vibration of the word for full effect.
2. After 1 minute – open your eyes and recalibrate / is your inner voice still talking? If so, repeat the exercise.
Usually this will work after one session – but if the voice keeps reappearing, just keep repeating your power word.
An alternative method, although you may only want to do this if you are alone, is to audibly say No! to your inner voice.
1. As you catch your inner voice speaking – literally turn your head to the right (where her or she sits) and keep repeating No! No! No! You can even add “You are talking rubbish” or “That’s simply not true”.
2. Again, do this for one minute – and get really angry with your inner critic – as if you were defending a little child
3. Recalibrate and repeat as is needed.
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