Take a moment to breathe – and other ways to beat stress

Tim Herrera

CNA/THE NEW YORK TIMES – So, uh …how ya feeling?

For obvious reasons, we have all been running at absolute emotional and cognitive capacity non-stop for what feels like an eternity, with little space to breathe and just relax. Which is understandable.

Between the continuing economic uncertainty and everything else happening in the world, it is only natural that our brains are taxed to the limit.

So today, carve out some time to turn off your phone, step away from work, keep the TV off and give yourself the gift of truly intentional time for yourself.

The longer you run at heightened stress, the worse both your physical and mental health will be, so it is crucial to figure out ways to combat extended periods of stress.

Here are a few ideas that could help:

SET APPOINTMENTS TO WORRY

Spending your whole day worrying about everything is damaging to your long-term health, so one strategy is to schedule discrete parts of your day when – ideally, but maybe not always – you will get your worrying out of the way so you can move on, Dr Jenny Taitz wrote in an article for Smarter Living last week.

Rather than recommending the impossible, “Do not worry!”, I prescribe 20 to 30 minutes of Dr Borkovec’s concentrated worry time to my clients, encouraging them not to do this right before bed or first thing in the morning, especially if they tend to wake up with a sense of dread.

Instead, my clients plan a more constructive time to either try a single session or two, 15-minute ones. If you have an array of worries, you can also set times for specific topics, such as financial stressors or health concerns, limiting your total worry time to half an hour.

During this specific time you set aside for worrying, trying listing your worries and perhaps steps you might take to concretely deal with them. Or do not, if that is not helpful.

The goal for this time of intentional worry is to sit and work through your anxieties for only a set amount of time, so that, with practice, you can learn not to let those anxieties flood your thoughts throughout the rest of your day.

USE YOUR JOY TRIGGERS FOR A 60-SECOND RESET

A few weeks ago, I wrote about ways to maintain motivation during the pandemic, and after such a stressful week, I imagine most of us are not exactly refreshed and ready to take on the world today.

But that is okay. Just getting by and not fully collapsing is more than enough right now. But if you find yourself particularly distracted or stressed out this week, try a 60-second reset – a wonderful tip I learned from friend of Smarter Living Arianna Huffington.

“I use my reset many times a day; it takes 60 seconds,” Huffington told me. “You basically put together the things that are joy triggers. It could be photos of people you love, pets, quotes, landscapes, music you love, a breathing pace.”.

In just 60 seconds, she said, you can change your mind-set, adding, “Gratitude is the greatest antidote to stress”.

LITERALLY…JUST BREATHE

Here’s a new one for you: rock and roll breathing.

Last week, the psychotherapist Lesley Alderman outlined a few different techniques for breathing during times of high anxiety, one of which she called rock and roll breathing.

“Controlled breathing has been shown to reduce stress, increase alertness and boost the immune system,” she wrote. Rock and roll breathing, which can also strengthen your core, goes likes this:

1. Sit up straight on the floor or the edge of a chair. Place your hands on your belly.

2. As you inhale, lean forward and expand your belly.

3. As you exhale, squeeze the breath out and curl forward while leaning backward; exhale until you’re completely empty of breath.

4. Repeat 10 to 20 times.