We live in a busy world with schedules that often leave little room for rest, relaxation, and recovery. Many of us are on the go from the second we wake up in the morning until our head hits the pillow at night. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got so much you want to do, but feel like there’s too little time to do it. That can easily make you feel overwhelmed, and stressed out.
Through yoga and therapy I’ve learned some valuable techniques to de-stress that I use them in my day-to-day life. Do one of these 5 easy techniques to de-stress when you’re feeling overwhelmed. I guarantee it’ll make you feel calmer and more able to tackle the rest of the day.
1. The Four Count Breathing
Find a quiet space. If you’re at the office, go lock yourself in the bathroom (seriously, do it. I’ve done this many times to assure nobody can disturb me, no shame in that!) Sit or stand in a relaxed and comfortable position. Allow your shoulder blades to melt down your back. Take a deep breath in and sigh it all out. Shake your arms if you need to, to release the tension in your upper body. Next, follow these steps:
- Breathe in through your nose as you count to four seconds.
- Hold your breath at the top for four seconds.
- Release, exhaling through your nose for a count of four seconds.
- Hold your breath for four seconds, and then start again.
Repeat this cycle at least 5 times and up to as many times as you feel necessary. I do this exercise several times a day. It’s the perfect micro meditation because it can be done anywhere – on the bus, at the office, at home, in the grocery store. You’re just breathing, right? Nobody will notice that you happen to be breathing in a particular pattern. Try this method right now and see how you feel!
2. Attention To Detail
When we get caught up in our busy schedules, we tend to oversee the little things happening around us in every moment.This one is good for bringing your attention back to the present moment, here’s how:
- Stop whatever you’re doing (put your pen down, stop typing, stand or sit still)
- Calmly lift your view from whatever you were looking at.
- Now, in your head, begin to describe the things around you without putting any judgement on them. So for example: “this sofa is dark grey, the fabric has a slightly embossed pattern and there are five cushions lining the back of it.”
- Move your eyes to another object and describe that.
- Continue to do this for however long you need to return to the present moment.
- When you feel calm, slowly return to what you were doing.
With this exercise, you want to avoid placing judgement on the objects you are describing. A simple and literal description of what you are looking at is enough. So, for example, instead of thinking “This chair is an ugly green color with terrible tassels” simply describe it as “this chair has a rounded shape and is decorated with black tassels that hang along the front edge of it”. Do you see the difference in tone in those two descriptions? One is very aggressive and feeds the anger or stress you are feeling, while the other one is simple, calm , and accepting.
3. Meditation Coloring Book
This is an exercise that requires a little bit more time. When I was recovering from a particularly stressful period in my life, I got into hand lettering and drawing. It turned out to be a useful tool in making me feel calm and allowed me to shut out the stress and demands around me. There are a bunch of great coloring books specifically aimed to help you de-stress. Here’s a couple suggestions:
- A Coloring Book for Adults Featuring Mandalas and Henna Inspired Flowers, Animals, and Paisley Patterns by Coloring Books For Adults
- The Mandala Coloring Book: Inspire Creativity, Reduce Stress, and Bring Balance by Jim Gogarty
- Mandala Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns by Coloring Books For Adults
4. Meditate On Sound
This method is similar to the Attention to Detail method mentioned above. However, instead of focusing on neutral descriptions of the things around you, focus on the sounds around you. Here’s how to do this meditation:
- Find a space where you won’t be interrupted by anyone.
- Sit or stand in a relaxed and comfortable position.
- Take a deep breath in, exhale and close your eyes.
- Begin to notice the sounds around you. Even in a completely silent and secluded room, there are still sounds. Listen to the hum of the air conditioner, the sound of your own breath. Or listen to the silence, notice the silence.
- Once again, the aim is to focus intensely on the sounds around you to allow yourself to be in the present moment.
- Whenever you notice your thoughts disappearing off to something else, gently bring them back to focusing on the sounds around you.
5. Kundalini Shaking
This is a technique I was introduced to by Josefin Bengtsson. She’s a Swedish yoga teacher who I’ve had the opportunity to take a couple of classes with. She always starts her classes by handing out eye masks to all the students. The masks are to allow everyone to fully let go and be in your own body without worrying that anyone is looking at you. The masks are also to avoid the temptation to look at other people. To the sound of Kundalini Meditation (Four Stages) by Osho, she talks the class through this active meditation. Here’s how to do it:
- Plug your headphones in and turn Kundalini Meditation by Osho on (or any other song that you love).
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart, give yourself a moment to really plant your feet. Keep them at the same spot throughout the meditation.
- Slightly bend your knees and drop your arms, release your shoulders down from your ears.
- Take a deep breath in, and sigh it out through your mouth.
- Now begin to shake your body; shake your arms, your hips, your legs, knees, butt. Shake out all the tension in your entire body. You want it to feel like your whole body is vibrating. Move your head from side to side allowing your left ear to meet your left shoulder, and then your right ear to meet your right shoulder. Move your head in a circular motion.
- If your mind wanders from the present moment just gently bring your attention back to how your body feels in this shaking motion.
- Continue for about 5 minutes.
- Then start to slow the shaking down, until you’re standing still. Feet firmly planted on the floor.
- Notice how your body feels in this moment, is it less tense? Is there perhaps a little bit of a tingly feeling in your body? If you want, sit or lie down in silence for a couple of minutes to complete this meditation.
This active meditation is a little goofy, and perhaps difficult to do just anywhere, but it really is a great method to shake all that stress and tension off your body, try it!