Stress and anxiety can strike at any time. While they’re not the same thing, their symptoms are similar, and there are easy ways to relax your mind in the midst of a stressful moment or panic attack. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a moment and use one or more of these techniques to calm yourself down.
Deep breathing: 4-7-8 technique
Taking deep breaths is a must when you’re feeling stressed. But there’s a certain way to do it that’s more effective than just breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Deep breathing taps into your body’s natural relaxation response. In order to get the most out of it, try this technique three to five times:
4: Breathe in for four seconds. Tune into your body, and focus on nothing else but taking that deep inhalation.
7: Hold your breath for seven seconds. Focus on counting; try not to let your mind wander back to what is causing your stress.
8: Slowly breathe out for eight seconds. Try to imagine the tension leaving your body. Repeat. When you focus on yourself and tap into your body’s response to stress or anxiety, it’s easier to control it.
Progressive muscle relaxation
If you don’t have a chance to leave your desk, this technique is a great way to reduce stress without much movement. This works by tensing the muscles throughout your body for a short period of time, then relaxing them. Start with your feet. Breathe in and tense the muscles in your feet; hold for about five seconds. Breathe out, and slowly relax the muscles. Work your way up your body, with the legs, hands, biceps, and forehead. Releasing that muscle tension will also help to release stress and reduce anxiety symptoms.
Try a 10-minute meditation
If you can get a few minutes to yourself during your busy day, look up a quick meditation on YouTube, plug in your headphones, and tune out for a bit. (I like this one.) There are plenty of free meditations online, or you can try a meditation app if it’s something you’ll utilize frequently. The most important part of meditating is understanding that it’s okay to let your mind wander; you just need to bring it back. Don’t beat yourself up if meditating doesn’t come easy to you—just listen to the guide and remember to try your best to zone out of your panic and tune into your body.
Watch or read something funny
Humor is one of the best ways to relieve stress. If you follow a few funny social media accounts, take a look at them when you’re feeling super stressed. According to MayoClinic, laughing tones down your stress response. It also stimulates circulation and enhances muscle relaxation, which helps relieve tension throughout your body. In the long term, laughter has been shown to improve your immune system and build up your overall mood. So next time you hear a funny joke or see a funny meme, don’t be afraid to let yourself laugh.
Take a walk
Getting your blood pumping is one of the best ways to relieve stress. Take a 15-minute walk on your lunch break to focus on breathing and resetting your mind. Huffington Post reported that walking through greenery (such as a park) can put your mind into a meditative state. When you walk, you activate stress-reducing endorphins that can instantly make you feel like a weight has been lifted. If you can walk with a friend, light-hearted conversation can make you tune into something else and help rejuvenate your mind. Even a short walk can boost your mood and let you better focus on taking down whatever conflict is causing so much stress.