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Stress Awareness Month: 3 Simple Stress-Relieving Practices

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"Every day brings a clear choice: to practice stress or to practice peace.”

-Joan Borysenko

April is Stress Awareness Month, and it's a great time to focus on how we handle stress. I'm going to share three simple tips to help you manage stress better. As you try these out, you'll likely see your stress go down and feel more at peace. Remember, true strength lies not in the absence of stress, but in our ability to manage stress. Managing stress is an ongoing practice, like mastering any skill. It's about practising these techniques regularly and integrating them into daily life. Over time, these practices can change our relationship with stress and help us to become more resilient.


1: Harness the power of your breath

One of the most accessible and effective tools for stress relief is the breath. Our breath is intricately connected to our nervous system, and by consciously controlling our breathing patterns, we can activate the body's relaxation response. Try practicing deep breathing exercises such as box breathing. Box breathing, also known as square breathing, is a simple yet powerful relaxation technique that involves taking slow, deep breaths in a specific pattern. Start by sitting comfortably with your feet flat on the ground and your hands resting in your lap. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, counting to four as you fill your lungs. Hold that breath for another count of four. Then, gently exhale through your mouth for four seconds, emptying your lungs completely. Pause for four seconds before you take your next breath. Repeat this process for several minutes, focusing on the rhythm of your breath and allowing yourself to let go of any tension or worries.


2: Using the 5-4-3-2-1 technique in nature

Spending time outdoors can have a profound impact on our mental and emotional well-being. Nature has a way of grounding us and reminding us of the beauty and abundance that surrounds us. If you Take time each day to go for a walk in the park, hike in the mountains, or simply sit and admire the beauty of a sunrise or sunset. Allow yourself to fully immerse in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature, letting go of the stresses of everyday life and reconnecting with the present moment. Grounding ourselves in nature through the 5-4-3-2-1 technique involves deliberately focusing on our senses. Take a moment to observe five different things around you, paying close attention to their colours, textures, and shapes. Engage with each sight mindfully, allowing yourself to become fully present in the moment. Then, move on to touch four things around you, feeling their surfaces and temperatures. Next, listen for three distinct sounds in your environment, whether it's the rustling of leaves or the chirping of birds. Take a moment to inhale the scents of two things nearby, allowing the fragrances to envelop you. Finally, focus on tasting one thing, perhaps a sip of fresh water. By connecting to our senses in this way, we can anchor ourselves in the present and find peace in the present moment.


3: Rewire your brain for joy

The well-known Psychologist Rick Hanson, PhD demonstrates how our brains are wired to focus on the negative and unfavourable experiences rather than the positive things in our lives. His central technique called savouring, is pivotal to his mindfulness-based approach, aiming to counteract this bias by rewiring our brains for enhanced happiness and resilience. This practice entails actively paying attention to and deeply appreciating positive moments as they occur, allowing us to cultivate a habit of recognising the good in our lives. By deliberately noticing and relishing these good things, Hanson advocates for a method where we can train our minds to lean towards positivity. This technique is not just about temporary feel-good moments; it's about initiating long-lasting neural changes that foster increased well-being. Through emphasising the nurturing of inner strengths and positive emotions, Hanson's work provides effective, accessible tools for anyone aspiring to develop a more contented, resilient mindset. Every time we do this, it makes a small difference and over time these changes add up, slowly reshaping the brain to be more positive.


Stress awareness month

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