Stress is something that is almost incessant in today’s busy world. Most of us wake up in the morning wishing we didn’t have to. The desire to go back to bed or just avoid the oncoming work day can set off the first round of negative emotions, which research has shown actually causes a chemical reaction in the brain and the body that is damaging to you in large doses. No problem, you just woke up, definitely not enough to begin harming your body. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning.
Next comes the morning commute. Dealing with work pressures, colleagues, maybe even an unreasonable boss or difficult customers continues to set of those chemical reactions in your brain and body. Cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine flood your bloodstream preparing your body for it’s standard ‘fight or flight’ needs.
In case you don’t know, the ‘fight or flight’ response is our genetically programmed response to danger. It was important to us, in physically dangerous environments of our past, when we had to either fight a predator or flee it. So that we have all our energy to fight or to run away, our body is designed to release a set of chemicals that will do exactly that. In our modern environment when fighting or fleeing a work situation is rarely an option, these chemicals are not just unnecessary but hazardous.
Apply the following method and you will be able to get some immediate stress relief and if you do it regularly it can become a powerful technique in your stress relief and management toolbox for just about any stressful situation.
The first step in learning this stress relief method involves learning a simple breathing pattern. When you get stressed your breathing will become shallow and centered in your chest. By altering your breathing pattern you are taking conscious control over a symptom of stress and you begin to add oxygen to your body, which immediately begins to reverse the effects of stress. To do this properly just take slow deep inhales followed by slow and complete exhales till you feel like you have released most of the air from your lungs, with a slight pause.
My breathing pattern is generally as follows; I inhale for 5 seconds, pause for 1 second, exhale for 5 seconds and pause again for 1 second and repeat. You can adjust the breathing pattern to suit your lung capacity but always breathe in slowly AND deeply followed by a slow and almost complete exhale.
The second step is to place your index finger and thumb on two points located on your forehead. Called the ‘neurovascular’ points in acupressure, they are located on the two points at the top of your forehead that feel a little rounded. If you draw a line up your forehead from your nose, then you can locate these points about halfway up and an inch from the center of this line on either side. By lightly holding these pressure points and breathing deeply, you bring back blood into your forebrain that drains away in times of stress.
Since this particular part of the brain helps you in your creative thinking, it is not considered necessary when your body decides that you need to fight or run away. That is why your capacity for clear reasoned thought is the first thing to go when you are under stress and that is also the reason why ‘sleep on it’ is a common rule of thumb for dealing with important decisions.
Sleeping gives your body a chance to relax and resume its blood flow to your forebrain. When you don’t have time to sleep your stress away, hold the above pressure points and breathe as instructed above to activate your body’s relaxation response.
The third step, which enhances the effects of the two steps above, is to place the index finger and thumb of your other hand on the ‘K-27’ acupressure points. These points are located where your throat meets your chest, find two little depression that are right under the balls of your collarbone and massage them vigorously. Doing this will also reverse some of the effects of stress balancing two important energy flows in your body. Yes, I know this may sound a little weird but the benefits and effectiveness of acupressure is well documented. Just type in ‘acupressure’ on Google to learn more about it.
The fourth and last step is to imagine a relaxing activity or image. You can choose a scene where you are relaxing on a warm beach or looking at a beautiful pond. Choose an image that makes you feel good when you imagine it vividly. Picturing something relaxing helps relax your mind.
When you have practiced each step on its own, combine them. Hold both acupressure points in the appropriate ways (described above), while breathing deeply and imagining a relaxing scene. You will feel refreshed in under 30 seconds. Go ahead and do it right now (as you’ve probably already experienced some stress today) and you may be surprised with the results. Regular practice of this technique throughout your day will dramatically reduce the effects of stress on your body and brain.