There are many stress management techniques. Everyone who has spent time attempting to find the best stress management technique has found that there are many ways to reduce stress. The block to success has been that it requires time and patience to develop the awareness and the skills to allow these techniques to have their maximum benefit. I want to list 5 of my favorite techniques and would encourage you to consider trying one or more of these until you find the ones that work best for you. If you have suffered from: lack of focus, high blood pressure, anxiety/panic, headaches, or sleeping problems, seriously consider learning one or more of the following techniques to minimize stress in your body and to get back in control of your life.
Many people have tried forms of Eastern Meditation to relax. These techniques have been around for thousand of years. The “Western mind” may struggle with the discipline it requires to focus your attention and to then “still” your mind. When coaching busy individuals, I do not start with these techniques, except for some of the basic breathing techniques.
What I do start with, and is #1 on my stress management list, is Autogenic Training phrases. I learned these in 1977 as part of some of my original training in stress management and biofeedback. This is the technique that I use regularly for myself. This style of stress management uses 6 basic phrases that I repeat to myself, each 3 times, and then with practice get to the level of stress management that I desire. First there is a “mood” phrase- “I am at peace with myself and fully relaxed” to get me in the mood to begin relaxation. The text for the entire exercise is available in my books with a chapter dedicated to Autogenic training in “Guide to Stress Reduction.” The six basic phrases include: “My right arm is heavy,” repeated 3 times, (then left arm, right leg, left leg, and neck and shouldes are heavy) (which is used to begin to relax skeletal muscles,) then “My right arm is warm,” slowly repeated 3 times, (then left arm, right leg, left leg, and neck and shoulders are warm) (which is used to improve blood flow and circulation into the extremities,) then “My heart beat is calm and regular,” then “My breathing is calm and regular,” then “My stomach region is warm and calm,” and finally, “My forehead is cool and calm (or smooth.” Amazing results after daily use for 8-12 weeks especially with sympathetic nervous system symptoms like: migraine headaches, high blood pressure, panic/anxiety, distress related digestive challenges, etc
My #2 relaxation favorite is progressive relaxation. There is a whole chapter about this technique in “Guide to Stress Reduction” and many other sources. There two major versions of Progressive Relaxation including an “active version” where you tighten and then release muscle groups and the second form which is the “passive version” of attending to muscles and releasing tension without tightening the muscle groups. This is great for sleeping problems, headaches, neck/shoulder pain, and back pain.
#3 is using Visualization or Imagery for stress management. This is often combined with one of my first 2 choices to deepen a relaxation practice. This involves using your imagination to see or feel or hear or even smell mentally constructed relaxation triggers. As an example, picture yourself on a mental vacation in beautiful place outdoors on a warm and peaceful day. Settle back into what ever you might imagine yourself lying on such a lounge chair or a blanket in the warm sand (or grass.) Imagine that you can feel the warmth of the sunshine or the warm breezes as the tension melts away. Perhaps you can imagine the sounds that might surround you like the sound of waves or running water or the sounds of the birds or the warm breezes. Perhaps you can imagine the smell of salt air, or of the flowers or grasses or of the woods. Imagine that you can soak up the warmth and let the tension melt away. This is fun mental relaxation that can help you to control anxiety and start the process of encouraging healing o begin.
#4 Using special breathing techniques to slow yourself down and distract yourself from stressful experiences. Start with taking 3 slow deep breaths to begin to trigger some relaxation. Then you may want to take 4 breaths by slow counting 1-4 as you inhale, then hold your breath for a count of 1-4, and then slowly exhale as you count 1-8. The counting will occupy your mind and help you to relax. A great counting relaxation at bedtime involves counting backward from 50 down to 1 but do it this way. 50,1,2,3, 49,1,2,3 48,1,2,3, 47,12,3 etc. Your mind can get bored with keeping these numbers in line and gradually drift off into a restful sleep. (key: do not rush through this counting and breathe slowly.)
#5 is using a form of biofeedback to monitor your body’s level of stress and then monitor your learning of relaxation as you “let go” of your stress. There are several forms of biofeedback which are used. EMG biofeedback measures levels of electrical activity, or muscle tension, and teaches you to relax specific muscle groups. A more inexpensive form is temperature biofeedback where you begin by taping a simple thermometer to the side of your index finger and allow yourself to relax until you feel your hands warm above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 93-95 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal and usually symbolizes relaxation of this system. The reason this works for many people is that when we are under the effects of stress we often constrict blood flow into our hands and feet as a survival response. When you can “let go” and have a vaso-dialation which increases blow flow into your extremities you are better able to “let go” of emotional stress and function at a more ideal level.
Most of these simple, but powerful, stress management techniques are described in “Guide to Stress Reduction” and at the Stress Education Center’s website at www.dstress.com. Audios are available for download as stress management products and are at the core of the 5 session online stress management course. Contact us with any questions or for stress management coaching/training.
More information and detailed stress management techniques are listed at the Stress Education Center’s webpage. Please visit and read the “articles” which may assist you.