It is no secret that stress influences both mind and body and can lead to or worsen certain medical conditions. It is impossible to completely avoid stressful situations, but there are ways to soothe the stress response and calm the mind and body. To prevent stress from escalating, it is important to address it as it arises. The techniques outlined in this article are very simple to employ and can be used just about anytime anywhere. Discover which techniques work best for you and create your own stress relief arsenal.
Tracing Triple Warmer
When under stress, the body becomes more vigilant, on the lookout for potential danger. In the short term, this strategy is useful for protection, but if drawn out, issues such as allergies and autoimmune disorders can arise. One important player responsible for this mechanism is the triple warmer meridian. This meridian begins at the tips of the ring fingers, travels up the arms, across the shoulders, and around the back of the ears to the temples. Tracing this meridian in the opposite direction of its natural flow calms the body and eases stress. To trace triple warmer, simply place two or three fingers on the temples beside the eyes and, with slight pressure, drag the fingers up and around the ears down to the neck. This is only a portion of the meridian, but it is sufficient and allows this technique to be done rather inconspicuously in public. Tracing the entire meridian is also beneficial. Do this a couple times whenever stress or unpleasant emotions arise. For more information and tips regarding triple warmer, see Donna Eden’s book, Energy Medicine.
A form of meditation known as mindfulness appears to be gaining popularity for stress relief, pain reduction, and general wellbeing. Mindfulness is the practice of bringing awareness to the present moment. According to plumvillage.org, website of world-renowned Zen monk, Thich Naht Hanh, mindfulness is “the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life”. The aim of mindfulness is to be present and maintain conscious awareness of what you are doing and with whom you are engaged. Disengaging from the present moment makes it easy to become stressed out or frustrated, but one might be surprised how much easier it is to be at peace while practicing mindfulness.
To practice mindfulness, simply bring awareness to the present moment and the task at hand. No matter what is being done, no matter how mundane, place all focus and attention on it. Notice, nonjudgmentally, all that there is to notice. Do not rush, and do not do the task simply to complete it; do the task for the sake of doing the task. Through mindfulness, errands that once were perceived as a chore may become precious opportunities for experiencing life.
Correct deep breathing provides another great stress reliever. In many cultures, breath is synonymous with life, and science has proven that proper deep breathing has many positive effects on the mind and body. According to a 2009 article in the Harvard Mental Health Letter, deep breathing can lower heart rate, stabilize blood pressure, ease tension and anxiety, and promote peace and calm. The word inspire literally means to “take in spirit”. To breathe correctly, place the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth. Breathe downward as if trying to extend the length of the torso. The abdomen should rise, not the chest. When breathing out, the abdomen will fall and the pelvic floor will move upward toward the head. Relax the body and breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth or through the nose only. Do not breathe in through the mouth. Be consciously aware of the breath. It provides a great focus for mindfulness. Be careful not to strain or become dizzy.
Metta, meaning loving kindness, is a simple yet profound form of meditation. To practice Metta sit comfortably with eyes closed. First, send loving kindness to yourself. If there is any hesitation, simply acknowledge it and try again. Once comfortable with giving Metta to yourself, offer it to a loved one, followed by an acquaintance, and finally someone with whom you are upset. This can be a very powerful practice that changes one’s perceptions, reactions, and relationships with self and others.
“Half smile” is a very simple exercise that easily brightens the mood. Merely invite a slight smile to the face and be aware of the smile. That’s it! It may seem too modest to be effective, but do not be fooled by its simplicity. The half smile can be used along with any of the other techniques listed above to augment their effect.
Don’t let stress get the upper hand. Try any or all of the these soothing ideas, keep a positive, grateful attitude, and enjoy life.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” - Thich Nhat Hanh