Stressed about the election? Here's a place to calm down
There's a lot happening in the world. Now is a great time to take a break.
Practice some tips from experts to stay grounded, do a breathing exercise to help you calm down fast, or scroll through some photos of animals and nature. Think of this as a mini-vacation for your mind, body and soul. We could all use one.
There's a lot happening in the world. Now is a great time to take a break. Practice some tips from experts to stay grounded, do a breathing exercise to help you calm down fast, or scroll through some photos of animals and nature. Think of this as a mini-vacation for your mind, body and soul. We could all use one.
Twin Cities therapists offer tips, exercises to help reduce stress now
First things first: check in with your basic needs. In stressful times, it can be easy to overlook basic self care. Are you hungry? Tired? Lonely?
“If someone’s basic needs aren’t being taken care of, any de-stressing technique might not be as effective,” therapist Annette Schulz said.
We're going to focus on accessing things that feel grounding, safe, secure and pleasant.
Take a moment and find something that has some sort of small movement — for example, a tree with leaves blowing, or a candle flame. Turn your awareness towards your breath.
If everything around you is still, you can also turn your attention towards an image in your mind that feels particularly safe or peaceful. Schulz suggests beginning to focus on your breath with that image in mind, breathing into the image as if you were there.
“Going to a calm place in your mind can help to ground you in more positive thinking,” said Henrietta Couillard, a therapist at The Family Partnership.
Couillard recommends using your senses to help situate yourself in this mental image — What does it feel like physically? What does it sound like? What does it look like? What are the smells around you? Who, if anyone, is with you? What are the positive emotions you associate with that experience?
“Stay in that place until you feel calm and relaxed, and slowly come back to the present,” Couillard said.
Now that you’ve found that calm place, we'll try some simple breathing exercises together. The next slide will animate this process for you so you can get the rhythm down.
For a little extra support, Schulz recommends placing one hand on your heart and one on your upper stomach to help better feel your breath. Focus on breathing deep into the stomach, not just into the chest.
Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds.
Hold your breath for 2 seconds.
Breathe out through your mouth with pursed lips for 6 seconds.
Matthew Paymar, counselor and clinical director at Core Psychotherapy, recommends a similar breathwork exercise but with slower holds and exhales — in for four seconds, hold for seven, out for eight seconds.
“It is medically proven to reduce stress,” Paymar said, “And counting interrupts looping thoughts and distracts the mind from worrying.”
Releasing physical tension in the body is also helpful in combating stress, which can get locked up in the muscles, Schulz said. Couillard suggests a full body scan to slowly release tension from each part of your body.
“Start by focusing on the top of your head, consciously feel and release any tension by moving down to your neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and continuing down to your toes,” said Couillard. “Feel the earth beneath your feet.”
If you’re short on time, simple position changes can also help. Schulz recommends moving into the opposite posture from what you are currently in — for example, if you are feeling overwhelmed while sitting at your desk, stand up and move around. Alternatively, if you are stressed standing up, take a seat or lie down.
“Chewing gum and clenching/releasing hands can also help to mitigate stress and tension,” Couillard said.
Looking for more stress relief? Scroll down to see some calming nature photos, or read these articles for more tips on relaxing.
Ground yourself with these photos of nature throughout Minnesota
Click the links below to view more Star Tribune nature photography, or scroll down to find a treasure trove of cute animal photos.