In this fast-paced world, our minds spend a lot of time galloping through that ever expanding to-do list. Whether you’re an educator, student, nurse, caregiver, or work in any service environment—or any workplace for that matter—the day-to-day stress of keeping on task can feel overwhelming.
When you give, and give, and give, you can struggle to find time for yourself as well. Before you know it, each day can turn into little more than a series of tasks capped off with worrying about tomorrow. And you can start to feel the exhaustion that comes from spending your strength on others and not taking enough time to recharge.
What if you could slow everything down for a while?
The kids in this video explain how they pause and curb their negative emotions. This is something both kids and adults can do to find a place of calm.
Research Behind Deep, Mindful Breathing
Studies on mindful breathing and meditation abound. In 2014, Johns Hopkins University researchers delved into thousands to pull out the best. Findings from the 47 meditation studies
that made the cut show “mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.”
Mindfulness meditation is also used to benefit kids and adults with trauma
. A JAMA Internal Medicine
study shows how this practice can even help improve sleep
Mindfulness in Schools and Beyond
Schools and other organizations are starting to embrace mindful breathing to help boost emotional resilience. Stress-relieving techniques are flowing into daily routines as mindfulness and yoga rise in schools
. For example, “Morning Mindfulness
” helps a Wichita alternative school improve student focus and reduce disruptive incidents.
Moreover, breathing-based meditation is a common way to cope with stress
and manage anger
Photo: Christopher Futcher / iStock
The Power of Your Outlook
Your attitude in a challenging situation affects how well you can climb out of it. We can’t control all the things that stress us out, but we can choose how we view and react to them.
In CPI training, one of the concepts we teach is called Rational Detachment. We define it as “the ability to manage your own behavior and attitude and not take the behavior of others personally.”
This positive attitude helps you keep your cool and your professionalism. It’s about stepping back and thinking about the variety of reasons for someone’s challenging behavior
. It’s remembering that it may not be about you at all. When you rationally detach, you find constructive ways to release the negative energy
that builds up in tense situations. You find the techniques that work for you to deflate those stress levels.
Here are a few more tools for alleviating stress:
1. Notice your signs of stress.
Do you find that you can’t sit still or concentrate? Has your patience flown the coop? What about headaches or feeling out of breath? Perhaps there’s a disruption in your sleeping or eating patterns. If you’re like me, you’ll feel that tell-tale tautness in your shoulders.
2. Focus on your breathing.
Like the kids in the video above, imagine the air around you, ready to fill and revitalize you.
Relax your muscles. Then slowly, deliberately, draw that air in through your nose, and feel your lungs expand and your abdomen rise. Then, just as gradually, start releasing that breath back into the atmosphere until it’s all set free. Repeat as needed.
Do you feel better?
Deep breaths naturally help you relax, and focusing on taking those breaths shifts your attention from the hectic world for a moment. This provides an opportunity to keep composure in difficult situations.
3. Take a break from technological distractions.
Large doses of all the light and noise that come along with the computer, TV, smartphone, etc. can be draining. Stepping away from the screen once in a while helps me get through a long day.
I also like walking, even when uncooperative weather confines me to inside the building. The best stress relief comes when I can get outside and listen to the birds (and take their photos if they’re not too camera shy). It’s my favorite way to revitalize during the workday.
Photo: Aryn Lietzke
4. Find what helps you.
Just as we all manifest stress differently, we need different ways to manage it. Sometimes a friend’s tip will also work for you. Other times, you’ll need to find a different approach. When it comes to these strategies, I like the more-the-merrier approach. When you build a collection of stress-relieving techniques, you can pull out the one that works best for that specific moment.
For example, music is one of my favorite ways to ditch stress. There’s no method for letting go of frustration I enjoy more than singing 80’s tunes along with the radio. When I’m not alone in the car, however, this isn’t such a viable option (especially since what my voice has in rhythm and enthusiasm, it pretty much lacks in tune).
When I’m at the office, taking a few deep breaths is a better way to take my mind off a problem for a moment and then return to it refreshed.
My go-to methods for lessening stress are things I do even when not feeling the pressure. When a method becomes part of your routine, it’s that much easier to use it when navigating through those whirling emotions of stress or anger to find your place of calm.
What are some ways you’ve found to weave stress relief into your routine?
For great tips on how to reduce stress and bounce back faster from burnout and fatigue, check out our podcast interview with author, Olympian, and Rhodes Scholar Bonnie St. John.