How to Relieve Stress

Everyone needs to know how to relieve stress. We all suffer from its negative effects at times so it's really important to have our own armoury of effective ways to relieve stress and reduce it's impact on us physically, emotionally and psychologically. Sadly, you can't take a yoga class or a relaxing holiday right in the middle of that horrendous departmental meeting, so you need other strategies too.

Knowing how to relieve stress in ways that work for you is about knowing what makes you relax. Stress and relaxation are in many ways opposite states, so by definition if you are relieving stress you will be entering into it's opposite state. While stress is all about stimulation (including over- stimulation and under-stimulation), relaxation is about reducing stimulation; or changing it to a different, more conducive sort of stimulation; or eliminating it entirely for a period of time. Rather like taking a mini holiday, in fact.

How to relieve stress in an emergency

Yes, I know it can be hard to know how to relieve stress. You're a busy person running from one thing to another and spinning half a dozen plates in the air at a time. Stress seems to be the very air that you breathe.

But you've found this page so you must be looking for ideas you can put into use, yes? So here are a few - some of which even the most time-pressed of us can fit into our daily routine, even if you end up having to do it in the loo.

Each of the techniques below reduces the negative stimulation of stress and replaces it with a calming and positive stimulation.

How to relieve stress using
Heart Math coherence technique

This is a very quick and simple technique that takes literally a minute to do.

The Quick Coherence Technique from focusses you on a) your heart and b) replacing a draining emotion with a positve, energising one. The technique is very simple, discreet (do it on the bus or tube, or even in a meeting). It can reduce your heart rate and therefore the production of unhelpful stress hormones in that time. It is an invaluable technique for a "quick fix" when the heat is on.

There is loads of other interesting and useful stuff on the website (beware of similar websites that only offer you the heart monitor gizmo without all the very useful, free information). Their De-Stress Kit is a resource pack with lots of useful advice and techniques for reducing stress, and it's all free.

How to relieve stress using EFT

Also very rapid in its effect is a quick application of pressure to certain accupuncture/ accupressure points.

One of the most effective points for many people is known (in EFT, or Emotional Freedom Techniques, the "emotional accupuncture" approach) as the collarbone point.

To find it - there are two of them actually - locate the two nobbles either side of the soft depression at the bottom of your throat. Just under each nobble is another small indentation - they are what EFT tappers call the collarbone point - the chart below will help you to locate it.

Simply a) focus on whatever is stressing you out and if possible speak it aloud, using your own words - the below are just examples:

  • "that crazy driver!"
  • "OMG the boss wants it NOW and I haven't done it!"
  • "This awful feeling of dread"
  • Or simply feel the emotion
  • Or "rant and tap" i.e. say what's going either out loud or in your head, unedited, un-prettied up and as it comes

..whilst b) tapping on the collarbone point. Use the sort of pressure you would while tapping your fingers thoughtfully on your desk/knee etc. If you are feeling very sensitive and "in" the feeling, just holding your fingers to the point may be enough.

Be prepared for a brief crescendo of emotion as you tap - this is a good thing, as it is a sign of stuck energy starting to move again. You might also, at the moment when the energy shifts, find yourself yawning, getting watery eyes, sighing, or something similar - these are all also signs that something has shifted.

This is an extremely quick EFT "first aid" technique, and may be all you need to know for now. However, the full EFT procedure is really not much longer, and if built into your daily routine makes a very effective stress reducer.

The basic mechanics of EFT are very simple and just involve tapping on the points as set out in the chart below, whilst focussing on the issue that is troubling you.

Of course, there's a little bit more to it that that, once you get into the layers of emotional patterns we all carry, but nevertheless EFT is somewhat easier and more amenable to "self-help" than some other approaches. Try for more information about how, and why to tap.

By the way, EFT is also an extremely handy technique to know for helping others to manage acute stress. I recently sat with a friend in the middle of an intensely painful and somewhat frightening attack of endometriosis and migraine combined. By using the full EFT techniqe i.e. getting the person to focus on the most intense aspects of what's going on whilst tapping, working in different aspects as they arose "the pain in my uterus", " the pain in my head", I'm afraid I'm going to faint", "I shouldn't have drunk that coffee" etc.) was able to help my friend reach significant relief very quickly, which allowed her to go to sleep and recover.

How to relieve stress with controlled breathing

Controlled breathing is even simpler than the above two techniques. It's based on yoga techniques; you simply focus on your breath as you breath in a mindful way, ideally slightly more deeply than your usual breathing rate.

Then make your outbreath slightly longer than the in-breath. So for example you might breath in to the count of five, and breath out to the count of seven or eight. Don't ever force or strain on either the in or the out breath - the outbreath need only be slightly longer. You can achieve this by either making a slight whispering sound as you breath out, or by very slightly narrowing the throat on the outbreath.

Do this a few times whenever you are under stress, and the simple act of focussing on your breath will alter your breathing rate and shift you into a more relaxed state.

A slight variation, and the way I prefer to use controlled breathing, is to also hold the breath in for the same count as the in-breath before breathing out. Again the important thing is the ratio, so something like 5/5/6 will work - breath in for a count of five; hold for a count of five; breath out for a count of 6 or more.

Do what ever works for you but remember, make the out breath slightly longer, without straining.

How to relieve stress - on an ongoing basis, or even permanently?

The above are simple ideas about how to relieve stress when you are right in the middle of something stressful. They are useful and effective especially if applied frequently. When you do this your system will soon instantly recognise that you are offering it something positive and start to shift into the more relaxed state.

It is beneficial to integrate these techniques into your daily routine. Pick one of the techniques and give yourself a couple of minutes to practice it twice a day for three weeks. In that time you will train your system to know how to implement the emergency measures without much conscious thought - and yes that includes the EFT, as you can just imagine the tapping points whilst tuning into the issue, and this will often have a similar effect. When you've ingrained the habit you'll be able to quickly slip into doing almost without thinking about it when you need it.

Even better, add to it a daily yoga practice or to your meditation routine and you will be well on the way to lowering your stress "set point" so that your system doesn't fire up into fight or flight quite so instantaneously.

On their own these quick techniques will not relieve chronic stress. For this, you need both some more substantial strategies in addition to these, and to be able to address more fundamental issues about how you get into that state in the first place.

It may not seem like you can do much about some of the stressful factors in your life, but you can do more than you think you can - for example each of these quick and basic techniques has longer, fuller versions to enable deeper relaxation, and EFT in particular, can even be used to clear out and eradicate lifelong, habitiual stress triggers so they are no longer there.

Once you have a bit more of handle on yourself, it is going to be that little bit easier to start having conversations with other people about the things that concern you, and to make changes to your environment where possible.

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