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Stress Relievers

Life can be overwhelming sometimes. Thoughts start whirling around in your head. The story keeps getting worse: "What if....?" "Then ..... will happen." "And then..... I will be really in trouble". You notice your heart is beating a thousand beats a minute and you are starting to feel sick to your stomach and your head is hurting. Sound at least a little familiar?

Well, it is something that happens when we get what is called monkey-mind which is when the little monkey runs around in your head planting thoughts here and there that aren't real. Because how many times do things actually play out the way you thought they would? Even if they do, was it worth getting yourself worked up and sick over the thoughts running around in your mind? If something does actually happen, the best thing to do is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start working on fixing the problem. If you can't fix it yourself, reach out to others.


But, there are some ways to deal with that little monkey running around and making those thoughts come up that lead to the physical symptoms that can make you feel so bad. Here are some things you can do:


1) Breathe: Stop and take a breath, just stop and pay attention to your breath. Stop that monkey in its tracks and tell it that you don't want it to be making up stories in your head anymore.


2) Extend your exhale: When you breathe, make your exhale 2 times longer than your inhale. This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system which helps you "rest & digest" compared to the sympathetic nervous system which is the "fight or flight" one. So try it now: Breathe in: 1 - 2 - 3 and out: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6. And repeat. Feel better, right?


3) The Butterfly Hug: Cross your arms over your chest so your right hand is on your left upper arm and your left hand is on your right upper arm; kind of like giving yourself a hug. Then, rhythmically tap first with your right, then left, then right, then left, and so on for a minute. For more information about the Butterfly Hug, click HERE.


4) The Shivering Horse: Be careful to do this one in a relatively private place or people will think you are having a seizure or something: Bend forward at the waist and let your arms and head hang loose, then shake and shiver your whole body as if you were trying to shake out all of the fear and anxiety, and at the same time, put your lips together and make them vibrate to make that "horse noise" that we used to make as kids (if you can't make that noise easily then stick out your tongue and make make it vibrate in a "razzberry").


5) Laughter: Find something that makes you laugh (click on the links above for "horse noise" and "razzberry" to get you started).

6) Blow bubbles: Blowing bubbles actually extends the exhale like we talked about in number 2) and besides it is fun!

7) The Protecting the Brain: There is this thing called the Hand Model of the Brain where you take your dominant hand, the base of the palm represents the reptilian brain that is responsible for basic functions of our bodies, fold the thumb into the center (this represents the mammalian center that is responsible for emotions), then fold your four fingers over the thumb (the fingers represent the cerebral cortex or the thinking part of the brain and the  represents first joints of the fingers with the nails represent the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for mindfulness and awareness). To see what this looks like click HERE. In order to "protect" and "soothe" your brain (and stop that monkey) take your other hand and cover the "brain" holding it gently and sending it loving and caring thoughts for a minute or so.

8) Practice Mindfulness: Several of the techniques above are mindfulness things you can do in the moment. However, a regular practice of mindfulness meditation can help prevent emotions from getting out of control. One way to do that is to pay attention to your breathing for a little longer than a minute or two (HERE is a video that will help you do that for 10 minutes). Also, some people like guided meditations and HERE is a website that offers several - pick the one(s) you like the best (and if you go to the video section you can see the man who created the original course for the next resource: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction). And finally, HERE is a free course called Mindfulness-Based Stressed Reduction (which I took as an 8 week course in person that really helped and changed my life).

 "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf"- Jon Kabat-Zinn

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