Feeling Tense? SNAP out of Stress

juliep11.3

Mindful methods to calm stress, strain, and worry



Have you found yourself posting funny memes, silly videos or amusing clips from TV or movies to share a laugh with your friends? Or have you made a habit of searching YouTube or TikTok for funny cat videos? Laughter is a great way to relieve some of the sadness and seriousness of these times, and reset your nervous system from stressed to calm. So is mindfulness.

Research shows that mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool that can help us:

  • Reduce anxiety, depression and stress.

  • Increase emotional well-being.

  • Build more satisfying relationships.

  • Maintain healthy habits such as diet and exercise.

Studies even suggest that mindfulness may reduce inflammation and improve immune system function — and reduce the harmful effects stress has on your heart and mental health.

The toll stress takes on our physical and mental health, and ways to prevent it, is the focus of National Stress Awareness Day Nov. 3. So let’s look at some of the ways you can use mindfulness to reduce stress.

There are countless ways to enjoy stress relief through mindfulness, from free meditation apps like Insight Timer to practicing mindful housekeeping. In just about anything you do, you can restore your sense of calm and centeredness by directing your attention to the present moment, your breathing, and the physical sensations you feel.

When you feel physical symptoms of stress, such as shallow breathing, racing pulse, or a clenched jaw, it’s a sign that it’s time to take a few minutes to calm and soothe yourself. Remember, you can practice mindfulness to relieve stress in any situation, including:

  • While driving: Control your breathing by making your exhale longer than your inhale to lower your blood pressure and slow your heart rate.

  • When family or relationship drama erupts: Drop your attention to the soles of your feet as you control your breathing to slow the whole show down. Stay focused on your body and your breathing. Breathe in compassion for yourself, and breathe out compassion for the person who is inciting the drama, remembering that it's a sign they are hurting too.

  • At work: Give yourself a few minutes for quiet reflection by closing your door, if you have one, or going for short walk. Ground yourself by touching a polished stone that you keep in your pocket or on your desk, or through the soles of your feet. Take a break at the water cooler and exhale longer than you inhale for a few rounds of mindful breathing.

I came up with the acronym SNAP to help you remember a simple way you can shift out of stress and into a more calm and composed state. Here’s a quick review:

S: Soothing Touch — When you feel stress, where does it show up in your body? Place your hands over that area. It might be your chest, belly, hugging your upper arms, or cradling your face. Try different locations and see which feels most soothing. This supportive touch will allow oxytocin and endorphins to help calm your nervous system.


N: Name the Emotion — Name what you are feeling in the moment. Is it worry? Sadness? Anger? Loneliness? Naming what you feel helps calm the stress response, and gives you time to locate it in your body and soften around it.


A: Act — It’s time to use a tool to help yourself feel better. Asking the ultimate Mindful Self-Compassion question — “What do I need right now?” — is the best place to start. Then do what can reasonably be done with what you’ve got in the moment.


P: Praise — Thank your practice for helping you manage the stress! Thank yourself for showing up day after day, trying to do your best. Thank the universe, or your spirit of choice, for giving you the strength and courage to keep on keeping on.

Walking around in a constant state of stress is hazardous to your health, well-being and relationships — and it feels bad! . Taking time out to pause, soothe, and comfort yourself is a feel-good remedy to the stress that besets us — so try it, in addition to silly pet videos!

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