We’re just hours away from the first official day of summer! This means trips to the beach, grillin & chillin, and maybe even frosé. But what happens when everyday events (work drama, an argument with a friend, etc.) spoil the fun and snowball into stress and anxiety?
You know what happens, it sucks! You find yourself feeling tight, uncomfortable and/or unable to walk, stand, communicate, or even breathe.
The good news is, experiencing stress and anxiety doesn’t have to ruin your day. NO WAY FROSÉ! In fact, with a combination of practice and patience, you can employ techniques that “short circuit” stress and panic and help you to cool down after a rough patch.
Here are 5 tips for working with stressful energies and ambient anxiety, that can be used at any time, in any place. All of them will start working within 10 minutes or so, as that’s the amount of time it takes for the new, calmer feelings to be absorbed into our bodies and minds. And, best of all, they cost nada!
Let’s get this party started.
THE LOBSTER PINCH
This one is fast-acting and so simple. If you feel anger or anxiety coming on, the lobster pinch will help calm your nerves.
Start this technique by pushing your thumb fingernail deep into the top of your index finger of the same hand. Continue to push the thumb nail into the index finger until it starts to pinch, and really dig in for around 15 seconds. It can and should hurt a little.
The pinching sensation/mild pain forces your mind to focus on something other than the stress. It also tells the body that a new feeling is present, which helps decrease any overwhelming negative feelings and emotions.
This one is great for work/public situations, because it can be done discreetly and is very effective.
COUNT THE BREATH
This one may sound obvious, but remembering to breathe and actually focus on the breath is a game changer for kicking anxiety in the tush. Many of us subconsciously hold our breath when stress kicks in, and if your brain isn’t getting enough oxygen, it will only take longer to get back on track.
When the crappy feelings and emotions rush in, try silently counting the breath. “One” while you inhale, “two” while you exhale, “three” while you inhale, “four” while you exhale and so on. I recommend counting from 1 to 4 and back again, that way you won’t get lost.
Try to make your exhales twice as long as your inhales. This “cools down” the nervous system in a major way.
You’ll notice how the act of counting is both calming and restorative. Check out my guide 5 Easy Ways To Be Healthy Now for another game saving breathing exercise.
YOU BETTA RECOGNIZE
One of the most useful stress busters is taking a moment to recognize our feelings, no matter how crappy they can be. Whether it’s some form of anger, fear, or sadness, get really clear on what’s happening in your mind and body.
Perhaps you’re irate and notice your jaw clenching, or maybe you’re freaked out and your stomach is in knots. That moment of recognition is major. Acknowledging the emotion and physical sensations help us process difficult feelings safely.
For example, silently (or even out loud if you’re someplace private), say something along the lines of “Ok irate, fuming anger - I see you. My jaw is clenching and it feels terrible.” That simple clarity can help you work through the situation and keep things moving.
Our bodies are comprised of about 50-60% water. That’s a lot of liquid, so it’s no surprise that our systems can get stressed when dehydrated, just like a droopy, unwatered plant.
If you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, one of the easiest things to do is have a big glass of water. Not only does it cool you down and hydrate the body, but similar to the lobster claw, it gives your system something else to do, other than focusing on the stressful experience. Try drinking slowly, savoring every sip. Pretend as if it’s the best glass of water you’ve ever had in your life.
Another super quick and simple option is to splash water on your face. Let the cold water run and then give your face a few gentle splashes. Next, put your wrists directly under the tap, so the water hits your veins.
This technique is especially helpful if the stress episode has you feeling dizzy or even overheated. The first thing I do when I get home after a long, shvitzy, stressful day is wash my hands, let the water run over my wrists, and then drink a giant glass of H20.
PHONE A FRIEND
There’s a reason this is called a “lifeline” on that famous game show. The sound of a great friend’s voice can send signals to your nervous system, letting it know that’s it’s safe. Call a friend who is a great listener and can hold it down while you vent, freak out, kvetch, cry or laugh.
When things are difficult, we tend to go insular and keep everything inside. But this is exactly when it’s most important to lean on our buddies. And, if a buddy is not immediately available, start drafting a long email and freewriting how you are feeling. Even if you don’t send it, writing things down can help us to get some distance from what’s going inside and in many cases, can be cathartic. Write on!
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*Watercolor images by Victoria D'Esposito*