A Simple Exercise to Help You Manage Stress

I remember I had just started a new job that literally only gave me two weeks of vacation and there was no sick leave.  The first week on the job I was in the emergency room with my 5-year-old son because he woke me up at 3 in the morning with “mom my chest hurts.”  I was wide awake and throwing on clothes to get him to the hospital.  You see my son was a heart patient and the moment I heard that, I was in crisis management mode.

As an engineer, that’s what I’m trained to do. There was no time for panic, and I responded immediately to his words.  Once at the hospital and he was being assessed, panic set in. Not for my child as I knew and believed he would be fine. The panic was that I now had to call my new employer and explain where I was … that I wouldn’t be in today. In a weird way, I was more worried about how that would be perceived by my new boss. Would I be believed, what would they do? I was still under probation.

I know what it’s like to live with chronic stress, to feel hopeless, fearful, and overwhelmed. We can’t always control outside stressors … “Mom, my chest hurts” for example … but we can control the inner turmoil and chaos and how we respond to them.

I’d like to share a simple “trick” I learned to control my own inner turmoil.  I use this still to this day when I feel anxious. In the STEM world in which I work, stress is constant so using this really helps me.  Now, let’s try, shall we.

I want you close your eyes and breathe in slowly for a count of three, a nice deep breath. Slowly release it and imagine all the tension going out of your body with it.  Repeat two more times.  Each time feel the tension leave and your muscles relax.

Simple, right?

Scientific research has shown this simple act calms the nervous system and deactivates the fight or flight mode that stress can trigger. When you are in a stressful situation this breathing exercise tells your body that you are really alright. There really is no danger and it can relax.

So the next time you feel stressed at work, home, or anywhere, take a few deep breaths and see if that doesn’t help you. The cool part is this can be done quickly too.

Oh! And you can do this before bed too! I have found it helps me get to sleep quicker and I sleep better.

Until next time




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