10 Microchillers To De-Stress During National Stress Awareness Month
Forbes April 2021 by Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.
April is National Stress Awareness Month. Research shows when you have fewer stressors in your daily life, you have increased emotional stability, better moods and overall superior health. And you don’t have to spend a lot of time to make that happen.
Studies show just five minutes of chill a day have mental and physical benefits to keep you engaged, calm and energized. These short work breaks lead to higher job engagement and performance as well as better sleep, increased immunity, lower blood pressure, improved digestion, and increased emotional well-being.
10 Ways to Celebrate National Stress Awareness Month
What if you took five minutes during your workday to celebrate the momentous occasion of stress awareness during the month of April? There are 1440 minutes in a day. Five minutes of chill still leaves you 1,435 minutes to prepare for your presentation, meet a deadline or return emails in a calmer, more enjoyable and productive way. Here are 10 Microchillers that are quick, portable, and cost-free:
- Remember H-A-L-T. When stress takes hold, stop and ask yourself if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. When stress overtakes you and pulls you out of your job, this alert signal can bring you back into balance. If one or a combination of the four states is present, slow down, take a few breaths and chill. If you’re hungry, take the time to eat. If you’re angry, address it in a healthy manner. If you’re lonely, reach out to someone you trust. And if you’re tired, rest.
- Breathe from your abdomen. Right under your nose is a valuable antidote to job stress. When stress steals your breath, take a few deep abdominal breaths through your nose. Hold it while you count to six. Then purse your lips and exhale slowly through them. Your body can’t maintain the same level of stress with the extra oxygen you get in your bloodstream when you breathe from your abdomen.
- Don’t “musterbate!” Remove words like must, should, ought, and have to from your self-talk. These self-imposed “rules” can feel oppressive and lead to pressure, frustration and anxiety. Replace these oppressive words with more empowering and compassionate language like “I can” or “I want to” or “I plan to.”
- List your “tallcomings.” Your eviscerating faultfinder—everybody has one—is too quick to judge you, minimize your accomplishments or demote you to an underdog. When your inner critic lashes you for your shortcomings, give yourself the gift of a more balanced view of your capabilities. Throw modesty out the window, and make a list of your accomplishments, what you’re good at and the skills and talents you possess.
- Make a to-be list alongside your to-do list. The compulsion for constant doing defends you from feeling unpleasant emotions and gives you safety and security even if the task itself is satisfying. When you commit to a less stressful life, you notice you can just be without requiring yourself to constantly do. Watch a sunset or a bird build its nest, listen to nature sounds around you or feel a breeze against your face. These activities recharge your batteries and contribute to job success.
- Use WAIT to act instead of reacting. When you find yourself brimming with impatience at co-workers’ seeming dragging-of-the-feet, use the acronym WAIT to chill. Watch what’s going on within when you’re triggered by stress. Accept stressors by saying you’re choosing to wait. Invite the inner reaction to relax by offering compassionate words. Tell your inner reaction, “We’ve got this.” You will notice your heart rate drop, breathing slow and muscles relax.
- Stack your positivity deck. An un-chilled mind can unwittingly constrict your career potential. When your focus is narrow, you build up negativity—which eclipses career possibilities—without realizing it. Keep a broad perspective that allows you to build on the many positive things in your career. Look for the upside of a downside situation; underscore positive feedback instead of letting it roll over your head; focus on the solution instead of the problem; pinpoint the opportunity in a challenge; refuse to let one bad outcome rule your future outlook; take chances instead of letting your survival fears hold the cards.
- Amp up self-care. Routinely putting yourself at the end of the line is a grave disservice that actually works against you. Self-care makes your use of time more sustainable. Healthy eating, rest and regular exercise give you the stamina to withstand any challenge your fast paced job throws at you. Take good care of yourself first, and you have more to give to your job and to your career goals. When was the last time you soaked in a hot bath or indulged in a restorative activity that rejuvenates your mind and body and restores your success juices? Make a ten- or fifteen-minute appointment with yourself, and schedule personal time—a hobby, hot bath, manicure, yoga, facial, reading, a sport, or massage.
- Meditate. Sit in a comfortable place with eyes closed. Breathing in through your nose and out through the mouth, focus on each inhalation and exhalation. Follow your breath through to a full cycle from the beginning when the lungs are full back down to when they’re empty. Then start over again. As you stay with this cycle, mindfully watching your breath, thoughts arise in the form of judgment: wondering if you’re doing it right, thinking about tasks you have to do later, debating if it’s worth your time. Don’t try to get rid of the thoughts. Allow them to arise and accept whatever arises with openheartedness, bringing your attention gently back and focusing on the breath. Each time your attention strays from the breath (and it will), bring your awareness back to it. There’s nowhere else to be, nothing else to do but notice your breath. If your mind gets caught in a chain of thoughts, gently step out of the thought stream and come back to the sensations of your breath. After five minutes or more, open your eyes and notice how much more connected you are to the present moment.
- Set lifelines instead of deadlines. When you set lifelines, you don’t over-schedule. You put time cushions—chances to breathe, eat a snack, go to the bathroom, or just look out the window—between work tasks. When you have lifelines instead of deadlines, you’re less likely to hear that whooshing sound as deadlines go by or feel that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach for “always” being behind. Your days become less hurried and harried, and you enjoy them more. What about it? Do you hear that whooshing sound? Or not?