Your toddler decides that the middle of the shopping centre is the best place to have a meltdown— you break out into a sweat. Your demanding mother-in-law comes for a visit and doesn’t leave for two hours — your head pounds. Rumours swirl about possible layoffs at work — you can’t sleep. An unexpected larger than usual heating bill takes a hit on your bank account — your stomach aches.
And as the list of family-life stress factors continue to build up around you, you feel ready to explode, right? So what is the best way to deal with all this stress without having to go outside every night and scream up to the heavens?
First we need to understand what actually happens to our body when we are stressed.
Stress is an automatic physiological response to a perceived danger. It kicks in as a survival mechanism in order to prepare our body to either fight as hard as we can or flee as fast as we can. As a result, our:
- Breathing rate increases to enhance oxygen to our brain;
- Heart rate and blood pressure increases to elevate blood flow to large muscle groups and vital organs;
- Muscles tense up to protect us from injury or pain;
- Blood sugar levels heighten to give us more energy;
- Perspiration increases to allow water to be secreted through the skin instead of the kidneys and bladder.
…And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
Stress is a last resort to a demand or pressure when we don’t have any other ways of responding.
But with the right training, we can create new ways of responding to the demands and pressures of life. Taking the time to address your own worries and decrease your anxiety will benefit both yourself and everyone around you. Luckily, there are relaxation and meditation techniques that anyone can use to decrease their anxiety and the negative impact of everyday stress.
Methods to help reduce anxiety
These techniques are worth trying when kids and people of all ages feel stressed out.
When? Whenever you feel overwhelmed or whenever you remember, e.g. at traffic lights!
- Lightly place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly (for feedback);
- Take a breath in using your diaphragm, feeling your belly rise as you do so (your chest should remain relatively still);
- Breathe out, feeling your belly gently recede (your chest should remain relatively still);
- Whenever you realise that your mind has wandered away, gently return your awareness to the belly breathing;
- Continue steps 2-4 for as little as 30 seconds or as much as 20 minutes.
Present Moment Awareness
- Simply bring your awareness to whatever you are doing (working, listening, eating);
- The mind inevitably wanders away – (approximately 47% of the time according to research);
- When you become aware that your mind has wandered, gently return your awareness back to what you were doing (breath, conversation, food, etc), without any judgement or self-criticism.
When? Before sleep
- Gently place your awareness on the tips of your toes.
- Curiously observe what sensations you might be able to feel in your toes. Without trying to change them in anyway, just feel and observe them as they are.
- Guide your awareness to your feet and again observe any sensations you might be able to feel.
- Slowly continue scanning up the length of your legs, hips, belly, chest, back, arms, all the way to the top of your head – stopping to rest your awareness on each body part and just observing what it there.
- This technique should take around 10 minutes.
When? Twice a day
- Choose an anchor to rest your awareness on (your breath, an image, a sound, a mantra).
- Whenever you happen to realise that your awareness has drifted away, very gently and effortlessly guide your awareness back towards your anchor again.
- Continue the process for 20-30 minutes.
- N.B. This is a simplified instruction of the Effortless Meditation process. To really master the practice (and experience it as easy, enjoyable, and effective), we highly recommend doing our Intro to Effortless Meditation Workshop (complimentary in your 14 Day Trial of the Centred Meditation Studio – in-person and online).
The thing is, children learn anxious behaviours from their parents and the sooner we can teach ourselves and our kids a calm way to deal with the inevitable stress and pressures that life throws at us, the better.
The best time to try these methods is when everyone is relatively calm (such as before bed) and then later integrate these skills during times of heightened stress.
So with everyone in the family equipped with methods to deal with stressful situations you can now play that game of Rummikub without someone storming off to their bedroom upset at who won!