Mindfully Managing Stress
LIVIA MARATI - FOUNDER OF INA WELLNESS COLLECTIVE
I led a workshop for a group of 5-10 year olds recently, and asked them what were the first words that came to mind when they heard the word stress. Responses ranged from school work to anxiety to feeling nervous, mad and sad. Later on, I asked them to think about what makes them feel less stressed. The results? They got creative! Stress-relief activities included drawing, dancing, playing sports, making slime, listening to music, playing with their pets and (my personal favorite) building forts!
In designing workshops and programs for both kids and adults, my approach is actually quite similar. I level set on what stress is and how it works, and then focus on 4 key ways to bring mindfulness into the mix:
1 - Let’s get perspective
The first exercise I do in almost all my stress workshops with both kids and adults is to help them get out of their own heads. I ask them to make a list of everything that is causing stress in their lives, and then go back through that list and take note of what’s in their control and what’s out of their control. This is typically a light bulb moment for most! Many of the situations on people’s stress lists are actually things they have no control over, yet consume a big chunk of their headspace. In order to start to manage our stress, we sometimes need a birds eye view of what’s on our plate. From there, we can refocus our time and energy on what’s in our sphere of control.
2- Ditch the “stress free” mentality
I hate to break it to everyone, but the goal isn’t to live with no stress. Stress is actually a very normal part of life, and the good kind of stress can help us grow and become more resilient. Our bodies will experience multiple bursts of stress daily (referred to as acute stress) throughout our lives. Whether it’s sitting in traffic, our alarm clock going off, taking a test, riding a rollercoaster, taking on a new project or public speaking, the goal is to recognize stress, acknowledge it, and start to change our perception of it from being a threat to being a challenge. This gets interesting as we get older, and we start to experience both healthy and less healthy ways of coping.
3- Design your toolkit
What are your 3-5 tried and true tested things that you know work for you to manage stress? A few popular items on stress toolkits these days:
- Drink water
- Eat 3 balanced meals
- Talk it out with friends
- Movement - yoga, sports, gym etc.
- Unplug from technology
- Get out in nature
- Take a hot shower
Regardless of what’s in your toolkit, it’s important to evaluate how frequent you can fit these activities into your schedule, and start to build them into your weekly routines whether it’s a stressful period or not.
4- Breathe it out
Finally, the biggest tool that I teach adults and kids that can be added to their stress toolkits is related to our breath. Breathwork allows us to pause from our overactive sympathetic nervous system (aka “fight or flight” mode) and tap into our parasympathetic nervous system (aka “rest and digest” mode). That’s where healing and relaxation can occur. While there are a wide variety of breathwork techniques for stress and anxiety, my favorite one is the easy to remember box breath technique. Try it out:
- Inhale for 4 counts
- Hold the breath for 4 counts
- Exhale for 4 counts
- Hold the breath for 4 counts
- Repeat for 3 rounds!
Enjoy the process of designing (and evolving) your stress toolkit and finding healthy, enjoyable ways to manage stress. Need inspiration? Remember what brought you joy as a kid!
Use code 'ONTHELIST2021' for $10 off an Ina Wellness Collective membership
“Ina” is the CHamoru word meaning “to illuminate.” Based on the beautiful island of Guam, we are a collective of individuals who are passionate about helping people reconnect with their bodies and themselves. Through thoughtfully designed events, retreats and programs, we promote wellness in all of its forms, from yoga and movement, to meditation and breathwork, to the healing power of food and plants. Our experiences encourage unplugging from technology and reconnecting with the natural beauty of Guam.
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