Blood pressure rising? Reset your mind and find your calm with these healthy coping strategies.
A relative who is working your last nerve. A fellow driver who cuts you off in traffic. A total stranger on the internet who makes a rude comment when no one—absolutely no one—asked for it.
They can all dampen your day, especially if you already have other worries on your mind. But you don’t have to let them.
You can’t control how people act, says Sarah Farris, a counselor and founder of Chicago Mind and Body. But you can control how you respond, and that’s the key to taming stress.
Here are four mindfulness tricks that can help you reset your mind and find your calm when you need it most.
Mindfulness Trick #1: Ask Yourself, “What Am I Feeling?”
Here’s the crucial part when someone stresses you out: Simply notice what you are feeling, and don’t judge.
“Removing judgment takes some practice, but it gives room for individuals to experience whatever they authentically feel at the time—be it restlessness, frustration, or even anxiety,” Farris says. “When one moves away from resisting discomfort, they can strengthen their ability to handle unpleasant thoughts and feelings, inviting room for change.”
It can also help to think of yourself as an impartial bystander or even a narrator to describe what you are feeling. This helps you consider the situation calmly and with less bias.
Let’s say a loved one says something snippy at a family dinner. Pause to notice the sensations you feel, Farris says. Maybe your heart races or your stomach churns. Or maybe you’re overwhelmed with negative thoughts or emotions. Notice that feeling—without judging or beating yourself up for getting frustrated.
Mindfulness Trick #2: Burn Off That Negative Energy
When you’re feeling anxious or riled up, physical movement can give you a positive channel to work out that negative energy. Plus, literally removing yourself from the situation can help take your mind off your stressors.
If you can slip off to the gym, your favorite SilverSneakers class, or a local walking path to get your heart rate up, go for it. But if a full workout isn’t in the cards, even as little as 60 seconds of movement in another room can help relieve loads of stress, Farris says.
March in place for a minute, do two to three sets of 10 squats, or work out the tension in your whole body with the standing cat-cow stretch.
Mindfulness Trick #3: Harness the Power of Your Breath
We take our breath for granted, but it’s a powerful thing. It’s how your body gets the oxygen it needs to survive and function properly. But your breath also works with your nervous system to turn up your body’s stress response—or dial it down.
Breathing deeply with your diaphragm, which is a large muscle between your chest and digestive organs, relaxes your nervous system in times of stress, Farris says. Specifically, this type of breathing signals your body to increase its rest-and-digest response and decrease its fight-or-flight response. The result: You’ll help your heart stop racing and your muscles relax.
“Whether you feel insulted or overwhelmed, pause and take a few deep breaths before articulating your feelings or responding to others,” Farris says. And that applies whether you’re talking to someone you love face-to-face or a stranger online.
Try it: Count to four as you inhale. Instead of letting your chest inflate, let your belly fill up. Hold for four counts, and exhale for four counts. Repeat until you feel like your nerves have calmed down and you’re more collected.
Mindfulness Trick #4: Get to the Root of the Problem
Is there something causing ongoing stress in your life? Take a few minutes to see if you can identify what’s bugging you. Use a pen and paper if it helps. And remember, simply observe what you’re feeling without judging yourself.
Now, reflect on your findings. The good news: You probably have more control over your life than you realize—and taking back that control can ease ongoing stress. In fact, recent research says a sense of control can help older adults feel younger and more independent.
Lifestyle, relationship, and physical changes are common stressors among older adults, but you’re not helpless against them. For example, if you’re daunted by moving into a smaller home, there are ways to make downsizing easier. If you’ve lost a loved one recently, there are strategies to cope with grief. Frustrated because your vision isn’t what it used to be? There’s a lot you can do to improve your eyesight naturally.
Still stumped about what’s bugging you or simply not feeling like your usual self? Make an appointment with your doctor, who will want to make sure you’re not dealing with an underlying health issue or medication side effects.
True, it may take time to solve some stressors. But by figuring out what’s causing your stress, you’re already on your way to feeling happier and healthier.
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