Maybe you notice a headache, increased muscle tension, your heart racing, or your breathing quickening. Or maybe you feel a sinking sensation in your stomach, or feel nauseous or queasy.
When something stressful happens, your body thinks “emergency!” and starts activating the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. This leads to a cascade of effects called the stress cycle. The ultimate goal of the stress cycle is to help you deal with the problem at hand as quickly as possible.
But what happens when the stress doesn’t go away? The stress cycle continues to be activated, leading to negative effects in pretty much every body system. Unfortunately a lot of us are dealing with a lot of stress in our day-to-day lives, and our stress cycle is never completed.
Try this grounding technique for immediate stress relief! It brings you back to the present moment and activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your body’s rest and digest functions (the opposite of our sympathetic nervous system).
Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. When you’re ready, open your eyes and look around.
Name out loud (or just say in your head):
5 things you can see – look inside the room and/or outside.
4 things you can feel – like the softness of your shirt, the socks on your feet, the bracelet on your arm, the surface you’re sitting on, etc.
3 things you can hear – like the traffic outside, construction noise, birds singing, or the rain falling.
2 things you can smell – like your soap or shampoo, smells from the kitchen, the fresh air from outside.
1 thing you can taste – if you can, grab a small piece of chocolate or a piece of fruit and take your time really tasting and savouring it for a couple of seconds.
Take a deep breath to end.
And if you’re pressed for time – try this even quicker grounding technique:
Stand or sit with your feet placed firmly on the ground. Really notice the sensation of your feet touching the ground, then slowly make your way up your body, noticing any sensations along the way, all the way to the top of your head. Take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Next time you’re feeling stressed give these techniques a try!