Tips for Managing Stress

When I was in graduate school for social work, every professor without exception emphasized the importance of self-care. I heard time and again that taking time out to relax, exercise – whatever it takes to manage the stress – was critical for success in school. My first thoughts: What time? Where is this magical time coming from? With a full-time course load and managing my home life, where exactly will I find time to relax? Back then, when I had that rare extra moment, I fell asleep!

Does this sound familiar? I have good news – there are some simple things you can do to manage the stress in your life. The reality is that, with some exceptions, stress (good or bad) isn’t going away. However, being proactive on how to manage the challenges we face is helpful.

One powerful stress management tool I often use is tapping. Tapping, also known as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a form of energy medicine and involves tapping on various acupuncture points on the body. Gary Craig, one of the early developers of EFT, has an excellent video outlining the basics of the EFT process. This, too, can be done anywhere and at any time. I encourage you to give it a try!

Another very simple and quick technique I use to calm my stress is Soft Belly Breathing. This short breathing meditation involves breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowly and deeply. When you breathe in this way, you cannot be anxious, because it’s not physiologically possible for your body! Go to the Center for Mind-Body Medicine to listen to James Gordon, creator of Soft Belly Breathing, teach soft belly breathing. Once you’ve learned it, you can do it anywhere – before a test, in a traffic jam…anytime.

Lastly, the messages we tell ourselves on a regular basis – that inner chatter – can be powerful. Give yourself healthy, calming messages. These may be short sentences, such as “I will remember to breathe as I write my final paper.” Or, you may want to use simple meditations. I want to share this brief meditation from the book “Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life” by Thich Nhat Hanh, which can help you set an intention for your day:

As you wake up each morning and before you get out of bed, breathe three in-breaths and out-breaths, repeating the following verse silently for each in-breath and out-breath:

Breathing in, I fill my new day with

joy/ faith/ love/ gratitude/ mindfulness/ ease/ harmony.

Breathing out, I smile.

For the in-breath, choose one of the words that most appeals to you. 

Interested in learning more about managing your stress? Register for HSC402 Managing Stress today! This course teaches many practical strategies to alleviate stress.  For now, as you finish reading this, take a nice deep breath.