This is part one of a five part series exploring simple, easy to implement stress management techniques we can do every day. These are powerful techniques that are easy to learn and they do not take a lot of time or effort. If you do not have time to listen to a guided relaxation CD, or participate in an exercise program or meditate for 30 minutes each day, then these techniques will give you a quick way to begin to combat the effects of stress. No excuses, everyone has time for this stuff so let’s get to work!
I have people asking me constantly for simple stress management techniques to take the edge off. Let’s face it, we are moving forward at a pace today that supersedes anything in human history. And, last time I checked, we are not doing so well. Just read the latest statistics in regard to our health in this country and the trend is shocking. We are doing more with less resources and trying to fit it all in at an absolutely blistering pace…something’s got to give! All the latest information and analysis shows us that the ordinary day to day stress in our lives is responsible for two-thirds of all doctors’ visits! Folks, that’s everything from the common cold to heart disease and cancer, and if stress is not the primary cause of the problem, it is certainly a contributing factor.
When I was working as a police officer I became certified as a stress management practitioner and began working with people who were immersed in stress through their jobs as emergency services personnel. I know from personal experiences the effects that stress can have on the body and our mental health. By far the most important stress management technique I always teach people first involves simple breathing! I know what you are thinking…you are already breathing all day long. True, but most of you are doing it all wrong!
I will watch my co-workers while they are typing, intensely focused on some project. Their breathing is so shallow it’s amazing they are able to even sustain their life! Not only is their breathing shallow, but it is also mostly done with the upper chest. This is not an efficient way to breathe and it robs the body of precious oxygen. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty thrilled oxygen is still free and since I’m not paying for it I’m going to take in as much as I can. When it comes to breathing you can splurge and be greedy!
Proper breathing begins in the diaphragm. The diaphragm acts as a bellows in the body and as it expands it pulls air into the lungs. Filling the lungs properly will provide you with amazing results in reducing stress. All that oxygenated tissue will help every process of the body including your ability to focus, digest food, and relax muscles, just to name a few. Virtually every aspect of your physical and mental health can be improved with proper breathing.
Let’s take a look at how we can take a proper breath. Put one hand on your chest and your other hand on your stomach. Now take in a full and complete breath, filling your lungs with as much air as possible. Once you have finished inhaling then exhale, keeping your hands in place. Take another breath and this time pay close attention to how your hands move. What you’re shooting for is to have the hand on the stomach move outward from the body first as the lungs fill with air. As more air fills the lungs then the upper hand should move outward from the body as your chest expands. When you exhale the hand on the chest should move in before the hand on the stomach and you should exhale fully and completely.
I would recommend you take 40 deep breaths every day. By the way, don’t do this all at once unless you enjoy feeling faint, I don’t want you hyperventilating and passing out! I like to pick something to remind myself to breathe. Typically, I watch the clock and that can cause me to start to feel stress in the form of muscular tension coming into the body. So, every time I find myself looking at my watch, I pause to take a full diaphragmatic breath. I also use this technique when the phone rings, so before I answer I have taken a full breath and felt a wave of relaxation wash over me. It really helps me prepare for whatever I may be facing. This also works well for those times I feel that anger coming on due to the daily opportunities for personal development and growth my 15 year old daughters’ drama brings into my life.
You just can’t find an easier technique that can do so much for helping to control stress. Try this for yourself for the next week. Make the commitment to change this one aspect of your life and you will begin to see the power of simple stress management techniques. In part two of this article we will explore the power of setting a positive intention.
Rodger Ruge is a retired police officer, stress management trainer and author of The Warrior's Mantra, Barricade Books. Rodger is available for seminars and training on stress management. You can contact Rodger through his website at http://www.readyforce.net .