Stress can take over fast and when you’re least expecting it. You can just be on your way to work one morning, excited and prepared for the day, when traffic piles up due to an unexpected traffic accident.
Next thing you know, you’re freaking out because you’re going to miss that 9:30 a.m. meeting, which will then set back your entire day and make you work late.
In reality, there’s nothing you can do about the traffic, because it’s outside of your control. But acknowledging that fact doesn’t always keep you from stressing yourself out.
What you can control is your reaction to the traffic, or other similar, stress-inducing events in your life. Now, when you feel yourself becoming too stressed, you can do this simple technique from Margaret Townsend for Real Simple, which can help you calm down and de-stress in just two minutes.
Townsend’s video says that when we’re stressed, we tend to breathe in a shallow way, without emptying our lungs completely. Unfortunately, breathing in this manner will only make your body feel more tense and will increase your fight-or-flight response, according to the video.
To stop this from happening, Townsend says you should do these things:
- First, place your hand on your chest, inhale, and then exhale in a sighing release. As you exhale, feel how your chest falls softly down. Breathe like this a few more times and think about your lungs “releasing toxins and stale air” as you exhale, according to the video. When you exhale, imagine that you’re creating space for fresh air. Do this a few times.
- Then, inhale and, on the exhale, whisper “la, la, la,” the entire time you are exhaling. You don’t have to do it loudly, so don’t worry about your cubicle mate overhearing your breathing exercise. Townsend says that the la-las will help carry the air out of your body.
- Next, breathe normally, feeling your chest rise and your abdomen soften as you breathe out. Keep breathing and softening your belly on the exhale until your entire body begins to soften. You’ll realize that you begin to empty your breath with long exhales without having to force them. Enjoy this natural breath.
Then, rest your hands in your lap and just let your body rest in this stress-free space for a few moments. Return to your usual activities, hopefully feeling much less stressed.