When we are anxious, worried, and stressed, our bodies can have a very physical reaction. Our heart rate increases. We have changes in our breathing, get sweaty palms, or feel like we aren’t thinking quite straight. Finding ways to self-soothe can be helpful in the moment to help you get through.

The key to finding the right technique is to try some out and learn which is a good fit for you. There’s not a one size fits all plan.

Here are a couple of stress relievers for you to try that take little time and cost nothing! Please note that these were written with an emphasis on being quick, but you can make them longer if you prefer.

Deep Breathing
Time needed to complete: 45 - 60 seconds.
Goal: Use the intake and release of air from your lungs to alleviate the symptoms of mental and physical stress.

We’ve all heard of deep breathing and perhaps you’ve even tried it out before. Deep breathing can be very simple and helpful in almost any situation. You don’t need special tools or skills. You don’t have to be in a particular place. You can do it anywhere and it literally takes less than 60 seconds.

  1. Close your eyes if you want and are able. Some people do not feel safe closing their eyes, so feel free to keep them open if you’d prefer and just focus on one spot.
  2. Picture the air around you being clear, crisp, and clean.
  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose, counting to three as you inhale.
  4. Feel the clear, crisp, clean air filling up your lungs.
  5. Form an “o” with your mouth and push the air back out, counting to three as you exhale.
  6. Repeat this three times.

Some people like to breathe in/out through just their nose or just their mouth. Try different ways out and see what feels most natural for you.

Time needed to complete: 3 ½ - 4 minutes.
Goal: Use your imagination to picture a relaxing place that you can visit to briefly escape the situation that is causing mental and physical stress.

Before we start, you need to choose your place. What comes to mind when I ask you to think of a relaxing place? This place can be real or imagined. A few examples I have heard from clients are the beach, the forest, downhill skiing, floating in space, a great aunt’s kitchen, a grassy field. Someone once told me that kneading bread dough in their kitchen is their most relaxing place!

Now that you have identified your place, let’s begin. You may find it helpful to have another person read the following steps out loud to you. As you go through each of your five senses, be sure to spend about 20-30 seconds mentally exploring that sense.

  1. Close your eyes. Some people do not feel safe closing their eyes, so feel free to keep them open if you’d prefer and just focus on one spot.
  2. Imagine yourself physically being in your relaxing place. Ask yourself:
  • What do you see? Describe the objects, colors, shapes, brightness, movement. You can say it out loud or keep it quietly in your mind
  • What do you hear? Are there sounds nearby? In the distance? What do you feel physically? Do you feel your feet on the ground or are you sitting somewhere? How does that feel? Are your hands touching anything? Your back? Is there a breeze or warmness or coolness?
  • What do you taste? Is there a saltiness in the air? Is there a flavor of food or drink in your mouth?
  • What do you smell? Are there good smells? Bad smells? No smells?
  1. Once you’ve gone through each of the five senses, review your relaxing place. Revisit any part you’d like.
  2. When you’re ready, take a slow, deep breath and open your eyes if they are closed. Take a few moments to look around the room and re-orient yourself.

Once you’ve tried these techniques out, identify which helps you most and think about how you could use them in your daily life. The stressful situation won’t disappear if we breathe deeply or picture a beach, but the hope is that you can have a little escape so you can keep going and deal with the stress you’re facing.

Please note that the Toolbox articles are meant to be informative and are not a replacement for therapy.

Quick Stress Relievers

Supporting your journey to a healthier, happier you
Sara Frawley, LMHC