Tips for Managing Stress and Anxiety
Try these exercises to help you cope with anxiety and other strong emotions. They will help you focus your attention on something outside of yourself. This way of distracting you from whatever unpleasant feelings or thoughts you are having helps you be in the moment, reduce or alleviate unpleasant feelings and thoughts, and increase your sense of personal control.
Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees bent and your head supported. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs OR sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed.
Pursed Lip Breathing (to slow down your breathing)
- Relax your neck and shoulder muscles.
- Breathe in (inhale) slowly through your nose for two counts (one, two). Keep your mouth closed and take a normal size breath.
- Pucker or “purse” your lips as if you were going to whistle or gently flicker the flame of a candle.
- Breathe out (exhale) slowly and gently through your pursed lips while counting to four (one, two, three, four).
- Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
- Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.
To reduce tension from head to toe. Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed OR sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed.
- Close your eyes and focus on tensing and relaxing each muscle group for two to three seconds each.
- Start with the feet and toes, then move up to the knees, thighs, rear, chest, arms, hands, neck, jaw and eyes — all while maintaining deep, slow breaths.
- Try breathing through your nose and holding for a count of five while the muscles tense, then breathe out through the mouth on release.
Sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed. Focus on what is going on around you. As you go through the list say them silently or out loud to yourself.
- Notice 5 objects you can see
- Notice 5 colors you can see
- Notice 5 shapes you can see
- Notice 5 textures you can physically feel, taking the time to notice how it feels against your skin or body
Allow about 15 minutes to complete one full cycle. It is preferable to find new things you can see, hear, and feel as you go through the exercise, but not necessary.
Continue this exercise by identifying 4 of each and then 3, 2, and 1.
- The lyrics to a favorite song or poem
- Count backwards by threes from 100
- A Prayer or Mantra such as The Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.