Release Stress in a Helpful Way
Adapted directly From “What to do when your Temper Flares” by Dawn Huebner, Ph.D.
Stress is like fuel in your body, you need to get rid of it by burning it off. One way is to have physical activity, something that gets your heart rate up and breaks a sweat and takes about 15 minutes. This method works best if you’re focused on the activity itself or on something unrelated to whatever you are unhelpful about. To get unhelpful thoughts out of your head during the physical activity, count in your head, sing out loud, or say a word over and over again.
Plan ahead to have an activity in mind that you can do at home, at school and when you are outside. Sometimes it even helps if you have an activity planned that you don’t need special permission for, such as jumping on a trampoline, or running up and down the stairs in your house.
Sometimes it’s better do something to slow down the stress, something relaxing and private. There are three methods, Stretch, Squeeze and Tap. You should try each method to see which one you like best. You can practice every day even if you are not feeling unhelpful, then it will be easier to do when you are upset. IF YOU DO NOT PRACTICE WHEN YOU ARE CALM, IT IS NOT LIKELY THAT IT WILL WORK WHEN YOU ARE UPSET. You will have to retrain your body and your brain, but it will work if you don’t give up and practice about every day for two weeks.
Breathing is an important part of each of the quiet methods. The kind of breathing that works the best starts by taking in breath through your nose. Breathe in very deep, all the way into the bottom of your stomach, and count slowly in your head 1, 2, 3. Then breathe out, keeping your mouth closed and count slowly in your head, 1, 2, 3, 4. The out-breath is a little longer than the in-breath. This will take practice, as it is different than regular breathing. It’s ok to open your mouth a little until you get the hang of it.
Some people like to imagine smelling something really good like _______________________. When you breathe in imagine the good smell and when you breath out, imagine the stress slowly leaving your body like red hot smoke. Either counting or imagining a good smell will help you stop focusing on the thing that was making you upset, it is very important to get the stress out of your mind as well as your body.
With the breathing you can do one of 3 things, STRETCH, SQUEEZE OR TAP.
CHOICE 1: STRETCH
1. Stretch your arms up over your head. Reach your fingertips for the ceiling; breathe in 1-2-3 and out 1-2-3-4.
2. Put your hand on your shoulders with your elbows pointed out to the side. Breathe in as you twist slowly to one side, breath out as you twist to the other side. Twist back and forth, gently stretching your body with each twist. Keep breathing.
3. Now, clasp your hands behind your back. Bend forward while you bring your arms up and behind you, stretching gently to raise your arms toward the ceiling. Breathe in 1-2-3 and out 1-2-3-4 once and then again, twice.
4. Straighten up and drop your hands to your sides. Roll your head gently to one side, then the other, back and forth, keep breathing.
CHOICE 2: SQUEEZE
1. Grab a pillow, and suck in a big lungful of air. While you are breathing in, squeeze the pillow as tightly as you can. Even if it’s a small pillow, put your whole body into the squeeze. Tighten your arms around the pillow, scrunch up your face, and stiffen the muscles in your legs. Keep your whole body in that giant squeeze while you breathe in and count 1-2-3 in your head.
2. Loosen your grip on the pillow and relax everything while you breathe out, counting 1-2-3-4.
3. Stay relaxed, no squeezing this time, and do one more slow, deep breath in 1-2-3 and out 1-2-3-4.
4. Breathe in and squeeze again, just like in #1 and repeat steps 1 to 3.
5. Do this pattern a total of 5 times, with breathing in and squeezing, breathe out and relax. Make sure you do a relaxing breath without squeezing in between.
CHOICE 3: TAP
1. Cross your arms to make an X over your chest. Tap your right shoulder with your left hand, and then your left shoulder with your right hand. As you tap, count in your head. Tap once for each number you say to yourself.
2. Breathe slowly but don’t count your breaths, you have to count your taps instead.
3. Keep going— right, left, right, left, right, left, tapping back and forth, over and over again, counting until you get to 100. This may seem like a big number, but just try it and you will see it only takes about 2 minutes.
4. Keep your arms crossed and take two extra breaths, slow and relaxing, in and out through your nose. In 1-2-3 and out 1-2-3-4, pause then do it again, in 1-2-3 and out 1-2-3-4.
5. Do the taps one more time, right, left, right left, with arms crossed, counting to 100.
Great, now all you have to do is try each method one time and pick one to start with for practice. If you don’t practice when you are calm, you won’t be able to slow your body down when you are upset. Practice at least once a day for 10 days. Also, try to practice when your body or heart is revved up due to exercise instead of stress because that will be the best practice of all. If the method you picked doesn’t work try a different method. Even if this doesn’t help your stress all the time, if it helps a little, it is still worth it to try.
Get the book “What to do when your Temper Flares” by Dawn Huebner, Ph.D. for more information