Our personal, professional and daily lives have all been impacted by the pandemic, and as we continue to adjust to the new normal, increased levels of stress can seem inevitable.
It’s important to remember that we have the power to address our stress each day, even if only in small ways. This doesn’t mean invalidating our feelings of sadness, loneliness, grief or overwhelm. It means taking the time to purposefully focus on what we can control.
The following seven strategies can help to manage stress and improve overall well-being. Most of these strategies take about ten minutes to practice. Additionally, healthy habits such as eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep and regular exercise can help manage or decrease stress.
1. Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is an easy stress management strategy that can be practiced in the moment and doesn’t require any tools or even a quiet space to do successfully. Breathing deeply communicates to the brain to relax, and the brain is then able to send this message to the body.
Shallow breathing is associated with “fight or flight,” the body’s response to stressors and danger. By breathing deeply, we can tell our brain and body to understand there is no immediate threat, helping us to calm ourselves.
There are different types of deep breathing; it may take some practice to see which works for you.
- Box Breathing Technique – Ball State University
- Breathing Exercises for Relaxation and Stress Management – University of Michigan
- Breathing Exercise Video – Kati Morton, LMFT
2. Restorative Yoga
We carry tension and stress in our bodies, and movement can help us wring out stress and relax before bed. Restorative yoga is gentle and meant to help the body rest and recharge.
- The Best Restorative Yoga Poses to Relieve Stress – Greatist
- 12 Minute Bedtime Yoga – Yoga with Adriene
Mindfulness and meditation are sometimes thought of as the same thing, but they are different.
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware and fully present in the moment. It doesn’t require closing your eyes or being in a quiet place. Because of this, it may be easier to practice mindfulness than meditation.
Studies show that mindfulness can lower blood pressure, improve digestion, release “happy” chemicals in our brains and relax tension related to pain.
Meditation is a little different from mindfulness in that you are often encouraged to find a calm, quiet space to practice. There are many different types of meditation, so you can experiment to find out which works best for you. Body scans, walking meditations and loving kindness meditation are three types of meditation. These can often be done with audio guidance, so you don’t have to sit in silence to practice.
Mediation can improve focus, boost our ability to connect with others, reduce stress and improve our self-compassion.
Both mindfulness and meditation encourage us to observe our thoughts and feelings without judgment.
Since some of your colleagues may be new to meditation, consider holding a mindfulness or meditation challenge that is shorter in duration than other challenges.
- Mindfulness and Meditation Challenge information, sample flyer and tracker template
- Headspace – The app offers ten free guided meditation sessions; school employees can get access to all features of the app for free
- Calm – The app offers some free guided meditation sessions. Kaiser Permanente offers the app with all features free to members
- Andy Puddicombe’s TED Talk, All It Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes
5. Self-Compassion Exercises
Self-compassion means treating yourself in the way you would treat a friend – with kindness, compassion and understanding. Practicing self-compassion can improve life satisfaction, boost motivation, increase happiness and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Self-Compassion Guided Meditations and Exercises – Self-Compassion.org
- The Transformative Effects of Mindful Self-Compassion – Mindful.org
Journaling is one strategy for managing emotions. Writing thoughts down on paper can help us process our thoughts and feelings and provide a safe outlet for them.
In addition to helping with stress management, journaling can improve mental health and help manage anxiety and depression.
The journal formats below are more structured and scripted, but journaling can be done however works best for you.
- Journal On! Activity – Portland Art Museum; Portland Public Schools; Create More, Fear Less
- Printable Guided Journal – Mental Health America
7. Strategies of Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) Training by Lisa Collins
In December 2020, Lisa Collins provided a STAR training for Oregon educators. STAR introduces the topic of trauma, provides in-the-moment tools for self-regulation and shares tips for building your resilience.
- Recording of Strategies of Trauma Awareness and Resilience Training
- Wellness Toolkit – Education Through Engagement
Resources and Related Reading:
- Relaxation Techniques: Breath Control Helps Quell Errant Stress Response – Harvard Health Publishing
- What is Mindfulness? – Mindful
- How to Meditate – Mindful
- Journaling for Mental Health – University of Rochester Medical Center