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Five Simple Steps to Relieve Stress Right Now

Manage stress and feel good about yourself

Katrina Radke Gerry | September 4, 2012

Are you feeling stuck? Have you been stressed lately? We all deal with adversity at some point in our lives. The key is to know how to manage these moments and still feel good about ourselves.

Step 1: Breathe and get present

When we’re stressed, we don’t notice that our breathing becomes shallow. Pay attention to how you are breathing right now. Are you letting air get past your neck? This is the simplest step and yet we often neglect it.

Take 10 slow deep breaths right now: Close your mouth, and breathe in fresh air into your nose, letting your belly rise. As you exhale, let your mouth open, jaw relax, and belly fall, releasing tension. Try this three times per day for the next week.

Step 2: Get the ego/mind quiet

The focus on breathing is to help you feel calmer. The next step is to help the mind calm down as well. The ego/mind likes to struggle, worry, and create irrational fears. As you breathe in, say “one” to yourself, or, if you prefer a visual, see the number one. Then, as you exhale, say or see the number two. Continue up to 10. If you notice other thoughts coming into your brain, go back to number one. It might be hard to get to number 10— that is okay! The goal is to become less attached to your thoughts, which will give you the ability to focus when you want to.

Step 3: Reframe your thoughts

Once you’ve done the number exercise, you might have some self-talk going on that is not so encouraging, like “Gosh, I can only get to two before my mind starts talking,” or “I was thinking about what I was going to have for dinner.” If you’re good about beating yourself up, realize you can change this habit.

When you notice yourself doing this, STOP. Then, smile and tell yourself or write down a few things that you can reframe in your mind and feel good about. They can be as simple as: “I took out the trash this morning and made my bed.” or “I didn’t want to do swim in the cold pool, but did it anyway, and feel better because of it.” Or even, “I was stuck in a conflict, but I summoned the courage to have that conversation with that person.”

Step 4: You are okay just as you are—appreciate you

Keep practicing Step 2, with the knowledge that there is no magic number, answer, or award. It is about starting to be aware, experience each moment, and appreciate wherever or however you are, in the moment. Step 4 will help you counter negative self-talk.

Write down three things that you can do to show appreciation for yourself. It can be a simple as looking in the mirror and saying “I love you” or “I love that I have committed to taking care of my health by swimming five days per week,” (or eating at least one piece of fruit per day, or getting a check up, etc.). Give yourself an appreciation day, buy yourself flowers, take a bath, or make a nice meal. What is something that you can do for you, today?

Step 5: Choices and creating positive changes

It’s easy to get comfortable beating yourself up and recreating the same patterns. Maybe you keep telling yourself that you’re a great workout swimmer but not a good racer, and thus have difficulty racing at a meet. How can you change this habit? You can choose to see what is possible. You might try a different warm-up, or pretend warm-up is just another practice, which may help calm your mind. This may give you the clarity or courage to just go for it in the race.

Use these five steps to help you relieve stress and treat yourself the way you want to be treated. Whatever your issues are, you get to decide that you are worthy, and that you deserve to feel good, even if you’re not used to it … yet.

Katrina Radke, an Olympian and USMS world record holder, is a motivational speaker, therapist and coach. She is the author of "Be Your Best Without the Stress,” (available at amazon and other online stores)" and co-producer of 7 Ultimate Fitness Routines, both available at www.katrinaradke.com and wecoach4u.com.

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