How to Cope with Stress by Soothing Your Senses
Heightened stress and anxiety are mainstream these days. We’re all feeling it. I enlisted my therapist to share her most effective stress reducing technique. It’s called Surfing the Moment, a mindful strategy to help interrupt negative thoughts and diffuse heightened emotions. It’s a well-being gamechanger.
Stress is a natural part of life. Everyone experiences it to some degree. However, it can have overwhelming negative effects on our physical and mental health when it becomes chronic.
The first step to coping with stress involves identifying its sources. Once identified, finding healthy and constructive ways to reduce the stressors is key.
Studies show practicing deep breathing techniques, engaging in physical activity, and getting enough sleep are the best place to start. Setting boundaries and managing your time also helps get in front of stress. By implementing these and other strategies, you can learn to better manage your stress and improve your overall well-being.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO COPE WITH STRESS
When stressed, your body releases persistent cortisol. Your adrenal glands release the cortisol into your bloodstream. Cortisol is the “stress hormone,” your body’s natural alarm system. It helps regulate your blood pressure, keep inflammation down, and increase your blood sugar.
When stressed, your body signals that it’s in flight or flight mode. This releases more cortisol. Cortisol then slows your body’s natural functions, including metabolism, to help conserve energy to fight the “threat” your brain senses.
When your body is stressed over time, it will continue to pump cortisol. This prevents you from losing fat, especially around your belly. Your efforts to lose fat by going on diets, working out for hours every day, and skipping meals is hurting rather than helping you.
HOW TO COPE WITH STRESS BY SOOTHING YOUR SENSES
Imagine a day when you’ve cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for your family. You also made a grocery run and folded heaps of laundry. After dinner, you clean the kitchen. A family member walks into the kitchen and leaves their dirty dishes in the sink. Then, you discover another family member peed on the toilet seat and left it for you to clean. Stressed yet?
This is where my therapist’s Surfing the Moment technique comes into play. When frustrated, angry or stressed, it’s important to give yourself a time-out. You need to shift your focus to calming all five senses.
Research shows soothing our collective senses helps activate our limbic system. The limbic system is connected to our endocrine and autonomic nervous systems. It’s responsible for processing and regulating our emotions.
Surfing the Moment entails choosing your five favorite sensory soothers. It’s important to choose them before you’re stressed and keep them handy. I keep mine on my phone:
SIGHT – Gazing at the hills behind our home. (If I’m not home, I peruse my Pinterest vacation board.)
SOUND – I’m overstimulated by sound, so silence is ideal.
TASTE – I’ve found drinking Chai SuperLattes rather than inhaling a bag of chips is the wiser choice.
SMELL – I love the calming scent of Palo Santo incense.
TOUCH – Nothing beats petting my canine stress balls.
When you need to cope with stress, breathe. Give yourself a soothing time-out. Go through your sensory list. And trust that Surfing the Moment will help kick your stress to the curb.
You might also like The Pandemic Habits I Plan to Keep.
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