Do you remember a time when you felt stressed to the max, and someone kindly told you, “Just breathe.” You probably wanted to smack them square on the jaw. Or fling them into the nearest wall.
Friendly advice like this – at the wrong moment – may, in fact, just exacerbate your stress response further. On top of feeling all the amped up, you may then feel belittled, ashamed, or out-of-control too.
Here’s the problem. Once, stress is dialed way up, it’s not that easy to quickly dial it down, especially if you have habitually caved into the stress response. That’s how your brain and body are now wired.
The solution? Instead of letting stress grow and grow, practice a simple preventative technique. It will make a difference! You’ll build a foundation of resilience as you retrain your body and brain to embrace more ease.
The Simplicity of Quiet
One simple, preventative approach to stress is to be quiet.
Try this out. Be quiet for 5 minutes, three times a day to start building your relaxation response, the counterpoint to stress. Sit comfortably with your spine straight, but not rigid. Then, be silent and sit quietly for 5 minutes.
Here are some good times for a start:
- 5 minutes first thing in the morning
- 5 minutes at lunch
- 5 minutes during an afternoon break
- 5 minutes the evening before going to bed
Alternatively, you could practice right before times that are typically stressful for you. For example,
- Before a family affair
- Before an obligatory social event at work
- Before shopping in crowded stores.
- Before getting into the car for a long commute in heavy traffic.
Just pick three times, and give it a go.
How Quiet Dissolves Stress
Here are 4 ways these 5-minute spurts of quiet will help prevent stress from turning into an unmanageable monster. The act of being quiet:
- Starts to entrain your physiological systems for calm.
- Allows your mind and emotions to settle.
- Creates a sense of spaciousness in your life, which is the opposite of tension and constriction.
- Provides room for intuition and/or clarity to arise in your mind, which can bring easeful solutions.
Avoid These Pitfalls
Don’t let these common challenges discourage you from finding peace. You can move through them!
Quiet can be scary, especially if you’re not used to it. Trust me: these initial feelings of discomfort will pass if you stay with the program.
At first, you might notice a thunderous waterfall of thoughts. They were already there! You’re just noticing them for the first time. Again, have faith. With time and practice, your thoughts will settle down too.
You might also feel restless simply because your body is not used to being still. Be aware of the restlessness. Don’t give into it immediately. See if you can simply sit with it.
You might find it difficult to sit still for 5 minutes. That’s not unusual so don’t feel daunted if that’s the case. If it’s too hard for you, start with 1 minute and then build up to 2 minutes and so on until you’re at 5.
Use a Support
You can use the breath or a form as an object for your attention if you find it challenging to sit quietly. Just gently be aware of the breath as it enters and leaves the body without over concentrating on it in a tense manner.
Or, place your awareness lightly on an object like a flower, a stone, or an inspiring sacred image. Remember, you’re not trying to pierce the image with your eyes. Keep you gaze relaxed.
The key in both instances is to balance attention with relaxation. Just ease into quiet but stay aware.
Dismantle Stress with Moments of Peace
Establishing a regular practice of quiet will gradually help you prevent stress before it grows out of control.
Once you get the feel for this, you’ll come to love these moments of peace. You’ll naturally want to include them in your life. As an added bonus, calm will begin to spill over into your day. You’ll also recover more quickly once you’ve been triggered by stress because your brain and body are learning a new way of being.
The old habits will still be there for awhile, but, with time and practice, they will visit less frequently. This is not instant magic. It does take a regular commitment. But just imagine the taste of calm permeating your way of being. It is so worth it!
Living with Ease
If stress is straining your life, check our my e-course Living with Ease: The Mindful Way to Less Stress.
During the Living with Ease course, you will:
- Identify your own stress triggers, and how they manifest in your life.
- Get clear on what brings you greater joy, happiness, and ease.
- Receive a key practice each week for reducing stress, which blends mindfulness and traditional stress reduction techniques.
- Acquire a menu of simple supporting practices to help you lock-in a more relaxed life.
- Build your inner strength and resilience so stressful events have less negative impact on you.
How’s your holiday season so far? Has holiday stress been a challenge for you?
I’m so glad you’re here! If you liked this article, please subscribe for free updates by email. With love, Sandra