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At times of distress that does not reach the level of a crisis or emergency, there are several things you can do to help you cope with and reduce your distress.
Strategies to Practice When Feeling Intensely Distressed/Overwhelmed:
Gaining a greater sense of control by targeting the body’s physical reactions to stress
Often the body responds to stress by getting heated. You can counteract this by cooling yourself down (use an ice pack, splash cold water on your face, take a cold shower)
- Ice diving
If you take a deep breath and immerse your face in a bowl of cold water, the dive reflex will be induced which slows down your heart rate
- Intense Exercise
Exercise of any kind for 20-30 minutes tends to have a huge impact on mood, decreasing ruminative thoughts and feelings of overwhelm
- Paced Breathing
Taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths, increasing the length of your exhales and slowing your breathing, helps to reduce feelings of overstimulation (view the video guide)
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Going through your body and taking the time to tense and then relax each muscle group leads to greater awareness of where the body holds tension and allows space for a healthy release (view the video guide)
Harnessing the Five Senses
Sensory awareness often helps reduce a sense of overwhelm- practice to find which of your senses tends to help you feel the most centered!
- Sight: Notice the colors in the room around you, take a walk and notice your surroundings, go people-watching, light a candle and observe
- Sound: Close your eyes and try to pick up as many sounds as you can, pay attention to sounds of nature, listen to soothing or invigorating music
- Touch: Wrap yourself in a blanket, use lotion, touch a soothing object, sink into a comfortable chair
- Smell: Light a candle, open the window and smell the air, use essential oils, use your favorite soap/lotion, open a package of coffee
- Taste: Suck on a candy (Warheads are easy to focus on!), chew some gum, eat a favorite food, drink a soothing beverage (tea, hot chocolate)
Physical Grounding Techniques
Focusing on one specific thing that feels safe and manageable in the moment
- Grab tightly onto your chair as hard as you can
- Dig your heels into the floor, literally grounding them. Notice the tension centered in your heels.
- Stretch! Clench and release your fists, notice the sensation of extending your fingers and arms
- Jump up and down!
- Find a grounding object, something that you can hold/feel (stress ball, soft piece of fabric, a stone)
Recognizing when your body is urging you to do something that may not be helpful to you and challenging yourself to do the opposite by setting manageable goals
- Urge to withdraw/ isolate --> Get active! Encourage yourself to get out of bed, take a shower, change your clothes. Recognize that there is a middle ground between doing nothing and doing everything
- Urge to run away/ avoid --> Recognize when this urge is inhibiting you and think about how to take steps to approach situations
- Urge to attack --> Temporarily remove yourself, take some time to be kind to yourself and to think through how to approach the situation more gently
- Urge to hide --> Think about safe people that you could approach and let in
Strategies To Practice To Proactively Reduce Stress and Prioritize Self-care
- Eating regular meals
- Making sure that you’re hydrating!
- Getting regular exercise (20-30 minutes)
- Sleep hygiene- getting regular sleep at night and avoiding naps during the day if you’re having trouble sleeping at night
- Allowing yourself to express yourself and be playful (listening to music, going to museums, writing, making art for fun, reading for pleasure)
- Attending to your spirituality
- Being gentle with yourself and the fact that you’re learning
- Breaking down your work into steps that feel manageable to you
- Connecting with loved ones
- Avoiding unhealthy substance use or using substances mindfully and in moderation
MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION RESOURCES
Provides unique daily guided meditations, science facts and figures and progress reports,all designed to make it as easy as possible for you to get some calm and clarity. Headspace is available with limited licenses through the Boston Public Library.
Is a great way for beginners to start meditation. Choose between options for sound and length of time, as well as scenes from nature for you to visually focus on while you meditate.
- Insight Timer
Includes both a timer for you to mediate as well as a number of audio-guided meditations. Search by length, popularity, instructor, etc.
- Stop, Breathe, & Think
Offers a solid sampling of the basics of meditation, featuring a range of exercises at varying lengths (mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, the body scan practice), ideal for short practices at work and longer sessions at home.