Stress can negatively alter the balance of our hormones and neurotransmitters. One of my favorite ways to calm stress, especially acute stress, is by using breathing exercises. Along with doing a breathing exercise, it is useful to incorporate mindfulness. For a simple mindfulness technique, find something to focus on. Bonus if it is something beautiful, like the leaves dancing in the breeze, but it can just be the pen sitting on your desk. Gently observe your environment without judgement. Pay close attention to the shape, the color, the way the light hits the item. Just focusing intently on something like this for a few minutes can rewire your thought pattern and over time can positively impact the long term rewiring or neuroplasticity of your brain. If you make it a regular practice to use breathing exercises and mindfulness, pretty soon these will be automatic tools that you can pull out when you are feeling stressed or just to want to feel a sense of calm. Here is my favorite breathing exercise based on Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4/7/8 method. I challenge you to try it right now!
•Deeply inhale through your nose to fill your lungs up as much as you can, for 4 seconds.
Take in one more little breath if you can.
•Hold for 7 seconds.
•Exhale out through your mouth until you have completely exhaled, about 8 seconds. Keeping lips in a small 'o' shape helps.
•Repeat 3-5 times.
•Feel your heart rate coming down, and your mind calming. You will be overriding your fight-or-flight nervous system and activating your rest and digest nervous system. See if you can feel that shift.