Stress and anxiety are normal, common reactions when trying to balance the many tasks and demands of college, work and home. Learning how to relax can be an important way to keep stress in check and reduce your anxiety. It can be an important skill that you can use to manage your own stress levels and maintain a sense of well-being.
What Can Affect My Stress Level?
When you feel stressed, it can be helpful to have multiple tools in your toolbox. Here are some ideas for things to try. If a strategy doesn’t work for you, try another! Try these links:
Weekly Meditation Group:
Mondays and Thursdays at 12:10 to 12:45 p.m., meet at B 119. More information.
Mindfulness in Your Morning Routine
- Pick an activity that constitutes part of your daily morning routine, such as brushing your teeth, making the bed, or taking a shower. When you do it, totally focus your attention on what you’re doing: the body movements, the taste, the touch, the smell, the sight, the sound, and so on. Notice what’s happening with an attitude of openness and curiosity.
- For example, when you’re in the shower, notice the sounds of the water as it sprays out of the nozzle, as it hits your body, and as it gurgles down the drain. Notice the temperature of the water, and the feel of it in your hair, and on your shoulders, and running down your legs. Notice the smell of the soap and shampoo, and the feel of them against your skin. Notice the sight of the water droplets on the walls or shower curtain, the water dripping down your arms, and the steam rising upward. Notice the movements of your arms as you wash or scrub or shampoo.
- When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, and let them come and go like passing cars. Again and again, you’ll get caught up in your thoughts. As soon as you realize this has happened, gently acknowledge it, note what the thought was that distracted you, and bring your attention back to the shower.
Notice Five Things
This is a simple exercise to center yourself and engage with your environment. Practice it throughout the day, especially any time you find yourself getting caught up in your thoughts and feelings:
- Pause for a moment.
- Look around and notice five things that you can see.
- Listen carefully and notice five things that you can hear.
- Notice five things that you can feel in contact with your body (for example, your watch against your wrist, the air on your face, your feet upon the floor, your back against the chair).
- Finally, do all of the above simultaneously.
Observing Your Thoughts in a Cloud
- Pretend you’re lying in a field of grass, looking up at the clouds. In each cloud is a thought. Observe the thought as it slowly floats by and label it in terms of what kind of thought it is.
- For example, when the thought “Am I going to be able to pay my credit card bill this month?” floats by, label it “worrying thought” or “anxiety thought.” When you see the thought “This is a stupid exercise” in a cloud, label it “anger thought” or “judgment thought” and so on.
- As best you can, don’t judge yourself for the thoughts you’re having or how you’re labeling them; there’s no right or wrong answer.
- When you notice you’ve gotten caught up thinking about a thought, simply let it go and notice the next thought.
Citation: Harris, Russ. (2009). ACT made simple: An easy to read primer on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.