April 29


Relieve Stress Quickly In 5 Easy Steps

By Rachel Haverkos

April 29, 2020

Surprising. Sometimes people are just too stressed to relieve stress. Talk about a vicious cycle.

“My girlfriend tried HeartMath. It was too much for her. She couldn’t process all the data on the screen” - referring to HeartMath’s Inner Balance app, used to visually display a person’s heart rate variability.

Another person wrote in a Facebook group: “The effort to be in a heart-coherent, low-stress state seemed too much.” Sad.

In HeartMath, we’re taught that any sincere effort to experience a positive emotion is good. For the body and mind. Any effort helps us now, and makes future effort easier. Do you really want to postpone feeling better?

“Technology drives me nuts. It’s stressful,” said Cynthia, who also tried a heart-coherence app.

Oh my. Wait. Here’s the good news.

It’s possible to relieve stress with simple steps, even without fancy technology.

This is true if you’re looking to apply strategies taught by HeartMath (as described in my article here) or if all you have is yourself and what’s around you.

Let’s dive into these 5 easy strategies to relieve your stress, when almost everything feels like too much. But first, here's something that de-stresses me every time. Walking in nature. This is a picture I took while walking around Sedona.

Courthouse & Cathedral Rock Sedona relieve stress

Courthouse & Cathedral Rock Sedona

5 Strategies To Relieve Stress


Take a Heart-Focused Breath

You know I advocate using Heartmath to manage stress; and perhaps you read my article where I describe how managing stress is critical to avoiding dementia.

As mentioned, it isn’t necessary to use technology with HeartMath; anyone with a heart, brain and pulse can practice it.

Here’s a tool that HeartMath offers called Heart Focused Breathing. It’s designed to be practiced any time, anywhere, with the eyes open or closed. Boots on the ground.

It’s so simple you probably won’t believe that it does anything. Yet they have a ton of research you can read once calmness and safety are restored. Learn more here.

To do this technique, put your attention on your heart. Imagine your breath flowing in and out of the chest area.

Breathe a little more slowly and deeply than usual; a count of about 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out is good for many. Place your hand over your chest area if possible, for extra calming.

Do this for at least a minute; longer is better. Practice until you notice a gentle shift within.

The goal is to get out out of your head, which can focus upon the past and future, and into awareness of your breathing, which is in the here and now. What do you notice?


Stretch It Out

Next, release the back of your calves. Why? When stressed, the back of our body tenses up.

That’s because the large muscles there are what we’d use to fight or flee. That’s why we feel tightness as we walk, and why our shoulders end up by our ears.

There are a few ways to do this, depending upon your agility. If possible, stand in front of a wall, with one foot in front of you, the other back.

Bend the knee of your front leg as you reach forward to push into the wall. This places a stretch on your back calf.

Hold for at least 10 seconds; 30 seconds is better. Reverse the position of the legs and repeat.

Also, do this with open eyes, and with closed eyes. See if you notice any difference.

Do some shoulder rolls too, if your shoulders feel tight…by physically releasing these large muscles, you help to restore circulation, and the flow of oxygen to these areas.

Lactic acid is carried away. Ah….. Are you feeling better?


Drink Up – with Water, That Is

Surprising but true. Just drinking enough water can help manage stress. Why?

When stressed, it’s likely you’re holding your breath more. Which means less circulation to your brain. Which in turn means more cortisol produced, which raises your stress levels.

Not crazy about water, you say? Try spiking your water with a nice flavor, such as juice from a lime or orange, or slices from an organic cucumber.

Start with a general idea of how much water you need.

Assume you need to drink somewhere between a half, and one ounce, of water for every pound you weigh, depending upon the climate, your activity level, and your consumption of dehydrating beverages like soda and coffee.

Find one or several containers that total the number of ounces you need. Fill them at the beginning of the day, and keep one with you all the time, so that you drink throughout the day, until your water is gone.

Notice how much better you feel.

And yes, your bladder will adapt within a week or so to this new level of fluid intake.

Remember that your bladder is also a muscle, and like all other muscles, it too will function better they more hydrated it is.


Move Your Body to De- Stress

We know this instinctively – and research proves - it feels good to move.

For myself, I notice right away if I miss a day of taking a walk, run, or bike ride. The stress relief is tangible!

While any exercise is helpful, well-paced walking (appropriate to your fitness level) is especially effective. While a decent pair of walking shoes helps, even these aren’t mandatory.

If you’re super stressed, just get out and move.


Write it Down, Move It Out

If you’re super stressed, there’s probably a reason. Or several of them.

Do you know what they are? And how they’re affecting you?

If you have a trusted friend available to talk to, great, by all means get in touch.

But if it’s in the middle of the night, or you have no one to confide in right now, the next best bet is paper and pen. And getting your thoughts/emotions/upset out.

What are you feeling? Where do you feel this in your body? What stressors are you facing right now? What do you tell yourself about your situation?

Please - do your best to write without judgement. Let it flow. When you feel complete, it may be time to stop.

But do make sure that all parts of you are heard – including whatever “child’s” voice may be wanting a say. This is a chance for the very direct, emotional parts of you to be expressed – even if they’re not something you typically like to admit.

Done? Want to tear it up and throw it out? Great.

Want to keep it to refer back to later, to see how your perspective has changed? Also a good option – just keep it in a safe place.

If You’re Super Stressed, Putting It Together Can Look Like This..

Grab a drink of water.

Release the back of your calves and do other warm up stretches. Start your heart focused breathing as you do this.

Grab some walking shoes and head out the door. Walk. Breathe. Focus on the heart, and being in the present.

When you get back, grab a paper and pen, and another drink of water. Write down what’s happening for you. Then sit and practice heart-focused breathing. Observe what shifts. Then take this feeling of renewed calm, even if it’s just a tiny bit calmer, into the rest of your day.

Yes, super-intense times can feel intimidating. Because, it seems that even stress management tools, such as Heartmath, are too much.

But you’ll be alive anyway, and breathing anyway, so might as well learn to breathe from the heart. And to manage your stress, even when you think it can’t be done.

The future will be easier, and brighter, if you learn to relieve stress now.

What Do You Do To Relieve Stress?

The examples I've given above work....

It's as simple as that. But relieving stress can be done in many ways.

What are some of the ways that you use to relieve stress?

Let me know in the comments below and don't forget to join our great community of like-minded people who love their health and actively work to improve their mind and body.

I look forward to seing you there.

Rachel Haverkos

About the author

Rachel’s background in occupational therapy and health coaching contribute to her lifelong interest in brain health. People wanting to stay sharp hire her to help protect & enhance their brain, because they want to avoid dementia but don’t know how. So she gives them the knowledge, clarity, and confidence needed to be their vibrant best self, for life. Through Vibrant Brain For Life, she shares evidence-based tools, strategies, and resources online and in person. When not at her desk, she’s likely enjoying the wildflowers of Sedona, or greeting guests at her Airbnb.

You might also like

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Want To Keep Your Brain Sharp?
Join Our Better Brain Club

"the place to be for support, inspiration and direction"