How to Overcome Stress

Beating stress doesn’t have to be difficult, overwhelming, or complicated. Using your senses and counting are terrific techniques to use. This post explains two easy ways to do it.

young person is stressed
Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

Overcoming and managing stress is a daily uphill battle for millions of people worldwide. If left unchecked, it wreck havoc on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Luckily, though, it can be beaten. One simple, yet effective, solution to this is through grounding. But what is grounding, and how do you do it?

We will learn how using numbers such as 3×3 and 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 will help us overcome stress.

Ready to break up with your relationship to stress, worry, and/or anxiety? Keep reading to learn these powerful grounding techniques.

What’s Stress?

Have you every thought about that? Like, what is stress? That word “is” that you just read had stress upon it. Is that stress? You know how stress feels in your body, right? You know the symptoms of it, but are they the same symptoms for mental/psychological stress, and emotional stress, as it is for physical stress? Not quite. I’ll paint a picture of this for you.

a male essential worker holding mask and stethoscope in white medical robe
Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

You’ve just worked a double shift because you’re an essential worker in an under-resourced hospital. You just witnessed a 57 year old grandmother die without any loved ones by her side not just because of COVID19, but because neither you nor your co-workers were able to get through on the phone to them. Your whole body aches. Your eyes are dry, blurry even. You’re reeling from the fact that you lost another patient. She died with you holding her hand and you pray to God that you don’t take this virus home to your spouse, mother (who beat breast cancer 5 years ago) and two children. This already long and exhausting day is going to be that much longer since you still need to drive home, but you’ll surely be stuck in traffic at this point.

Stress, (an abstract noun), is your body’s reaction to different emotional, psychological, or physical situations. That’s the nonscientific definition, at least. These stressors within you require an adjustment to these different pressures. The reasons we have stress are many.

What Causes Stress?

What's stressing you?
George Pagan, Unsplash

The mind is remarkable. We are able to think about things that happened in the past as well as imagined things in the past or future. Biologically speaking, it’s our body’s defense against a threat. Most of us aren’t threatened by an animal in the wild as our ancestors would have been, but our body still has this reaction. It’s our “flight-or-flight” response to danger, challenges, or threats in our environment, which are imagined or real. We must respond to these in some way, but sometimes, even after we are away from the stressor, we still feel and need to deal with the stress. Here’s how.

Two Ways to Get Rid of Stress

Learning how to manage your stress takes time, willpower, and dedication. Don’t be afraid of the perceived emotional load of doing so—it’s worth it. All you have to do is count.

3×3

The other day I watched a TEDx Talk from a counselor based in San Francisco. I’m not sure what else he spoke about in his 2017 talk because I was rather focused on the simple technique he demonstrated. It goes like this, (1) identify and name an object (don’t say it aloud, just say it in your mind). (2) After you do this, take one long, deep breath. (3) Repeat. That’s it! That’s the 3×3 Method. It takes 30 seconds. Super simple. If you’re super worked up, worried, or anxious, repeat it 2-3 more times.

Phil Boissiere's 2017 TEDx Talk in Naperville details the 3 x 3 method. "Name a physical object, take a deep breath, repeat."
Phil Boissiere’s TEDx Naperville Talk on YouTube

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

A few months back I was struggling with negative thoughts. I had downloaded the Happify app last year sometime, so I decided to try it out again to help me combat the thoughts. Happily harnesses the power of positive psychology by using savoring, meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, etc. to aid you. There’s a section within the app where you can read various articles and watch related videos. This is where I saw this one by motivational speaker, Jay Shetty. You can watch the video below, but I’ll summarize the important part.

Jay Shetty’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 technique

In a nutshell, here’s how to use this method: just count down from 5 and use your senses.

  • 5 things you can see right now around you.
  • 4 things you can physically touch around you.
  • 3 things you can hear in this moment.
  • 2 things you can smell.
  • 1 thing you can taste.

*Bonus

I attended a training for educators on how to better work with children who have trauma earlier this year before Coronavirus ravaged the country. I’ve unfortunately lost my notes from that training, but I do remember one interesting the speaker mentioned that I’d like to share. She stated that when a posed with an external threat (sorry, I can’t remember if this animal is an opossum, raccoon, ferret, or armadillo) from a much larger animal, such as a bear, the smaller animal when lie on its back and kick its leg up in the air to exert pent up energy (cortisol, or energy) from the stress of encounter and beating the larger animal.

Why am I telling you this?

I thought it was not only interesting, but was curious why many humans don’t do something similar. By getting rid of that extra energy, which is often negative, we could lower our stress, but we don’t do that. We usually just hold it inside of us, then we don’t deal with. But we shouldn’t do that. We should do something physical that requires us to exert this excess energies and get us back to homeostasis. For example, we could do ballet, tennis, swim, take a walk, play an instrument, dance to some music, clean the house/apartment, take the stairs and run up/down them, or even clean the backyard or garage. Think of it as grounding yourself by being in the present moment. It’s essentially mindfulness.

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