Take a Moment: 5 Strategies to Manage Stress in Your Daily Life

By Ellen Ross, PsyD

Last week, Shari wrote about The Most Wonderful Stressful Time of the Year. She shared some strategies like saying ‘no’ and talked about how preparation is key (if you missed it, check it out!)

These months can feel overwhelming to manage, with the time change, shorter days, and busier schedules. What can you do when you have less time in the day and twice as much to do? How can you manage the pressure of the holidays? Take a moment! It’s sooo easy to get caught up in everything and lose touch with being right here right now.

When this happens sometimes we feel like we’re on autopilot and everything passes us by. Here are five strategies for building in the practice of taking a moment every day.

Practice being present for a minute at a time twice a day.

This is something I encourage many people who come to see me to start with. Heck, it’s also what I encourage myself to do whenI’ve fallen out of practice. Commit to a mini mindfulness practice for a week and then anchor this practice to something you already do twice a day (like brushing your teeth, taking a medication, being in your car before and after work, or when you take the kids to school).

Spend this minute breathing deeply and focusing on what it feels like. When you take a deep breath, your belly should expand. See how long you can breathe in, and out, and pause in between. When you first start this, a minute can feel like the better part of an eternity! If that’s the case it’s ok to drop it down to 30 seconds. You mind will wander and you’ll wonder if you’re doing it right. Remind yourself that you’re doing it right if you’re doing it!


Designate an electronics-free period of the day.

We have access to so much on our phones! Games that we can mindlessly play (guilty!), checking FaceBook, waiting for an email ping (really?!? Another ad for that sale? I was hoping this email was gonna be something better). All of this input is designed to keep us engaged, and it works! But then we’re engaged with our phones and not the people around us or the moment.

So, find a time to turn off the phones! This can be a family affair or something you commit to doing on your own. It’s helpful to pick a time and do your best to stick to it. You could designate the dinner table as a phone-free zone (remember, try turning it off!).

If the first thing you do when you wake up is check your phone, try to spend 15 minutes before touching your phone (buy an alarm clock and charge it in a different room!).

You could spend that 15 minutes connecting with someone you love, snuggling with a pet or savoring a warm cup of coffee or tea. Another great phone-free time is right before you go to bed. It messes with our sleep anyway, so designating the hour before you head to bed as an electronics-free zone will help with taking a moment and might help you get better sleep.


Go on a mindful walk.

We can all benefit from moving more in addition to being more present in the moment! Maybe you already take your dog for a walk every day , or maybe you feel overwhelmed with everything you have to do and think you can’t take a break. In any of these cases, a mindful walk can kill two birds with one stone.

Start with a small goal like a walk around the block or spending 10 minutes outside. To make it mindful, give yourself a scavenger hunt while you’re out – try to notice two things you haven’t really noticed before (I promise there are way more than two right there on your block!).

If a scavenger hunt doesn’t seem appealing you could try describing what you see as though you’re narrating for someone who can’t see what you’re seeing.

A mindful walk can be a chance to anchor to the present moment AND get a breath of fresh air.

If you are someone who feels stress in their body (it might be all of us!), stretching can be a fantastic strategy to become aware and release some tension. The cool thing is there is something we can do to stretch any part of the body. Stop for a moment, scan your body, and ask yourself what feels tight. If you work at a computer it might be your shoulders focus on your breath and roll your shoulders both forward and back, stand up and stretch you finger to the sky.

Sometimes it can be hard to focus on just our breath. Take a mindful moment by listening and noticing something in particular. Below is a 30 second video, take a look and listen. It’s just 30 seconds. Check in with how you’re feeling now, then start the video – focus on the colors and sound of the waves and imagine you are there. Can you catch the bird sing? When 30 seconds is over check in with yourself and see if you notice anything different.

Video Description – This is a 37 second video of ocean waves gently crashing on the beach. There is a bird on the sand for part of the video that sing and some land with tropical trees on the left hand side of the screen. The colors of the sky is light blue and there are tones of pink reflected in the sand as the sun rises.

When the feelings of stress and overwhelm take over, we often just go on autopilot managing this thing and then the next. Taking a moment to be present with whatever we’re doing in a given moment is a powerful antidote to autopilot.

If you want support managing overwhelm and developing present moment strategies that work for you – reach out, let’s talk!

Learn more about Dr. Ellen Ross, PsyD