Tips to take the steam out of stress

17:56, Mar 20 2014

I attended a stress monitoring workshop last week. The Press had organised it for all employees to attend if they wanted to. It was perfect timing for me as we are in the middle of moving houses and organising our wedding, and I haven't even found The Dress yet.

I am not the only one to be stressed in Christchurch right now. In Cera's latest well-being survey released this week, 78 per cent of the 2476 residents who took the survey said they experienced stress in the past 12 months that had a negative effect on their lives.

I thought I'd share what I learned at the workshop in case you'd like something new to try next time pressure gets to you.

The most helpful thing about it was to be in a room full of other people talking about how stressed they felt. Each with their own problems and their own ways to cope - trembling hands, road rage, drinking to relax in the evening, blanking 10 minutes before deadline. Realising I was not the only one to lose it once in a while was a relief. If you don't have a room full of stressed people to go and bond with, pop along to EQC or Southern Response's offices.

I've had a week to try the tips I learnt in the workshop, so here are the ones I find the most useful:

The 4-4-8 breathing: when I feel stressed, I tend to stop breathing. Not literally, obviously. Apparently, breathing deeply into the bottom of your lungs sends a message to your brain to reduce stress-producing hormones and generate relaxation through the body. Count to four as you inhale through your nose, hold for four seconds, and exhale to the count of eight.

Conversation with Future You: Present Me has two kilos to lose, "forgets" to go to yoga, and fights with her future husband too often. But Future Me is perfect! She managed to lose the weight, exercises daily and never fights with anyone. We made a list of all the things we wanted our future self to be. Then we closed our eyes and breathed deeply. We visualised ourselves walking on a beach and sitting down on a nice chair. In the distance we saw our future self coming towards us. We asked them for advice, listened, and then visualised ourselves merging with them. Most participants said they got good advice from their future selves.

Stress Thermostat: If you feel overwhelmed, visualise your level of stress on a thermometer (on a scale of one to 100). Say you feel you are at 80. Decide what level you want to reach, say 20. Take a few deep breaths. Five minutes later, re-evaluate where you are on the scale; you might have gone down to 60. Let five more minutes pass, evaluate again. Repeat until you reach the desired level. I use this all the time. Yesterday my computer blanked right before deadline and I was not sure the story I had written had been saved. I had to wait for IT services to call me back. My blood started to boil. I imagined dialling the thermostat down to "normal human" level and found myself calm enough to be polite to the IT guy.

Do you feel stressed? How do you cope? Comment below, email me at or follow me on Twitter.