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It's Time to Stop Being Stressed. Use These 6 Simple Techniques

Save money by not throwing a monitor out of the window.

PTSD Engineer
PTSD Engineer

I'm PTSD Engineer, and I feel extremely qualified to write this article. Worry, doubt, and dark thoughts are plaguing my mind. They attack me like sea waves hitting the shore, sending me into a rumination spiral. There is no magic pill, but with enough practice, these simple techniques helped me tremendously. I want to share my personal experience and hope you will find a routine that suits you best.

In a sea of relaxation techniques, it's hard to pick one from shiny new apps to expensive courses and coaching sessions. Everybody is selling something. We shouldn't pay for peace of mind. You won't find affiliate links here or ads. I'm here to help you because you have a problem. I need only one thing from you—keep reading.

These are battle-tested solutions. I learned them over the years. Lately, these strategies had to face a tough situation. I've been dumped after a three-year relationship. Anxiety crept up on me; terrible nightmares, afraid of darkness again, low self-esteem. You know what? It wasn't an easy test for strategies to work, but overall they did great. That's why I want to share them with you.


1. Transcendental Meditation

my slackrobat friend Jarred Fassler, @unicornasana

yogagen.co

@yogagenapp
Photo by madison lavern / Unsplash

I hate the name it sounds so "new-agey", but exercise isn't connected to spiritual experiences—yet they can still happen in trained individuals. TM is the easiest to learn meditation techniques with nice feedback loop—shut the f*ck up mindfulness. I'm guilty of not giving it a chance for many years because it didn't sound scientific enough. How repeating some mantra in your head can do anything?

I was stubborn. David Lynch Foundation page convinced me to give it a try.

Didn't click the link? Let me summarize it for you.

Benefits:

  • Reduction in stress hormone levels
  • Decrease in insomnia
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular-related mortality

How to do it?

  • You need a mantra. If I were some kind of guru, this would be a moment where you would have a link to 1000$ coaching session for choosing the best mantra. I don't believe you need that.  Pick mantra with our fellow programmer from Programming Life.
  • Set up a timer for 20 minutes
  • Sit in the chair. Sitting is essential as research suggests that different brain waves are produced when sitting versus lying down.
  • Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and start repeating the mantra in your mind.
  • Have a thought? No problem, it means that tension is exiting, Go back to the mantra. You didn't do anything wrong.
  • It's over. You did well. This meditation is simple.


Still, think it's not for you? I'm just a small-time blogger. I will let David Lynch do the talking.

David Lynch explains Trascendental Meditation

2. Athlete breath

Photo by Ben Hershey / Unsplash

Take a deep breath. STOP! Enough of that cliche advice. Not all breathing techniques are created equal—many take years to master. We need something bulletproof and newbie-friendly. I wonder where we could find the answer….

Baseball. You heard me right. Maybe you don't think about yourself as an athlete or performer. You are a simple programmer, but you are often asked to perform—demo meetings, presentations, pair programmings. Think about the extreme situation when you were put under pressure, you had to think on your feet, and people were staring. Any flashbacks? What if you could hire a sport psychologist to ease your performance anxiety?

Let me introduce you to Ken Ravizza—probably the best sports psychologist that ever walked on planet earth. His area of expertise was a mental game. Hear his words about breathing. His quote is pure gold.

I've been doing this for 35 years, worked with all these athletes, and the most powerful tool that I use with an athlete is breathing. Because what does the breath do? The breath, number one: brings oxygen to the brain so you can think clearly. Two: the breath brings you into the present moment. Three: the breath, when you need energy, you focus on the inhalation. When you need to calm down, you focus on the exhalation. Five: the breath is the start of good rhythm. So the breath is a powerful tool.

Did you get it? We need to focus on the exhalation. What he means by that is to increase the length of exhaling progressively.

How to do it?

  • Lay down
  • Take few relaxed breaths
  • Get your breathing pattern progressively to: 5 seconds inhale -> 10 seconds exhale
  • Repeat pattern for 10 minutes

Benefits

  • Reduces anxiety
  • Better sleep

3. Tetris Effect

30 years of the Nintendo Game Boy.
Photo by Hello I'm Nik 🎞 / Unsplash

Grab your GameBoy like it's 1989. I kid you not. Tetris works for anxiety, and there is a science behind it. Sounds unbelievable? Other games work too? Tetris is unique because of phenomena called flow.

If you are a curious person, you probably heard about the flow state already. It's a new buzzword for productivity. When you are in flow, you are performing at the peak of your abilities. This game is designed to put you into the flow. When you are in flow, the brain releases all major neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline. The mind becomes wholly occupied with only one activity—no place for anxious thoughts. Get those four lines cleared. TETRIS!

Benefits

  • Increases grey matter in the motor area of the brain
  • Lessens the symptoms of PTSD
  • Stops rumination

How to do it?

  • Anxious? Grab a gaming device of choice
  • Play Tetris for 30 minutes. If you are just going through the motions and not feeling engaged, you are not in the state of flow. For it to have therapeutic effects, you need to enter the flow
  • Enjoy Tetris dreams

4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Lift Yourself
Photo by Ricardo Cruz / Unsplash

If your physical body is relaxed, the mind will follow. Based on this premise, Edmund Jacobson invented progressive muscle relaxation. Our human firmware has a body-mind feedback loop installed, feeling nervous about deployment on Friday, and stomach starts growling. You are not hungry; stress hormone was released in your digestive tract. The feedback loop goes both ways.


How can you convince your reptilian brain to think any predator does not chase it? Create a state of deep physical relaxation.

How to do it?

The best option is the guided relaxation audio.

Guided relaxation

Benefits

  • A decrease in insomnia. Also very useful to help you fall asleep.
  • Helps to relieve anxiety
  • Reduced blood pressure

5. Cold Shower

Pug snugged in a blanket
Photo by Matthew Henry / Unsplash

You. Shower Cabin. Do you turn faucet right or left? Are you brave enough? Let me tell you; I wasn't when I did it for the first time. The shock on my face probably was epic, and I instantly got mad respect for people living in cold regions of the world.

I didn't know what I got myself into—it was agony. I set up a timer for 5 minutes, but every second felt like infinity. A couple of minutes passed, my body adjusted, and heavy breathing subsided. Still, it was uncomfortable but doable. Then I put my face under the stream, and diving reflex kicked in. I felt my heart rate slowing down. The calming blanket covered my mind.

When I stepped out of the cabin, I felt like a superhero. My stuffy nose was free, and I could breathe easily. Warm feeling moved through my whole body up and down. I was calm and energized at the same time.

Benefits

How to do it?

  • Pour some cold water over your body :)

6. Safe Place

via GIPHY

When I hear about the safe place, I immediately think of the movie Happy Gilmore. The protagonist of the comedy is a short-tempered guy. The coach is teaching him how to handle his anger using the safe place technique. Gilmore paints in his mind's eye a picture of his perfect moment—the girl he can't currently date in sexy lingerie with two big pints of beer.

Could this work for us? You need to find a special place—one that belongs only to you. It could be from childhood, holiday, or a significant moment from your life when you felt invincible. You will go there when things get rough in real life.

Isn't that escapism? No, the safe place is where you recharge and calm your nerves. Your goal is not to stay there, but to have a safe harbor in case of danger.

Benefits

  • Relieves anxiety
  • Promotes positive thinking
  • Helps you fall asleep

How to do it?

  • Visualize a place where you feel completely safe
  • Recreate every detail of this place as best as you can: smells, sounds, taste, emotions
  • Be there alone and add some soothing tones like warm rays of sun touching your skin
  • Practice daily, so the safe place is imprinted in your brain

PTSD Engineer

Pour one glass of wannabe writer, pour one glass of programming passion, spice it up with some anxiety, and you get PTSD Engineer.