Do This 4 Times a Day, And You'll Feel Way Less Stressed

April 18, 2018

How to reduce stress, according to the American Institute of Stress.

What is stress, exactly?

Heidi Hanna, LinkedIn Learning instructor and executive director of the American Institute of Stress, defines it as the gap between demand and capacity. The wider the gap is, the more stress you feel.

Two examples – you don’t feel like you have enough time to complete a task, you’ll feel stress. Or, if you didn’t get enough sleep the night before and therefore don’t have enough energy to complete a task, you’ll feel stress.

When stress becomes a problem

Stress can be good — in moderation. For example, stress can create a sense of urgency for you to complete a pressing task.

Stress becomes a problem when it becomes chronic, which means you always feel stressed and you don’t feel like there’s anything you can do about it. As in, you always feel like you don’t have enough time, enough money or enough confidence to accomplish what’s needed.

That chronic stress causes unproductivity, unhappiness and even medical issues over time. Plus, it’s contagious. If you are chronically stressed, your team will feel more stress as well (particularly if you are the leader of that team).

How to deal with stress: The BFF method

You can’t solve chronic stress with a one-time event. You need to have a consistent exercise you do a few times a day to relieve stress.

What exercise, exactly? Hanna recommends the BFF method, which stands for breathe, feel and focus. It’s short, it’s simple and, most importantly of all, effective.

Watch Heidi Hanna, the executive director of the American Institute of Stress, describe the BFF method.

Here are the three steps to the BFF method:

    1. Breathe

The first step of the BFF method is to calm your mind by focusing on your breath. To do this, find a quiet place (your office, a break room, whatever) and close your eyes. Then, put all your attention on your breath, counting to five as you inhale and then counting to five as you exhale.

Do this three or four times. If it’s difficult for you at first, don’t worry – it’ll get easier and easier with practice.

Almost immediately after doing this, you’ll feel calmer and more centered.

    2. Feel

Stress occurs when you buildup negative, stress-causing thoughts in your mind. Examples include: I’m never going to have enough time to do that report, I’m not qualified to do that presentation, I’ll never get out of this rut.

You can change the chemistry of your body by thinking positive thoughts, instead of wallowing in those negative ones. And that’ll dissipate your stress.

To do this, after you are done focusing on your breath, think of what you are most grateful for in this world – your family, your job, your friends, the weather that day, whatever.

“I want to encourage you to spend some time really soaking in the positive appreciation of what's good in your life,” Hanna said. “Not to ignore or minimize the challenges you have, but to shift the lens through which you see those challenges, adding more capacity to cope.”

    3. Focus

After you calm yourself with some breathing and feel those grateful thoughts, it’s time to move to the final stage: focus.  Here, focus on how you want to show up in the upcoming moment.

“I encourage you to think about the type of energy you want to bring to the time that you have,” Hanna said. “Whether it's preparing for the day ahead, priming your brain to sleep at night or just boosting your energy or attention for a special project, a meeting or an experience.”

For example, say you are about to go to a meeting. In this stage, focus on exactly how you want to show up in that meeting – perhaps confident, informed and open. Same goes for coming home from work.

“So many times, we just carry the stress of work right through the front door with us, not intentionally trying to bring chaos into the house but not really having any sort of ritual that shifts us into a better state,” Hanna said. “Like wanting to be fully connected with your family at the end of the day.”

The takeaway

Start incorporating the BFF method a few times into your day. Not only will it reduce your stress, it’ll make you calmer, more alert and ultimately more effective at work and at home.

“I want you to consider what it might be like to intentionally shift your energy and focus for a few minutes every day to prime your brain to show up in this more calm, connected and clearly focused state,” Hanna said. “And consider what it might be like if we all did that, took responsibility for the energy we bring to the time that we have.”

The effect? Enormous.

Want to learn more? Watch Hanna’s full course, Managing Stress for Positive Change.

Other LinkedIn Learning courses you might be interested in are: