Campus Health Educator Taylor Whitehead hosted a Zoom meeting discussing health, the Wellness Center, and tips and tricks on how to overcome our daily stressors. 

People are bound to feel stress, especially this year, whether it be from work, the pandemic, social unrest, or even home life. In the meeting, participants learned about useful physical exercises to help calm stress. These techniques included a grounding exercise, deep breathing exercise, and a progressive muscle relaxation exercise. 

Helpful Tips to Calm Your Stress

Jahron Wiggins was one of the many students who attended Taylor Whitehead's workshop and found it extremely beneficial. (Photo courtesy of Samantha Tonarelli)

Jahron Wiggins (sophomore, Psychology) was one of the 30 million Americans who were laid off due to the pandemic. Wiggins had never used the techniques offered at the event before and visibly lit up when asked about the experience.

“For some reason, I never thought to look up ways to help ease the stress I was feeling. I was skeptical about watching it due to the fact that I felt like I could deal with it on my own, but when I tried the recommended deep breathing exercise, I felt a big weight lifted off my shoulders,” Wiggins said.

The technique Wiggins is referring to is a video by Dr. Weil on an exercise called the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. Whitehead reiterates that this is a commonly used exercise that is one of the simplest techniques you can use to help calm your stress. It is an exercise that can be done anywhere, whether you or at home or out in public somewhere.

The 3-3-3 refers to naming three things you can see, three things you can hear, and three parts of your body you can move. This helps keep your mind grounded and centered in the present moment so you don’t end up spiraling due to your stress. 

Single mother Erica Hernandez is currently dealing with the stress of all four of her kids doing virtual learning at home. To help ease her everyday she utilizes the 3-3-3 grounding method.

Hernandez says, “Dealing with four kids at home who are just as unsure about virtual learning as the teachers, is a new kind of stress I’ve never experienced. Of course, there is stress from raising four kids on your own, but I’ve never raised four kids in a global pandemic. We are talking about four rowdy kids cooped up in a house.” 

Hernandez elaborated on how the grounding exercise is beneficial to her. “I try to drown out the sounds of four screaming kids to do my grounding techniques and while it is tough, it does help. Sometimes, I may only be able to do two out of the three parts of this technique, but something is better than nothing.”

Whitehead's last technique was called Progressive Muscle Relaxation by Dr. Tracy Marks. This meditation technique is helpful for falling asleep at night after being tense throughout the day from work or personal stress. 

Whitehead explained that we achieve relaxation through tensing our muscle groups and relaxing them starting from one end of the body to the other. By doing this, you are gently forcing your muscles to decompress from daily stress; Whether it be hunching over a computer working all day or maybe even physically working at your job.

Participant Laura Souza shares in the meeting how much this technique has helped her. “As someone who stands all day at their job and helps customers, I’m usually always on the go. It’s not until I get home that I realize how sore and tired I am as the adrenaline of working eight plus hours a day weighs down on me.” 

When asking Souza the stress of being an essential worker, she said, “I usually try to relax myself with a long hot shower or a bubble bath, but I still find myself lying awake in my bed feeling still wound up from the day. I actually knew a little about muscle relaxation from back when I used to do yoga every week. I started trying it again and found myself being able to fall asleep comfortably again.”

Everyone who deals with stress at some level can try these exercises. Although it may not seem like much, anything can make a difference when it comes to trying to improve mental health.

For more information, you can contact the Health and Wellness Center on the Stanislaus State website or visit the Greater Good Science Center website where a lot of this sessions information came from. Stanislaus State also offers counseling services, whether it be personal sessions to group sessions. 

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