3 Ways to Manage Stress

woman practicing relaxing breathing

Stress is a normal part of life, but living in a state of constant, chronic stress is not healthy. Here are three simple things you can do today to help you relax and reduce the impact of stress on your body and mind.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing can be used to quickly reduce stress and tension. It increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a calming “rest and digest” response. Breathing techniques help you feel more connected to your body and quiets your mind. Try one of the deep breathing techniques linked below.


Emotional stress can build up in our bodies and cause tension in the head, neck, and shoulders. Stretching is one easy way to relax and calm your muscles. Try the following stretches throughout your day or whenever you notice yourself feeling tense.  

  • Cable Stretch:
    • While sitting with chin in, stomach in, shoulders relaxed, hands in lap, and feet flat on the floor, imagine a cable pulling your head upward. Hold for 3 seconds and relax. Repeat 3 times.
  • Neck Stretch:
    • Tilt head to one side (ear towards shoulder). Hold for 15 seconds. Relax. Repeat 3 times on each side.
  • Diagonal Neck Stretch:
    • Turn head slightly and look down as if looking in your pocket. Hold for 15 seconds. Relax. Repeat 3 times on each side.
  • Shoulder Shrug:
    • Slowly bring shoulders up to the ears and hold for approximately 3 seconds. Rotate shoulders back and down. Repeat 10 times.
5-4-3-2-1 Technique

Many times, the stress we experience is because we are replaying something that has already happened or worrying about something that might occur in the future. The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique can help you keep your thoughts in the present moment by using your five senses to identify tangible things around you. Bringing your thoughts to the present moment can lower anxiety and ease your mind through stressful situations. The next time you notice your thoughts racing, take a deep breath, and do the following:

  • Identify 5 things you can see.
  • Identify 4 things that you can touch.
  • Identify 3 things you can hear.
  • Identify 2 things you can smell.
  • Identify 1 thing you can taste.

Mindful Moments

Mindfulness is paying full attention to what is going on in the present moment. It is a simple concept, but it is not always easy. Mindfulness may seem overwhelming and even a little bit “out there,” but it is okay to start small. Try adding mindful moments while completing mundane tasks in your life. Focus on being present while brushing your teeth, sitting in traffic, typing an email, or waiting in line. Pay close attention to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feels of these everyday activities. Small, consistent acts of mindfulness add up to support a healthier, calmer brain.

  • Mindful Breathing: Take some deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose to a count of four, hold for one second, and then exhale through the mouth to a count of five. Repeat often.
  • Mindful Walking: Enjoy a stroll. As you walk, notice your breath and the sights and sounds around you. As thoughts and worries enter your mind, note them but then return to the present.
  • Mindful Eating: Sit and savor your food. Be aware of taste, textures, and flavors in each bite, and listen to your body when you are hungry and full.

Learn more about mindful breathing and practice mindfulness with this guided exercise.

SOURCES: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2012/01/mindfulness-matters; https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/mindful_breathing

Rock Your Role!

By: Rebecca Sprague, MPH, Health Education Specialist, Suicide Prevention Program, Division of Public Health

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week is September 9-15. This will be a time when some of us honor loved ones lost to suicide. Many will renew efforts to prevent suicide deaths. It is also important to focus our attention on hope, help, strength and recovery!

We all have a very important role to play in suicide prevention and intervention.  Here are just a few ways that you can Rock Your Role!

  • Learn the warning signs
  • Watch for signs in friends, family & co-workers
  • Take action when you see signs of suicide in a person and get them to help

Suicide Warning Signs

  • Talking about suicide
  • Isolation & withdrawal
  • Agitation & sleeplessness
  • Nightmares
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increased use of alcohol/drugs
  • Talking about feeling hopeless
  • Previous suicide attempts

Taking Action

  • Call/Text/Chat the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 208-398-HELP or idahosuicideprevention.org/chat/
  • Take them to a crisis center near you (see crisis center information below)
  • Take them to the emergency department or doctor’s office
  • Schedule a visit with a behavioral health provider
  • Contact your employee assistance program

What are Your Strengths?

We’ve all got ‘em! But sometimes it can be hard to identify them, especially when we’re feeling down. Helping others identify their strengths or healthy ways to cope can be just the thing they need to get them back into a place of hope and recovery. These strengths can be any number of things. For some it means connecting with nature, for others it means singing, reading a good book, spending time with a pet, hanging out with a positive friend or talking to a counselor.

Crisis Centers

Idaho’s Behavioral Health Community Crisis Centers (BHCCCs) provide services to adults in need of mental health and/or substance use disorder crisis services. The BHCCCs are open 24 hours, seven days a week to assist adults 18 and older in crisis to become stabilized and connect them with community resources to help them effectively deal with their situations and avoid further crises.

Pathways Community Crisis Center of Southwest Idaho
7192 Potomac Drive
Boise, Idaho 83704

North Idaho Crisis Center
2195 Ironwood Court, Suite D
Coeur D’Alene, Idaho 83814

Behavioral Health Community Crisis Center of East Idaho
1650 N. Holmes Avenue
Idaho Falls, Idaho 83401

Crisis Center of South Central Idaho
570 Shoup Avenue West
Twin Falls, Idaho 83301