The ‘physiological sigh’ and 4 things you should definitely try when you're stressed.

Ethical Nutrients
Thanks to our brand partner, Ethical Nutrients

The demands of life as an adult are constantly changing (and seemingly growing). Just when I thought I had a grip on life after a pandemic – one of the most heightened periods of stress none of us planned for – other stressors were quick to take its place in my head. The ridiculous cost of living, burnout, natural disasters, my grandparents' health, fertility, career, and the interest on my HECS debt. 

Stress is the brain's normal response designed to help us deal with threats, and is meant to simmer down once the threat has passed. But, if we're rocky with our ability to reign in the calm, that state of alarm or distress in our body can really rule our life or impact our health.

It's all in our ability to ride the stress wave, rather than stop it or slow it down. Which is precisely why we've compiled some practical ideas on how to actually manage your stress in the moment you're feeling it.

It's important to emphasise, these are just options, not a to-do list. We mean it when we say: you do you. We all have different brains, different stressors, and different preferences to deal with them. Naturally, what will work for one person mightn't work for another.

So, here are 5 ideas to have up your sleeve.

The physiological sigh.

Breathwork hacks are aplenty on our TikTok feeds, but this idea stuck out to me both for its simplicity and its research backing from Stanford Medicine. They're calling this cyclic breathing pattern the "physiological sigh". 

The way to try it for yourself: Inhale through your nose, and once you've comfortably filled your lungs, take a second, deeper sip of air to expand your lungs as much as possible. Very slowly, then exhale through your mouth (try pursing your lips) fully, and repeat. 

Taking charge of your breathing can break the cycle of spiralling thoughts, quickened heart rate, clammy skin or restlessness. You may already feel calmer after two or three deep sighs, but they do report to feel the full effect, continue these deep sighs for about five minutes. 


Gargling water.

Yep, taking your stress out on a big gargle of water is a technique that might actually help you relax.

As the longest cranial nerve in the body, the vagus nerve system is involved in controlling your heart rate and blood pressure. As it happens, it's also connected to the muscles in the back of your throat and your vocal cords. Loud gargling or even humming, singing or chanting are practices that can stimulate the vagus nerve – and influence a relaxation response in the body.

The 5-4-3-2-1 technique.

Grounding techniques like this one can help by turning your attention away from the stressors affecting you, and instead have you redirect your focus on the present moment.

A really easy one is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, prompting you to mindfully tune in to the details of your surroundings using each of your senses. Ask yourself:

  • What are five things you can see? Look for details like a pattern on a rug, the wood grain of a table, or an object you hadn't noticed in your environment.
  • What are four things you can feel? Note the sensation of how your clothing feels on your body, wind in your hair, or the feeling of the surface you're sitting in.
  • What are three things you can hear? Tune into the sounds you were tuning out, like leaves crunching, a barking dog, or passing traffic.
  • What are two things you can smell? Notice the smells surrounding you, like grass, the ocean, nearby food or someone's perfume.
  • What's one thing you can taste? Focus your attention on the flavours of something within your reach, like a muesli bar or gum.

Mirthful laughter.

Researchers in a 2009 study found that "mirthful laughter" (think big and joyous cackles, the good stuff) had a positive effect on blood pressure, in part causing a release of endorphins, our feel-good chemicals.

To land on these findings, researchers had a group watch either the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan or clips from Saturday Night Live, and tested the reactivity of the participants’ blood vessels. Those who watched SNL experienced a 22 percent reduction in the dilation of their blood vessels compared to baseline.

To try this technique for your own "mirthful laughter", bank up your favourite snort-inducing videos in a Saved folder on your Facebook, Instagram or camera roll. It's then always ready for you to scroll through when moments of overwhelm or stress arrive.


Write down self-statements.

Our minds tend to have an in-built bias for negative self-talk. If you've ever been hung up on something irritating for days after it happened, despite everything else travelling great (or that one insult you remember ahead of the 10 compliments you've received since), that's your negativity bias in action. That being, our tendency to think more about negative events despite most of our week being filled with positive ones.

By directing more of our conscious attention toward the positive events and feelings we experience in times where our stress or negative emotions are peaking, that's how we can help address this imbalance of negativity bias.

Write down a positive, opposite thought to counteract the negative thought swarming you in the stressful scenario. It can be super helpful to put pen to paper, especially if your belief in those thoughts feels strong. 

For example, if the thoughts "I'm going to ruin this presentation," or "I'm so bad at public speaking" are in your head, try counteracting it with statements like "I am skilled at my job, and I know how to speak to others about this subject," or "I am a person with lots of potential, and I can do this."

While it will be tricky to accept these self-statements initially, with repetition, you can forge new associations in your brain that make it easier to see (and believe) the positives.

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Feature Image: Getty.

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This native is sponsored by Ethical Nutrients. Whatever ‘your way’, your thing, your joy… our purpose is to help you have the resilience to pursue it. At Ethical Nutrients, everything we do is about supporting your body and mind so that you thrive, not just survive. Ethical Nutrients products are evidence-based & meticulously crafted with stringently sourced premium ingredients for real results. There are 3 points of differentiation in that sentence alone – crafting, quality & results - each with its own spectrum of merit & each an area where Ethical Nutrients stands apart..