What can I do to diminish (acute) stress?

Reading time: 3 minutes

Are you having a stressful day or a moment of acute, overwhelming stress? Let’s get started with some quick ways to reduce your stress! Do you have a minute?

1 minute – you don't even have to leave your desk

  • Breathe! Yes, you are already breathing, but when stress hits hard, you can control the physical symptoms with just a few breaths. A few deep (abdominal) breaths lower your heart rate and give your brain more oxygen. Your muscles can relax and unwind.
  • Place your hand(palm) on your forehead! Strange but true: the warmth and contact stimulates blood flow to the frontal, conscious parts of the brain. The initial stress response is triggered by deep, instinctive parts of the brain and sets everything in motion to do what we have to – without having to consciously think. By reconnecting with conscious parts, we can dissipate a stress response that is not necessary for survival.
    ! Also a great way to help calm an overwhelmed child!

2 minutes

  • Focus on your 5 senses! An acute stress response tells our body that we are in danger and must be ready to fight or flight. Contemporary stress is usually not directly linked to (physical) danger, so becoming aware of the here and now (such as with mindfulness) can provide peace of mind. Pay attention to what you see (colors, shapes, movement…), hear, how your body feels in contact with the ground/chair/bed, with your clothes… Go through it, name it factually (within yourself) and feel calmer become!
  • Hug a loved one! According to research, 20 seconds is enough to feel relaxed, safe and connected. Touch is a basic need of life (see for example this article about why Touch is essential) and stimulates the production of oxytocin and endorphins: the happiness hormones! 
    As opposed to stress hormones, these lower your blood pressure, reduce pain and help the body function calmly in balance.

5 minutes

  • PACE yourself! This one sounds a little more cryptic, but it involves 4 very simple exercises from Brain Gym! Stress means losing balance, these exercises help restore balance. Within a few minutes you will not only be calmer, but also in a better mood and able to concentrate, learn, listen… Also recommended before starting a challenging assignment!




















  1. Drink a glass of water! All our neuronal functions (including brain functions) need water. Water helps conduct electricity and relax dehydrated tissue layers.

  2. Massage under the key bone, the so-called “brain buttons”! Place index and middle fingers on one side and thumb on the other in the small indentations under the collarbone next to the breastbone. Massage for half to 1 minute, with the fingers of the other hand resting around the navel. With this we massage the area of the carotid arteries that are responsible for the blood supply to the brain.Brain Gym PACE Brain buttonsBrain Gym Brain buttons stand  

  3. Do a couple of cross-crawls!Brain Gym Cross Crawl
    Imagine that there is a vertical line running through the middle of your body – you will cross over this line with your arm and leg. Standing or sitting, lift your left leg towards the right side of the body and touch it with the elbow (if not possible, hand) of the right arm, crossing it towards the left side of the body. Repeat on the other side, doing this about 15-20 times.
  4. Do the hook-ups! The last but maybe most relaxing exercise consists of 3 steps.Brain Gym Wayne Cook 1
    For the first, cross the legs, extend the arms in front of you and cross them at the wrists, then with palms together, interlace the fingers. Turn your hands towards your body to get into a “knot”. Breathe calmly a few times!
    As a second step, repeat the first – but with hands and legs reversed. Again, take a few deep breaths!

    Brain Gym Wayne Cook 1

    As a final step, stand (or sit) with your legs next to each other in a relaxed, wide, stable stand. Close your eyes and gently bring the fingers of your two hands together in front of your navel. You can rest the interlocked hands on the navel for a couple of breaths.

Save this – you might want it as a reminder in your phone for days you expect a lot of stress!

Want to know more about the biology and kinesiology of stress? More exercises from the Brain Gym?
Let me know!

If you are looking for a structural and personal approach to dealing with stress and being more balanced, feel free to get in touch!

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