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During times of stress, relief may literally be at the tip of your nose. Intentionally engaging our five senses – hearing, touch, smell, taste, and sight – are incredibly powerful tools in providing instant relief in a hectic world. Plus, they’re free! Are you a visual person? Do you love music? Do what works best for you, and develop an individualized stress relief plan.

Babbling BrookHearing

Sounds have the ability to calm our racing minds and bodies. Listen to a cat purring,   play or listen to your favorite relaxing music. A personal favorite of mine is calming piano, instrumental, guitar, and classical music. Or, go an adventure to find a live babbling brook, ocean waves, or the sound of rain dancing on the ground. You can also find these sounds for free online or in a sound machine. These soothing sounds actually change our brain waves and help us relax. Try closing your eyes to enhance the sounds you’re hearing.

Touch

The sensation of touch is often overlooked, but a powerful way to unwind. Notice the pressure of your back on the bed or chair, or your feet touching the floor. Rub a piece of your clothing and notice the textures. Is it smooth or rough? Warm or cool? Touch something else and pay attention to the differences or similarities. Try creating art with modeling clay or finger paint. Feel more grounded by running your hands through sand or digging in the dirt. Touch the bark of a tree, pet a dog or cat, or give someone a hug. Hugging releases oxytocin, a chemical that makes us feel good and builds stronger connections among people. Hugging, and touch in general, lowers blood pressure, decreases the stress hormone cortisol. From a handshake, hug, pat on the back, or a massage, touch is a powerful way to promote your overall health.

Woman smelling strawberrySmell

Whether it’s the delicious smell of fresh baked banana bread or roasted vegetables, the natural aromas of lavender soap, flowers in the park, or pine trees or in a forest, aromatherapy is a powerful way to relax. You can create the type of atmosphere that you want with natural aromas from flowers or essential oils. Ninety-nine percent of taste is in fact smell, so take a moment to inhale a piping hot mug of your favorite tea and slowly and deeply breathe in the flavor of your food, appreciating where it came from and how it was made.

Sight

Certain shades of blue and green are calming and soothing, as they remind us of nature. Watching the clouds float by, birds take flight, and the sun rise and set all arouse a sense of wonder, and that we’re part of something larger than ourselves. Electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and TVs emit blue light that signals our brains to stay awake. Instead, especially at night, try looking at natural sights, like the starry night, plants, or watching your kids or pets sleep.

Taste

To calm a busy mind, try eating and drinking mindfully. If you’re drinking ginger tea, for example, swish it around in your mouth and notice the district flavors – are they sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory? Eat and drink at a slower pace, appreciating and savoring every bite and every sip. Notice the distinct flavors and textures of your food, how they pair together, and how different foods make you feel.

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Community Suicide Prevention Coordinator

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