top of page

Managing STRESS… “Take 10”

We all know that stress can affect our mental and physical health, appearance, sleep, eating, decisions, relationships, and longevity. So how do we just “Chill out”? With practice! We’ve practiced our current behaviors for some time, and so practice is needed to recondition our thought process and ensuing behaviors.

One method to reduce stress is to take long shallow breaths. Practice slowly inhaling through the nose to a count of four, hold it for a moment, and then very slowly, mindfully exhale through the nose, not mouth, for a six count. This can be done several times in a row and throughout the day. This type of breathing can slow the heart rate, feed calming oxygen to stressed muscles, and take our thoughts from the external stress triggers and bring them internally for a moment, which can be just enough to be able to deal effectively with the problem at hand.

Thinking of a calming phrase while taking 10 can also help to reduce our stress. Try a phrase like “is it worth it” or “it is what it is” or whatever works for you! If really enraged, try and picture the breath coming out as red smoke! In two to three months, most of my clients catch themselves taking 10 without having been aware they had started doing it! When done correctly, no one will be aware you are trying to calm down and seeing your calm demeanor, they will in turn be inclined to become more calm themselves.

This simple process, once practiced, can also provide a ‘mindful’ moment to reflect on what just happened, see alternative points of view, solutions and outcomes. It can also keep a little cool on the heat of the situation… so that we can get through a challenging moment and simply “Chill out”!

Trying to achieve a more mindful approach to life can help us with a calmer baseline so that when the proverbial poo hits the fan we are at a better place to deal with it. Mindfulness can be serene or practical. Serene mindfulness is experienced when we stop to smell the roses, literally, or feel the sun on our face while taking a moment to watch a seagull simply gliding along to nowhere. The next time you are driving, while being mindful of the road, try really looking around while driving as though you were hiking or bicycling, taking in all the scenery and not visually trapped to the confines of the car’s interior limits of the dashboard. You may start to see things you never noticed before and just find some inner peace. Try taking the slower lane and ask yourself if you really need to get there a few frustrated minutes earlier? Is this truly a need or a want?

Practical mindfulness can be when we can see that someone close to us is stressed by a wrinkled brow or other familiar mannerisms and not ignoring them, but rather utilizing empathy, acknowledge them and not asking “Why” they are like that which can put the problem on them and make them defensive, but rather “What” happened, which can get them to talk about the problem and thereby lessen stress and strengthen our supportive network for when we need them! If the conflict seems as though it will inevitably escalate, take a few minutes off for all to cool down a little. Simply say that you need to go to the bathroom. This simply tactic can be quite disarming and give each party a few well needed moments to calm down, maybe just enough so cooler heads can prevail and successfully discuss the problem at hand. Practical mindfulness can also alert us that our bodies are reacting to stress (tightening muscles, labored breath…) which we can then take 10 and take a mindful moment to assess and consider our possible reactions and the ensuing consequence for reach choice made.

Jody Koval, LPC is a psychotherapist in Glastonbury and Old Lyme, CT. He works with people to help them cope with life’s adjustments, with the goal that they can function better and live life to its fullest. For more information call (860) 657-6123 or see his listing on

bottom of page