Centering Strategies for Stress Relief


During the pandemic, life has become stressful in ways we could not have imagined. Worries about getting sick, loneliness and isolation, and depression have piled on to make this a time we all wish would soon be over. But that may not happen as quickly as we would like, and, going forward, we will continue to need strategies to help us function and manage the stress of the times.

What is Centering?

Centering is a term used to refer to bringing your conscious state back into balance. When we are not centered, we tend to feel frantic, out of control, stressed, dizzy, sick to our stomachs, and worried. Breathing may be shallow, and a general sense of unease takes over. In order to feel better, and be able to function in our daily lives, including taking on the new challenges we face every day right now, we need to focus our attention on calming and soothing activities to bring our balance back.

Start with Breath

Breathing exercises are a great way to begin to bring the body back into balance. Techniques can vary, depending on the discipline involved, but the idea is to use breathing and breath techniques to calm your nervous system. Below, you will find a couple of easy breathing techniques to try, which will help you to calm your nervous system and begin to get back into balance.

1. Alternate nostril breathing

This technique hails from Yoga, and in Sanskrit is called Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, which means ‘subtle energy clearing breathing technique’. Here’s how you perform this exercise:

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your legs crossed, or you can be in a chair, if sitting on the floor is problematic.
  • Place your left hand on your left knee, and relax your shoulders.
  • Lift your right hand up toward your nose.
  • Exhale completely and then use your right thumb to close your right nostril.
  • Inhale through your left nostril and then close the left nostril with your ring finger.
  • Open the right nostril and exhale through this side.
  • Inhale through the right nostril and then close this nostril.
  • Open the left nostril and exhale through the left side. This is one cycle.
  • Always complete the practice by finishing with an exhale on the left side.
  • Begin with 5 cycles, and see how you feel. You can do this technique anywhere you feel comfortable and at any time you need to center.

This technique can help you lower your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, improve your cardio-respiratory function, and increase your lung capacity. If you feel lightheaded or ill, stop the technique immediately. It’s rare to feel this way, but always use caution and listen to your body!

2. 5 breaths technique

I use this technique often, because it’s easy to do quickly, when you need to calm down, and it can be done anywhere.

How to do this:

  • Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, stop. Even if you stay standing, you can perform this!
  • Try to relax your shoulders by rolling them a couple of times.
  • Inhale through your nose to a slow count of 5, hold, then exhale through the mouth to a slow count of 5.
  • Repeat this 4 more times.

This technique will also help to calm you, and is a great technique if you are panicking, or feel you’ve lost control in the moment. Because it can be done anywhere, it’s a particularly useful and fast technique to take with you through your day.

Other centering activities

Find your center

Finding your center of balance and stability is as easy and turning your attention inward, to find your center of gravity, about 2 inches below your naval. Become familiar with finding it quickly and easily by beginning when you have few distractions. Once you are able to find this easily, you can center yourself anywhere, at anytime. When you feel stressed, turn your attention inward to this spot, and remind yourself that you have control and balance. Once you’ve found it, try some light breaths to accompany the sense of stability.

Channeling your energy

Visualize a ball of light. Take one hand on the top, and one hand on the bottom, and inhale as you cradle and increase the size of your ball of light, gathering energy as you do so. Exhale, and compress the energy in your ball of light to make it stronger. Inhale, and expand, exhale and compress, with more energy each time. Now imagine that the energy has gone to your core – the center of your being. It increases your balance and strength. It fills you with life and light.

Other activities

Taking the negative energy from your day and channeling it through activities that you enjoy can also help you to feel better, and less stressed. Consider the following:

  • Take a walk.
  • Ride your bike.
  • Take a class with friends.
  • Paint, crochet, needle point, knit, or do some other craft project.
  • Boxing – I have a bag in my basement, and it helps sometimes to just hit something to release stress!
  • Go into a closet and scream as loud as you need to!
  • Go to a body of water, and focus on the waves, the rhythm of the water, and the sounds of nature.

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Written by Melissa Abramovich, ACE CPT, NASM CGT, AAHFRP Medical Exercise Specialist at Elite Sports Club-River Glen

Melissa Abramovich went into Personal Training and Group Exercise instruction after successfully losing 140 pounds through healthy diet and exercise. Her desire to help others drove her forward into a career helping others to make healthier choices. She is an ACE certified personal trainer and now also a Medical Exercise Specialist (AAHFRP), helping clients with a myriad of health issues at Elite Sports Clubs. She holds a Bachelor’s degree, and many group exercise related certifications as well.