4 Elements Exercises for Stress Reduction
Based on the exercise developed by Elan Shapiro, 2012
External and internal stress triggers have an accumulative effect during the day. We cope better with stress when we stay within our arousal “window of tolerance”. An antidote to stress triggers is awareness and action; frequent random monitoring of stress levels, with simple stress reduction actions to keep stress levels within our “window of tolerance”.
EARTH: GROUNDING, SAFETY in the PRESENT /REALITY….
“take a minute or two to ‘land’… to be here NOW… place both feet on the ground… feel the chair supporting you…. Look around & notice 3 new things… What else do you see…. What else do you hear?”
Attention is directed outwards to the reality of safety in the present
AIR: BREATHING for CENTERING
“… as you continue feeling the SECURITY of NOW, of your feet on the GROUND, breathe in through your nose as you count 4 seconds, then hold for 2 and then breathe out for 4 seconds. Take about a dozen deeper slower breaths like this”.
(Alternatively, you can do your favourite breathing exercise here)
Attention is directed inwards to your centre
WATER: CALM & CONTROLLED & switching on the RELAXATION RESPONSE
“…as you continue feeling the SECURITY of NOW, of your feet on the GROUND; and feel CENTERED as you BREATHE in and out; begin to notice ….do you have saliva in your mouth? .... make more saliva
(when you are anxious or stressed your mouth often dries because part of the stress emergency response is to shut off the digestive system. So, when you start making saliva you switch on the digestive system again & the relaxation response, that is why people are offered water or tea after a difficult experience- when you make saliva your mind can also optimally control your thoughts & your body).
Attention is directed to producing saliva & becoming calmer, focused & more in control
FIRE LIGHT up the path of your IMAGINATION
“…as you continue feeling the SECURITY of NOW, of your feet on the GROUND; and feel CENTERED as you BREATHE in and out; and feel CALM & in CONTROL as you produce more and more SALIVA; you can let the FIRE LIGHT the path to your IMAGINATION, to bring up an IMAGE of a place where you feel SAFE /or a memory in which you felt good about yourself. Notice as you take yourself there, what you feel & where you feel it in your body.
Attention is directed to the feelings of safety/calm/etc. in your body
As you notice that GROUNDING, ….as you continue to BREATHE gently in and out, ….as you notice the SALIVA in your mouth, …and your positive IMAGE, ….gently, cross your arms diagonally across your chest as if hugging yourself, ….gently and slowly start tapping your arms with your hands, left then right, in a butterfly tap for a few moments, ………….…..then when you’re ready have a stretch and move on.
TOP TIP: Place a small sticker on your mobile phone/watch or wear a ‘4 Elements bracelet on your wrist (this could be a coloured silicon band or a bracelet with 4 coloured beads each representing the 4 elements) and every time you notice the sticker or bracelet, take a quick reading of your current stress level (0-10 with 10 being the most), do the 4 Elements Exercises, then re-rate your stress level. The aim is to reduce the score slightly by a couple of points each time. Doing this randomly could prevent your stress accumulating so that you can stay within your “window of tolerance”. The rubber band could also be stretched (gently!) & released as a way to “stop”/interrupt negative thoughts & to ground quickly in the present.