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Does counting to 10 really work?

By on April 26, 2013
Stop Watch with 10 Minutes to Go

Life is too short to let yourself be overwhelmed by stress. If we’re lucky, we only have 80 years or so on this planet. That means not letting the little things get to you is essential. Stuff happens; it’s how we respond (not react) that matters.

Counting to 10, the age-old method used on you by your mom, is one of the best ways to contain a stressful situation. Read on to learn why counting to 10 really works, plus some other stress reducing tricks that are worth your time.

The origins

While the origins of counting to 10 are a mystery, we know that it’s been an effective method of dealing with stress and anger for at least a few hundred years. Thomas Jefferson, the beloved US president, was a huge fan of counting to 10. He wrote, “When angry, count to 10 before you speak. It’s very angry, a hundred.” That’s some very wise advice.

See, the theory behind why counting to 10 works is two-fold. 1) It gives you pause, (and even though that seems like a small thing, it’s really not.) And 2) It helps distract you from what’s stressing you out at that moment.

Just a 10 second mental break from a negative situation (try imagining yourself in a different place), can have a huge effect on your psyche.

How it’s done

The hard part is making yourself follow through with counting to 10 when you’re an adult. Doing this takes some serious self discipline. But, if you can force yourself into it, you’ll be surprised at how much counting to 10 can work.

To count to 10 effectively, simply mentally a step away from the situation (close your eyes if that helps) and take deep breaths, preferably a deep breath on each count. Deep breathing can help a lot because it help relax you and help us focus on the present moment.

A good way to look at counting to 10 is it like hitting the “pause” button on your life, like you’re using a remote control. Just think of how much stress you can get rid of by looking at life in this way. Simply hit “pause,” count to 10 (with deep breathing), then hit “play” to engage yourself in the situation again.

Other easy stress-fighting ideas

If, after you’ve counted to 10 and you still feel stressed, try taking yourself more physically out of the situation by going for a walk. Physically moving can help you get rid of all those icky side effects from feeling stressed out. Just take a few minute walk, nothing too dramatic, and see how you feel afterwards. More than likely the tension you were feeling will be gone, or better at least.

If going for a walk isn’t a possibility, try unplugging yourself from everything. Your cell phone, your computer, the television, just get your mind in a quiet space so you can recharge your batteries.

And remember, eating healthy, getting enough exercise, getting enough sleep or just hanging out with a pet are other age-old (yet effective) stress-reducing tricks to give a whirl if you find yourself in a stressful situation.

About Tiffiny Carlson

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