Four Elements for Stress Reduction

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Hey there, I’m not channeling my ancient asian energy here today. I will introduce an effective stress reduction technique created by Elan Shapiro. This is something I teach every single EMDR client in the prep phase. The world is so surreal now, everyone would benefit from practicing 4 elements.

Before introducing 4 elements, let me briefly mention window of tolerance or sometimes we call it emotional bandwidth. When you’re in your window of tolerance, you feel like you can deal with whatever’s happening in your life. You might notice stress or pressure but it doesn’t bother you too much. This is the good enough place to be. It’s almost impossible to not feel pressure right now.

If I ask you to rate your stress level on a scale of 0-10. 0 means no stress, 10 is the highest disturbance you can imagine. Let’s say you’re at a 5 or less than 5. Our GOOD ENOUGH GOAL is to reduce your stress level by 1 or 2. If you’re at 9 or 10, my suggestion is to let go any expectation, just to get a basic understanding of it. If it’s a new skill, it’s probably too challenging to to use it in most disturbing situations. It requires constant practice to get better at it, then it’ll be so much easier to use when you’re deeply disturbed.

We’ll get to the 4 elements soon, but let me nag about one more thing and it is really IMPORTANT. My understanding is that our “unrealistic expectation” is the biggest challenge to hinder the effectiveness of all the evidence based practice. I have a lot of clients telling me 4 elements saved their lives, while on the other hand, some told me it’s useless. The biggest difference is their mindset. If you’re looking for a radical and magical answer to reduce stress to 0 after first trial, it wouldn’t work, you belong to the “it’s useless” group. If you’re ready to practice it on a daily basis, and expect to reduce the stress level by 1 or 2 after couple of months of consistent practice, I guarantee you, IT WILL WORK.

Here we go



Earth: “GROUNDING, SAFETY in the PRESENT/REALITY


“Take a minute or 2 to ‘land’... to be here now... place both feet on the ground, feel the chair supporting you... Look around and notice 3 new things...What do you see... What do you hear? Direct your attention outwards to the reality of safety in the present ”

Air: BREATHING for CENTERING

“Breathing – you can do your favorite breathing exercise here.” [Attention is directed inwards to your center]

Option: breathing in through your nose 1 second then breathe out for 2 seconds. Take about a dozen deeper slower breaths like this. This is my favorite because it’s easy and doable for beginners. There’re millions of effective ways to breath, but a lot of anxious people wouldn’t practice breathing exercise regularly because we don’t have a positive relationship with it. See when you don’t have a positive relationship with something, any teeny tiny challenge will freak you out. 1-2 breathing is simple, it takes 3 seconds each time. Most of you already do 1-1 breathing all the time, it only requires a little bit more of your time, yes, 1 second more each time. It sounds pretty doable right? And it’s more effective in terms of stress reduction than 1-1 breathing. You can practice “Air/breathing” with other 3 elements or just focus one this one element first, if it’s too challenging to combine 3 more elements. So NO EXCUSE, start right away.


Water CALM AND CONTROLLED

switch on the RELAXATION RESONSE... “Do you have saliva in your mouth?...make more saliva...(explanation –when you are anxious or stressed your mouth often “dries” because part of the stress emergency response (sympathetic N S) is to shut off the digestive system. So when you start making saliva you switch on the digestive system again (parasympathetic N S) and the relaxation response –that is why people are offered water or tea or chew gum after a difficult pain while he performs surgery without anesthetics – when you make more saliva your mind can optimally control your thoughts and your body. “ [Attention is directed to producing saliva and becoming calmer, focused and more in control]

Fire-LIGHT up the path of your IMAGINATION

Power of imagination will power. -“Bring up the image of your SAFE PLACE (or some other RESOURCE) –where do you feel it in your body? Install with brief slow BLS/butterfly hugs. “[Attention is directed to the feelings of safety/calm/etc. in your body]

Soothing Butterfly Hug video on Youtube




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