July 17, 2018

Counterclockwise Eye Roll for Stress Relief

Instant stress relief with a pattern interrupt technique

Life of Overwhelm

Anxiety and stress are everywhere and creeping up slowly onto even the most resilient of minds. There are so many demands placed on us daily, while our collective environments are not designed with the wellbeing of people in mind. Our lives are busy and can be overwhelming.  Luckily, there are techniques that can help us cope when everything gets on top of us and we cannot even think straight. The counterclockwise eye roll is a really good way to give yourself that momentary break when you feel like you are on a rollercoaster plunging down with the seat belt that had come off.

Our Environments Conspire Against Us

Does anyone else find it very strange that the award-winning architectural wonders are designed to give everyone an instant headache? Or that workers are forced into cramped office spaces with sciatica inducing chairs, harsh fluorescent lights, and poor ventilation? And what about open office spaces where airborne germs and loud noises compete in the never-ending playoffs of stressors?

Why are we so bad at designing the environments that are beneficial to us? Even the most elegant looking developments might look wonderful on the surface but underneath are a hive of electromagnetic stress lines, broken sewage pipes, thriving cockroach and rat communities and cancer-causing chemical cocktails of cleaning and maintenance agents. Airconditioning causes as many problems as it solves. We struggle to breathe.

Then, we ingest more toxins through our food and various stimulants or relaxants and inevitably end up rubbing each other the wrong way because – who could endure the onslaught of over-worked life without an occasional burnout?


Self-Care Toolkit

We all need a quick technique to use at times when it is a difference between blowing up at someone and staying calm enough to walk away and find a quiet private spot where we can regain our composure.  Meditation can be helpful, but many people have no patience for it.  Also, meditation requires sitting in a quiet place for a length of time where you are going to be undisturbed and can relax completely. I don’t know about you, but even as a single person without any obligations, I find that mystical place-time pretty much impossible to find. This is why I’ve devised a fast mediation (3-2-1 relax) which works really well in only a minute or two and you don’t need any special accommodations to do it.

Sometimes, unfortunately, even a minute is too long to spare on self-care.

For those times, I recommend a technique called Counterclockwise Eye Roll.

This technique is most helpful in times of rising anxiety and stress, or when you might feel an anxiety or panic attack coming on but cannot leave the situation or just can’t think clearly.

Disclaimer: Please note that I do not guarantee safety or effectiveness of this technique and if you are concerned, please consult your medical health provider first before trying this or any other techniques described on this website. Additionally, I cannot make any claims for this technique to be safe to use in dangerous (life-or-death) circumstances, please understand that you are doing so at your own risk.

I read about the counterclockwise eye roll a long time ago and have been using it for years to bring me back from overreacting inwardly and outwardly. If you decide to try it, I would love to hear about it, please leave a note in the comments. Perhaps try it first when you are only mildly annoyed and see if it works for you then, before trying it in situations where you are facing a potential loss of self-control.

Only use up to 3 counterclockwise eye rolls at one time as you might start to get dizzy and nauseous if you do it for longer.

Here is how to do the counterclockwise eye roll for instant stress relief:

Do a shallow exhale through your mouth, as if you were exercising, then, continue to breathe normally while slowly moving your eyes to your left then up, to the right and down again. If you don’t feel enough change after one rotation, repeat the process for the total of 3 counterclockwise rolls. You should start to feel a return to inner balance at this point.


This technique works by disrupting our inner autopilot. Because counterclockwise eye roll is so different from the usual way we behave, it requires the brain to disengage from other things – like freaking out about something.

3 full counterclocwise eye rolls are enough to give you that little bit of space in your head, at which point you will have an option to decide what you want to do next.

I usually ask myself some questions:

  • Is this the End of the World situation? (the answer is always NO)
  • What would [my current hero] do? (the answer is usually something calm and collected, deciding in favour of health and safety first and ego second)

Most of the time, the best course of action is something you would have decided beforehand and will be able to default to that particular ‘save’ scenario. I find that for me it works best to excuse myself and take a walk in nature for at least 10-15 minutes. I am always calmed by nature, but when this is not possible, just spending some time alone, in private, can make all the difference. You may be different and prefer company. Do whatever works for you, as long as it is healthy and safe.

If you still feel like you are spinning out of control, and you have tried other techniques for coping with panic attacks, including breathing techniques, running your wrists under cold water and splashing cold water on your face and neck, it might be time to make your distress known to a trusted person and ask for help.

When you are feeling better and have time, try putting together your very own Self Care Toolkit with tips, techniques, items, and reminders that bring results for you. It will be so much easier to reach for that One Thing when you are out of sorts and cannot think straight, then try to remember what you are supposed to do when you ‘get like this’.

Feel free to bookmark this website or print out the articles and mental health basics poster if it will help.

My instant stress-relief procedure:

  • 3 counterclockwise eye rolls
  • 3 shallow exhales through a wide smiling mouth (it looks a bit weird but works well) while repeating a mantra in my mind (Everything Is Fine or I’ve Got This or This Too Shall Pass)
  • 3 cycles of 3-2-1 R-E-L-A-X breathing technique with visualising my happy place or looking at calming images


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