Most people are aware of their stress, but many don’t know how to release it in a healthy way. Very few people have the luxury of taking a long, unplanned vacation and going to a mountaintop to meditate until their stress goes away. Even if we could do this, when we returned to our daily lives, the stress would be right there waiting there for us.
Stress is part of human existence. It served a purpose in the days when our ancestors lived in caves. Without stress, we wouldn’t have survived. Stress reactions in our bodies and minds come from the fight or flight response.
Long ago, when possible danger lurked in our daily environment, the fight or flight response served us well, and it still does in dangerous situations. The problem is, most of us are not facing the possibility of a hungry animal lurching out from behind a tree and attacking us. Our bodies don’t distinguish between real and perceived danger. Any stimulus that induces fear brings forth the fight or flight response.
Fear comes in many forms, including worry. When a person worries, he or she fears some future action or consequence. The body and mind respond as if the perceived threat is real. Heart rate goes up. Blood pressure increases. Muscles tense. Brain wave patterns alter as if personal survival were at stake. In today’s world we respond to a boss’s tirade or dental work, the way our cave dwelling ancestors reacted to a bear on the rampage. The next time you feel stressed, take a deep breath and ask where the bear is.
One law of science states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This holds true in human biology. The opposite of the fight or flight reaction is a “relaxation response.” Herbert Benson, a doctor who studied the body’s physiological changes during relaxation, identified the “relaxation response.” We can intentionally bring about the relaxation response to counter the effects of stress.
Dr. Benson studied transcendental meditation as a method of inducing the “relaxation response.” Not all of us have the time or inclination to study meditation, but there are other ways we can calm ourselves and counter stress. Reducing your stress involves learning to relax amid the hustle and bustle of daily life. Quiet your mind. Create peace for yourself. You can relax.
Simple Stress Reduction Techniques You Can Do in Five Minutes or Less
All it takes to reduce stress is breathing, relaxing, and visualizing.
During times of high stress or anxiety, our natural tendency is to hold our breath. With chronic tension, we become shallow breathers. We need to allow oxygen to fill our lungs. Otherwise, we are robbing our bodies of optimal oxygen. Deep breathing breaks the cycle of tension.
Take a deep breath through your nose. Feel your lungs filling with air and your chest expanding from your diaphragm upwards. As you inhale tell yourself, “I am Love.” Exhale through your mouth. As you exhale, tell yourself, “I am Loved.” Repeat until you have established a slow, steady rhythm to your breathing.
Relax Your Muscles
We all carry tension in different parts of our bodies. To release this tension, start with deep breathing. Next, tense the muscles of your forehead and hold that tension for five seconds. Tense the muscles in your neck for five seconds, and let go. Tense the muscles in your shoulders for five seconds, and let go. Move downwards through your body, tensing muscles and letting go, until you reach your toes.
Once you finish tensing and relaxing all the muscle groups, do a mental check on your entire body. If you notice any areas of stress, tense those muscles for five seconds then let go. Take a slow, deep breath.
Certain types of visual imagery can elicit the “relaxation response.” Mentally see yourself in a peaceful place, sitting on a deserted beach or taking a luxurious hot bath, or sitting by a mountain stream. Focus on the sounds, sights and smells of this peaceful place. If your sense of peace is interrupted by anxious thoughts, observe them. Then gently return to the sights, smells, and sensations that surround you in your peaceful place.
1. Discover and remove the tension source – (if possible). This is one of the easiest and most effective stress reduction techniques known to man. Discover the source and either neutralize it or eliminate it completely. Don’t sit back and wait for things to change – take charge and change them yourself.
2. Feet Manipulation – take off your shoes and wiggle those toes. It sounds silly but it works. Make fists with your toes and use your hand or the floor to stretch your toes back towards your shin. Get a squeezing ball and roll it around with your toes, then roll it underneath your feet back and forth. Soak your feet in a salt water bath or spray them with a nice cooling foot spray.
3. Breathing methods – talk about a stress reduction technique! Take somewhat deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling the same number of seconds. Focus on each breath thinking only about your breathing, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
4. Take a brisk walk – around the room or outside for a few minutes. Do not walk slowly or shuffle your feet; walk with meaning, with purpose and with speed. Do this alone, so you can have “me” time.
5. Take a cat nap – lie down and relax for 20 minutes. Let your mind go and think about pleasant things; relive events from the past. Let your mind return you to a time when your life was carefree and comfortable. Daydream about the ocean or the sky and picture all the beautiful scenes in your mind.