So last week we learned what stress does to our physiological body but what can we do about it? How do Stress Relief strategies really work?
The logic behind using stress strategies for the relief of stress is very much similar to that of concentrative meditation.
In concentrative meditation, focusing on any object, sound, image or thought takes the mind away form the source of stress resulting in relaxation of mind. Similarly by applying an appropriate stress relief strategy, a person may divert all his attention onto the strategy and away from the source of stress. This helps in the relaxation of the mind.
Outdoor games like tennis and soccer if played for a while cause exhaustion of the stress hormones stores. This results in a decrease in the stress hormone levels. The decrease in stress hormone levels reverses all the physiological changes of stress resulting in relaxation of body and mind. This is why many people find exercising stress relieving! Indoor strategies may include massage, yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, quiet time, etc. Most individuals express sensations of pleasure, intense involvement, and often relaxation from participating in stress relieving strategies.
BUT FIRST…One Has To Acknowledge The Stress
The first step to being able to live with the stress in your life is acknowledging that you have stress. Many people try to ignore the fact that they have a stressful life and this is dangerous. When you ignore stress completely, it will destroy you.
Not only that, but you should also acknowledge that stress has a good effect on you! Your body responds to stress by giving you the energy you need to perform when you need to. Whether it be preparing you for an important meeting at work, or giving you the energy and strength you need to finish a marathon, stress helps your body respond correctly.
Avoid Stress “Sneezers”
What is a stress sneezer?
A stress sneezer is someone who spreads stress in his environment like the germs that get spread when someone sneezes. You know the type. It seems like when they walk into the room, the stress level goes up! If you recognize people who are overly stressed, avoid having close contact with them. Stress is infectious! You could become stressed just by spending time from them. If the stress sneezer is someone you care about, or someone you must spend time with, help them learn stress management techniques.
Deep Breathing Exercises and Other One Minute Strategies
Deep breathing exercises are perhaps the most commonly thought of stress relief techniques. Deep breathing works well as one of your relaxation techniques for stress, as the flow of oxygen to your brain releases the hormones that help you calm down and deal with the stressful event. This tricks your mind and body into relaxing when you need to. This one works well: slowly breathe in while you count to seven. Then release the breath while you count to eleven. Repeat this until your body relaxes.
I like to educate and teach my clients about the “Stoplight” strategy. As we know, we are very busy people who oftentimes don’t really pay attention to our breathing during the day. If we did, we would notice that we don’t breath deep, more shallow quick breaths throughout our day. So when you’re driving and you find yourself at a stoplight, stop and take at least 3 deep breaths or until the light turns green. My clients have found it’s easy, convenient, feels great, and even helps with road rage!
Use Integrative Medicines and Acupuncture
Acupuncture is one of the leading complimentary medicines available to combat the cycle and symptoms of stress. I see it everyday in my clinic, a client comes in for some pain condition and leaves feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. They notice they can take on the world with a new perspective and their sleep even improves. Balancing the energy of the body can have profound effects on stress and all aspects of your life!
Other therapies/medicines available to consider are Ayurvedic medicine, naturopathic medicine, Chinese/western herbal medicine, Massage, Taichi/qigong, and Yoga/meditation.
Learn What Triggers Your Stress
Make a list of the triggers you face regularly. Having the knowledge of the situation that will lead to stress will empower you to take the necessary steps to reduce the stress. Practice deep breathing before entering the stressful event, for example.
Little known fact: on psychological tests of stress, moving, deaths, and weddings are the top 3 events that are the most stressful and are given the most points!
Proper Sleep and Diet
Most people ignore their sleep and diet when they become stressed. This is the worst thing you can do! When your body is under stress, you need your proper amount of sleep and a healthy diet. Sleep and food fuel your body, giving it the energy, mental capacity, and stamina to face a stressful situation. If you do not pay attention to sleep and diet on a regular basis, you are setting yourself up for a stress attack!
Learn from Those Around You
Do you know someone who is an expert at staying calm when surrounded by chaos? Watch that person! How do they deal with the activity around them? What attitude do they have? Do they have a particular phrase they repeat to help them calm down?
If you know this person well, sit down with them and ask for advice on stress management. If you do not know them, watch them and learn.
Keep Your Thoughts in Line
Many times we set ourselves up to give in to stress in our minds. You follow the path of what could happen, all the way to its dire end. In reality, the “what ifs” usually never happen, and you have worked yourself into a stressed state for absolutely no reason! Stop this behavior in its tracks! Easier said than done, especially for women and mothers. When the stress thoughts come, you must work hard to stop them and to gain a different perspective. Remind yourself that it is highly unlikely that the “what ifs” could happen and you are probably safe living your life without worrying about them. And, if they do happen, worrying about it does you no good! It’s time for action at that point.
When you have a handle on these stress reduction techniques, and practice them on a daily basis, your life will be much more peaceful and happy. Not that stress management techniques will keep all problems away but they will teach you what to do in stressful situations.
My all time favorite quote helps me regain perspective on a daily basis: “You don’t really find balance. You have to continually seek it. It is in the seeking that you actually have some balance in your life. “ -Carol Evans, CEO/President of Working Mother magazine