Stress affects us daily. If left unmanaged, stress can lead to a whole range of difficulties such as tension headaches, premature aging, panic attacks and anxiety disorders.
But how exactly do we define stress and what happens when we are feeling stressed? Any stressful event or change to our routine creates a trigger. It could be positive (e.g., wedding, holiday, new job, etc.) or negative (e.g., loss of a job, an unexpected work deadline or a child’s tantrum, etc.). A stress response is our body and mind’s varied response to a trigger.
When we experience stress, our central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) kicks into action. Our brain sends signals to our body to prepare for action and a number of physical changes can be seen. For example, our muscle tense, our breathing rate increases, and we switch into a more primitive style of thinking.
The best thing about stress management is that it’s free, can be used in pretty much all situations, and can lead to a whole range of psychological benefits. Here are three top benefits, research-based stress management tips:
Controlled breathing or sometimes know as Yoga Breathe is a technique that is used to target an increased breathing rate. This one feels pretty silly to practice in front of people, so find a quiet space while you are learning.
To practice controlled breathing:
- Sit in a comfortable upright position.
- Take a deep breath through the nose in for the count of three (making sure you can feel the air reach right into your belly).
- Hold your breath for the count of three.
- Breathe out through your mouth for the count of three.
- Repeat the sequence for five times or if possible five minutes.
Treat this technique as your medicine for stress. Take it everyday for ten days. After ten days, the technique should be familiar and you will be ready to practice it in social situations without anyone knowing that you’re de-stressing. Easy.
When under stress, the brain’s intelligent, analytic part shuts down and the emotional center fires up. This is called amygdala. When is active, our thinking about ourselves, others, and the world can become distorted.
Cognitive defusion targets this unhelpful style of thinking through a process called “thinking about thinking.” This technique involves detaching yourself from your thoughts and observing them as if you were an outsider.
To do this, try singing the thought in a silly way in your head or aloud. The sillier the voice, the better. Or tell someone what you are thinking. Just saying it aloud will make the thought seem less significant and the person will most likely help you see a case against your thought.
Remember, cognitive defusion is all about reminding yourself that you are having stressful thoughts and managing those thoughts in a helpful way. Like any technique, practice is key so use this technique whenever you notice yourself thinking in a black-and-white style.
RELAXING YOUR MUSCLES
Practice progressive muscle relaxation on targeted muscle tension when we first experience the feeling of being stressed. The benefits of progressive muscle relaxation are well documented in scientific literature.
This is how you can practice progressive muscle relaxation:
- Sit or lay down in a comfortable position.
- Curl your toes in and hold the tension as tightly as possible for a count of three. Slowly and carefully release the tension, letting your toes drop to the ground.
- Tense the muscles in your calves by pulling your toes back towards your knees. Hold the tension as tightly as possible for the count of three. Slowly and carefully release the tension.
Repeat this process for the following muscle groups:
- Hands and fingers
- Upper arms
- Face (Squish the muscle into a silly face to do this.)
Repeat the exercise twice a day, for a period of two weeks. Next, begin to integrate this exercise into your daily life when stressful situations arise. This exercise could easily be performed at your work desk or during the next peak-hour traffic jam.
Another Yoga involves a combination of many stress management techniques in one for stress relief and overall health. A regular yoga practice can assist with reducing stress, anxiety and tension. Yoga poses promote relaxation, serenity and calmness.
If stress persists after regular practice of these techniques, consider Reiki or massage therapist professional who can help develop a stress management plan tailored to your needs. If this does not work,