4 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress
Stress is undoubtedly the greatest cause of health issues for many people in modern society. A small amount of stress can be good, such as when your team wins the championship in the dying seconds. The body’s natural response is to place you in a heightened state of readiness or ‘fight or flight’ state (Sympathetic Nervous System), by releasing hormones such as cortisone and adrenaline, which keep the body ready and alert and then should dissipate after the stressful situation has passed. However, too much or prolonged stress can overload the body, keeping it in a agitated state, affecting the immune system and can lead to physical and mental health issues.
For more about stress, causes, risk factors, symptoms, etc… Click here.
But, here is 4 Simple Ways to Relieve stress in your daily life and bring the body back towards its ‘Rest & Digest’ and relaxed state.
1. Look Up: Do you realise it is virtually impossible to cry when you tilt your eyeballs skyward, as if looking through your eyebrows? Why do you think you see some women (perhaps just my Mother…) at weddings ‘looking upwards’ when they are feeling a little overwhelmed by the emotion of the ceremony?
It is because, when you roll your eyes skyward, there is a neurological pathway between that physical action of ‘looking up’ and the stimulation of Alpha brain waves. The alpha state is the beginning of relaxation. In this state, the mind is relaxed but alert. It is a state of passive awareness, composure, and of physical and mental relaxation. Emotional sensations in the alpha state include a sense of well-being, pleasure and tranquillity.
‘Looking up’ will also shift the head rearwards into a slightly more neutral and comfortable posture for the body, letting in more light, encouraging the shoulders to relax, opening up the chest to allow more oxygen into the body and easing a myriad of postural tension issues.
Therefore if you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, sadness or just in a general agitated state, whether you be sitting, standing or walking, raise your eyes to look up between 20 – 30 degrees above the horizontal (or look through your eyebrows). Plus, I am sure that you live in an amazing city, that you have failed to notice the beautiful landscape and architecture the resides but just one foot above your head… So look up next time you leave the office!
2. Breath In: When we are stressed, tired and generally agitated, we tend to ‘shallow breathe’. What do we mean by this? Well, this is when we take ‘slight’ breaths, only expanding the upper third of our lungs (the top part of our chest). Therefore, when we are breathing like this, there is likely an accumulation of carbon dioxide CO2, within the lower two thirds of our lungs and can lead to a condition called Hypoxemia. This oxygen desaturation limits the body’s natural ability to function optimally, leaving you feeling lethargic, lowering your mood, creating a state of dis-ease in the body and can potentially lead to more serious medical issues.
Therefore, learning a breathing technique called Diaphragmatic Breathing will teach you how to correctly breathe, utilising your diaphragm and breathing through your entire lungs. This will lead to restoration of the body’s ability for gaseous exchange (expelling the waste carbon dioxide), making you feel more awake and alert, more relaxed, reducing stress and creating a greater sense of well-being.
For the full instructional video, by Whitney Zweeres, PTA, follow this link.
3. Stand at Ease: Forward or rounded shoulders is a very common condition that most of us suffer from. Whether it be caused by sitting for long periods at your desk, driving, flying, the general stresses of our work, keeping a household, raising a family or our modern lifestyle, stress can manifest tension within our posterior neck, shoulder and back muscles. These tightness complaints are the most common causes of why people reach for pain killers, perhaps visit their doctor or seek out other forms of treatment such as sports massage.
The easiest way to ease this tension and reduce the overall stress is to perform the Stand at Ease. With the feet in an open stance (about 30 cm apart), grasp one hand in the other behind your back (your preference as to which feels more comfortable), allowing them to rest upon the posterior pelvis and allow your body to relax. This will naturally pull your shoulders into a more neutral anatomically correct position and take the pressure off of your neck, shoulders and upper back muscles. The longer you remain in this position, the more relaxed your posture will become.
4. Drink Water: Drinking 6 – 8 glasses of filtered water everyday will help to keep the body hydrated and functioning correctly. When you have an excess build up of cortisol in the body, such as when you are suffering from long term stress, this will influence the body’s ability to switch over to the ‘Rest & Digest’ state (the Parasympathetic Nervous System), interrupting cognitive function, sleep, digestion, libido, urination, defecation, blood pressure, etc…
Therefore, drinking two litres of filtered water everyday will enable the body to flush toxins from the system, such as cortisol, reducing stress and moving the body towards its natural states of action when required.
If you can adopt one, two or all four of these simple ‘tricks’, you will help to shift your body into a more relaxed state and empowering yourself to relieve the stress that is building within your body.
So give them a try. What have you got to lose? Other than your stress…
For a more detailed article by author Paul McKenna, on happiness and some other great tricks to shift your mood and lower your stress, click here.