Today, I want to talk about how stressing out sets your nerves on edge. When someone says the word “stress” around me, it is like fingernails going down a chalkboard. Eeeeekkkk! Stress not only affects your mind and emotions, but it also can hurt your body physically.
Stress And Your Body…
Stress is defined as the brain’s response to any demand. A lot of things can trigger a stress response, including change which is a big culprit. Change can be positive or negative depending on the cause. Change can also be real (happening right now) or perceived (anticipated or thought to be occurring). Change can also be recurring (over and over again), short-term (eg. first day of school, etc), or long-term (as in a physical illness). Some changes are major (divorce, marriage), minor (a rollercoaster ride), or extreme (violence, a disaster).
Stress can be good and/or bad depending upon the circumstances. All animals (including humans) have a “stress response” which is life-saving in some situations preparing the body for a “fight or flight” response and signaling danger. When your body perceives a threat, chemicals and hormones are released into the nervous system and brain in preparation for fighting or fleeing to safety. Your pulse increase, your breathing increases in depth and frequency, you tense your muscles, and your brain needs more oxygen because it activity increases as part of survival.
Chronic stress is where the problem lies. Those same chemicals and hormones used for life-saving events produced in short spurts can decrease or lower functions not needed for the short run, such as immunity, digestion, excretory (sweating, urinating, etc.) But once the threat passes, your body acts to restore normal functioning. When the stress response is too long or occurs too frequently, there is a long-term activation of the stress-response system With excess adrenaline and cortisol hormones causing the stress hormones to interfere with your body’s functions. With chronic, long-term stress, you risk of a number health problems that include: anxiety, depression, digestive disorders, lowered immunity, sleep problems, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, impaired memory and concentration, and depression. Below is an infographic about the different effect of stress.
So, a little bit of stress is a good thing because it prepares you for danger or to perform such as on your job or a test. Long-term or chronic stress is what needs to be managed or contained. Some ways of managing your stress are through counseling or medications, such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs. One healthy way to manage your stress is by relaxing. “So, how do I do that?” you ask.
What Are Relaxation Techniques?
Relaxation techniques ways to manage stress. Relaxation includes peace of mind and decreases stress effects on both your body and mind. They help you cope with everyday stress and with stress related to various diseases such as cancer and/or pain. Learning basic relaxation techniques is easy. Relaxation techniques are often free or minimal cost to learn and can be done just about anywhere.
Benefits of Relaxation…
- Slowing your heart rate
- Lowering blood pressure
- Slowing your breathing rate
- Reducing activity of stress hormones
- Increasing blood flow to major muscles
- Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
- Increasing blood flow to muscles
- Decreasing fatigue
- Decreasing frustration and anger
- Improving concentration and mood
- Boosting self-confidence
5 Methods of Relaxation…
There are five methods of relaxation. Remember that the more you practice these, the better you will get.
- Deep Breathing is at the core of many other relaxation techniques. It is easy to learn and can be practiced anywhere. You close your eyes (if you aren’t driving or operating machinery). Deep breathe in to the count of 3 and exhale slowly to the count of 4. Repeat this exercise 10 times. You will slowly feel your body start to relax.
- Progressive muscular relaxation (PMR) helps release muscle tension. During stress, your muscles tighten and cause pain in your neck and back. PRM is simple yet effective at reducing pain and increasing relaxation. You sit comfortably and close your eyes. Start by tightening a group of muscles, starting at your head or neck tighten your neck muscles as much as possible holding tension for a few seconds and then consciously relax the muscles. Next, move to your chest/abdomen area and repeat the process until you have relaxed your arm/hand muscles, leg/feet muscles. Once all your muscles are relaxed, consciously soften them even further relaxing as possible. This technique takes about 15-20 minutes to complete.
- Imagery or Visualization is a picture in your mind’s eye, can help you regroup and relax. You imagine a peaceful scene or picture in your mind, such as a meadow, a beach, or a mountain top. Using all of your senses of sight, smell, hearing, touch, and even taste if appropriate, you vividly see, feel and hear your scene. Do you smell flowers? Can you hear the birds singing? Can you feel a breeze on your skin? Each time you feel stressed or anxious, imagine this scene. You can call it your “safe place.” You can picture the stress flowing peacefully out of your body from your head to your toes as you do this technique. Your body doesn’t know the difference between the thoughts and the real experience. This technique takes about 15-20 minutes and you feel very refreshed when it is completed.
- Meditation is the conscious act of focusing on one thought, object, or word (known as a mantra). This deliberate focus occupies your mind and diverts your attention away from problems causing stress. It also increases you creativity and ability to solve problems by allowing subconscious thoughts to rise to your conscious awareness. Like deep breathing, you can do it anywhere and without specialized training. To do this technique, sit comfortably, close your eyes and relax your body by concentrating on deep breathing. Feel your breath and focus on each breath you take. As thoughts come into your mind, just let them pass without giving them any attention or getting distracted. You can visualize them as thoughts on a cloud floating away. Focus your attention on a phrase, such as a positive affirmation or Christian phrase (if Christian), an object such as a candle flame or other special object. Do this technique and clear your mind for 10 minutes in the morning and 10-20 minutes before you go to sleep, gradually increasing the amount of time you meditate each day.
- Relaxing music and/or sounds can help you clear your mind. Whether you listen to tapes, CDs, MP3 downloads or Podcasts, you can find a recording that will help you fall asleep easier, meditate or decrease stress. YouTube has a number of relaxation videos for meditation and videos of music, nature sounds, or guided meditations. Christian videos or music also helps you relax.
My Closing Thoughts…
To get the most benefit, practice regularly and use relaxation techniques along with other positive coping methods, such as thinking positively, finding humor, problem-solving, managing time, exercising, getting enough sleep, and reaching out to supportive family and friends. If you find it difficult to use the relaxation techniques, you can also get counseling to help you learn the techniques one on one. Remember that in this world filled with stress, you need to take care of yourself so that stress does not have any long-term effects.
Until next blog,