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6 Stress-Relieving Techniques That Actually Work
We all face stressful situations throughout our lives. No matter where you are or what you are doing, we can’t avoid all the sources of stress in our lives. However, you may learn to control it, so that it doesn’t control you. When we are stressed our sympathetic nervous system kicks into fight or flight mode, sending our heart pumping and disrupting our normal breathing pattern. This is the body’s normal reaction in threatening situations, also known as stress response. Left untreated, the effects of stress can be crippling, stress leads to all sorts of symptoms and ailments including headaches, fatigue, digestive issues, frequent sickness, muscle aches & pains etc.
There is no one method that works for everybody to manage stress. Your stress-reduction routine will be very different from someone else’s depending on the nature and regularity of your stress. However, it’s useful to have a toolkit of stress-reduction methods on hand in case you require them.
Our team of Doctors at Carefirst recommends the following six stress-relieving techniques that quickly help you unwind and reduce stress. These techniques will help you:
- Overcome stress faster
- Cope with stress in different situations like work and relationships
- Manage and reduce stress for long-term
How to Relieve Stress Quickly
1. Focus on your breath
Deep breathing and breath control can combat stress. When you make a conscious effort to slow down your breath, you send a signal to your brain that all is well. As a result, the sympathetic nervous system goes off and the parasympathetic nervous system, sometimes known as the “rest-and-digest system,” takes over, calming all those physical responses and inviting a sense of relaxation and calm. If you are feeling stressed, try adding one of these breathing exercises to your day. A few minutes of breathing exercises can have a significant impact.
a. Box breathing
Sit down in a comfortable chair with your feet firmly on the ground before you start. Keep your eyes closed. Start by fully exhaling your entire breath. Gently inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds and slowly exhale through your mouth for four seconds. Wait for four seconds & repeat.
b. Alternate nostril breathing
Exhale slowly, then close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale slowly from your left nostril and then close the left nostril with your fingers. Release the closure of your right nostril and slowly exhale through it. Inhale slowly through the right nostril, then close it. Release the closure of the left nostril and gently exhale through the left side. This is one cycle. Repeat.
c. Diaphragmatic breathing
Lie on your back on a bed or the floor with a pillow under your head and knees or Sit on a comfortable chair with your head, neck, shoulders, and back supported against the back of the chair. Place one hand on your stomach and the other one on your chest. Breathe in through your nose and as you do so, feel your belly rise. Breathe out and feel your belly lower. The hand on the belly should move higher than the one on your chest. Continue this for 3-4 more full breaths. Now, close your eyes and focus on each breath as it goes in and out. As you breathe, you slowly disengage your mind from disturbing thoughts and feelings.
2. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness defines practices that make you focus on being aware of what you feel and sense at the moment without judging it. The cognizant practice of paying attention to the present situation assists us in controlling the unproductive thoughts that contribute to stress. It facilitates us to self-regulate. Mindfulness practice involves bringing your mind’s attention to the present moment without drifting into concerns about the past or the future. Research suggests that mindfulness may be helpful for people with anxiety, depression, and pain.
The ability to accept whatever is happening is another part of mindfulness. An open attitude leads to a greater acceptance of what is happening, a better ability to tolerate difficult situations, and a reduction in reactivity and negative thinking. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing and other practices that calm and relax the body and mind.
Some examples of practicing mindfulness are:
- Body scan meditation where you lie down on your back with arms and legs extended, palms facing up. After a few minutes of deep breathing, while laying still, you focus on each body part from head to toe or toe to head at a time and mentally releasing any physical tension you feel there.
- Experiencing the environment with all your senses – sight, smell, taste, and touch. Like when you eat your favorite food, enjoy it in its full sense with smell, sight, and touch.
- Sit comfortably with your back straight, feet on the floor, and arms in the lap. Breathe normally through your nose and focus on each breath as it moves in and out of the body.
3. Get more physical activity
Engaging in high-level work-out consistently can relieve stress quickly and effectively. Almost any kind of exercise or movement can improve your fitness while lowering your stress. Choose an activity that you enjoy doing. Excellent examples of exercises that can curb stress include:
- Brisk walking: The simplest way to get some stress-bursting exercise is to go for a brisk walk for 10 mins.
- Jogging or running
- Swimming: A full body workout, great for cardiovascular system and even better for reduction in stress
- Dancing: Dancing can be a wonderful way to ease stress while getting an intense workout.
4. Practice self-care
Taking out time for self-care can help reduce stress drastically.
Self-care doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be as simple as:
- Aromatherapy or using scented oils while taking a bath or taking a shower in lukewarm water
- Reading a delightful novel
- Listening to soothing music
- Practicing a hobby like cooking, painting, dancing, crocheting, etc.
- Getting a body massage
- Preparing a healthy meal
- Going out for a walk
- Practicing yoga
5. Go out in nature
Spend time in green spaces like parks, mountainous areas, etc. to manage stress effectively.
Even as little as 10 minutes with nature can improve your overall psychological health and stress levels. Go for a stroll in a local park, or read your favorite novel in the park, or hiking and camping are also good to spend time in a natural setting and boost your mental well-being.
Yoga is often thought of as a gold standard in exercising for stress or anxiety relief. It is an ancient art that combines rhythmic breathing with a series of postures. The physical aspect of these exercises offers a mental focus that can distract you from racing thoughts. Yoga practice ideally includes a complete package of postures/asanas, pranayama (breathing techniques), and meditation. They also enhance flexibility and balance.
Rather than settling on a single technique, experts at Carefirst recommend trying a few to find which one works the best for you. Aim for at least 20 minutes of practice per day, however, even a few minutes can help. The longer and the more often you practice these relaxation techniques, the greater the benefits and the more you can reduce stress.
We would appreciate your feedback. Please do let us know if these techniques helped you reduce stress.
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