The many types of stress and stress-relief
Everyone thinks their “stress is unique” and the types of stress I’m giving you relief for just won’t be helpful for you and yours. Here’s the thing, you are indeed unique and so is your situation. However, the physiological response to stress is fairly predictable and that is what I’m going to teach you here. Yes, there are many types of stress, and yours is THE WORST. However, I’m sure I can help you feel better and give you a few laughs while I do it.
Note: Make sure that you are feeling just stress and that the level of stress isn’t pushing you into one of the early stages of adrenal fatigue. If so (meaning if you read that article and it’s YOU) please take a look at the adrenal fatigue treatment kit. So relax and read. This is a long one so, be sure to bookmark it!
Take the sting out of 10 common types of stress:
Working on a less stressful lifestyle can be stressful in itself. Rather than freeze in your tracks, start small and bask in the glow of your successes. Start with a week to focus on practical solutions that could help you cope with just one stumbling block or source of stress in your life. Pick a problem, and see if these suggestions and coping mechanisms mentioned below will work for you:
Start by applying time management principles. Are you taking time up unwisely with unnecessary tasks? Map out your day, segment by segment, setting aside time for different tasks, such as writing or phone calls. If you are overly optimistic about travel time, consistently give yourself an extra 15 minutes or more to get to your destinations. If lateness stems from dragging your heels, consider the underlying issue. Are you anxious about what will happen after you get to work or a social event, for example? Or maybe you’re trying to jam too many tasks into too little time.
2. Are you often angry or easily irritated?
Review what is truly upsetting you. Are you magnifying a problem, leaping to conclusions, or applying emotional reasoning? Take the time to stop, breathe, and reflect.
3. Unsure of your ability to do something?
Ask for help. If the problem is work, talk to a co-worker or supportive boss.
Find the information you need by contacting your local library, a friend, or even an organization. You may even self-educate through reading, research, and so forth. Knowlege is power. Being “unsure” is one of the most common types of stress if that helps.
Start by ensuring your house is uncluttered, hire a monthly housecleaning service and shop for groceries through the Internet. Convene a family meeting to consider who can take on certain jobs or barter with or pay teens for work around the house and yard. Consider what is truly essential and important to you and what might take a backseat right now. (I totally relate to you on this one!)
5. Not enough time for stress relief?
There is always time, even just a few minutes. Practice mindful breathing by slowing down once a week with deep breathing and no distractions. Focus on one task at a time as well. There are lots more to come on this topic!
6. Feeling unbearably tense?
Loosen up with a soothing bath, massage, meditation, or exercise. Done regularly, exercise wards off tension, as do relaxation response techniques. (And lots more on these too!)
7. Frequently feel pessimistic?
Keep reminders about the importance of optimism and practice deflating cognitive distortions. Rent funny movies and read amusing books. Create a mental list of reasons you have to feel grateful. If the list seems too short, consider beefing up your social network and adding creative, productive, and leisure pursuits to your life.
8. Upset by conflicts with others?
State your needs or distress directly, avoiding “you always” or “you never” zingers. Say, “I feel _____ when you _____.” “I would really appreciate it if you could _____.” “I need some help setting priorities. What needs to be done first and what should I tackle later?” If conflicts are a significant source of distress for you, consider taking a class on assertiveness training.
9. Worn out or burned out?
Focus on yourself, and try to take time out of each day by doing something that makes you feel good. I’m talking about such things as eating healthfully, exercising, relaxing, being productive, and so forth. Consider your priorities in life: is it worth feeling this way, or is another path open to you? If you want help, consider what kind would be best. Do you want a particular task at work to be taken off your hands? Do you want to do it at a later date? Are you in need of someone with particular expertise to assist you? Identify the types of stress coming at you.
10. Feeling lonely?
Start connecting with others. Even a brief conversation in the grocery store can help. This can even open more doors for you to connect with others. Be a volunteer. Attend religious, or community functions. Suggest coffee with an acquaintance. Call a friend or relative you miss. Take an interesting class. If a social phobia, low self-esteem, or depression is dampening your desire to reach out, seek help. The world is a kinder, more wondrous place when you share its pleasures and burdens.
And now, I’ll start interjecting into this article the type of stress relief that works for all kinds of stress. Just to mention, the stress that makes us eat too much is a whole topic in and of itself. Stress is a huge trigger for overeating, and I covered it well in my stress and weight gain article. Humor is under-rated. It is a great stress-buster, and it’s time to have a laugh, don’t you think?
Time for a humor stress break!
Healthy eating and how it diminishes all types of stress:
Now that that “inventory” is out of the way, let’s get to tangible things you can do to reduce any any all types of stress levels. First of all let’s talk about what you eat. What you eat affects your mood, obviously your weight, and your stress levels. When we talk about a healthy diet we discuss whole foods, eliminating sugar and fast foods, and getting rid of inflammation and oxidative stress via weight normalization and proper eating. Here is a condensed version of how you should eat:
- Lean meats as much as desired: turkey, fish (only wild caught), chicken, shrimp, scallops
- Lean beef (only 2-3 times per week)/grass fed, HGH and antibiotic free as well as organic non-GMO soy once per week
- Vegetables: minimum of 12 servings per day (avoid vegetables that are high density carbs such as peas and carrots)
- Nuts: 1-2 servings per day (particularly almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and brazil nuts)
- Full fat dairy, meaning greek yogurt for instance (2-3 servings per week)
- Oils: Olive oil (dishes) & Coconut oil (cooking)
- Starches: 1-2 servings daily maximal: only sprouted Gluten free bread and other sprouted grains
- Fruit: 1-3 servings daily with only whole, fresh fruit.
- Coffee: 3 cups per day max. Unlimited decaf herbal tea.
- Sweetener: Stevia- NO other sweeteners.
- Alcohol: 1 glass of red wine daily is optimal, small amounts of “hops” in beer.
- AVOID: sugar, fruit juice, refined carbs, foods labeled as “low fat”, high starch vegetables, white potatoes, corn, and all processed meats and processed foods.
Now, let’s see what else I have in store for you. Let’s start with a easy quick video on how to breathe to control stress.
Next, we’re going to cover a lot of stress-management techniques. I’ll start with things you have heard about and need a reminder about, progressing to other things you likely haven’t heard about, then to things I’m sure you haven’t heard about. In another article, I’ll cover even more creative ways to deal with all types of stress. Note, I will include natural mood enhancers for stress at the end of this. I have covered sleep in zillions of places so you should know by now, sleep is needed for stress. It’s often chicken-egg which is why many people end up asking for a Dr.Kim Crawford consult. It’s more than just finding the best natural sleeping aid most of the time.
Exercise and stress relief:
Exercise is a superb way to relieve all types of stress, as well as being a great boost for your overall health and well-being. Here’s how it directly impacts stress:
It pumps up your endorphins. When you move your body, there is an increase in the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.
It’s meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and can concentrate solely on your body’s movements. With a regular exercise regimen, you may find that movement, and physical activity can offer a great way to give you a positive outlook and make you relax.
Improved mood. Regular exercise can increase relaxation, self-confidence, and overall mood. It can improve sleep, and associated mood issues.
These benefits from exercise can not only provide lower levels of stress but also an overall sense of self-determination and control over your life which, if you recall, leads to less stress.
Put exercise and stress relief to work for you:
A successful exercise program begins with a few simple steps. Weight training is a must and here is all the how to’s in this muscle and fitness article.
Consult with your doctor. Before beginning any exercise regimen, it is important to consult with your doctor to receive medical clearance.
Exercise routines to bust stress:
Walk before you run. When starting your fitness regimen, it is important to work your way up to avoid over exertion and even injury. Find an aerobic activity, such as walking, a couple of days per week. Within time, you can increase your activity by running, or in combination with other exercises like strength training at least twice per week.
Do what you love. Find what makes you happy, relieves stress, and helps you reach your fitness goals. You can choose from an abundance of activities, but it is important to choose one you enjoy.
Pencil it in. Creating a plan is important. Start by adding it in before work, during lunch, after work, or in the evening. Work around your schedule or just plain make time!
Stick with it!
Anyone can start an exercise program, but sticking with it is the hard part. However, after 6-8 weeks you will have created a good habit for life. Here are some tips:
Find a Workout Buddy. When you have someone willing to exercise with you, you can become motivated and can find yourself more committed. Remember that your dog can be your buddy!
Change up your routine. Change up your routine regularly from starting yoga to weight lifting. You don’t have to stick with one regimen! You can get totally serious and add weight lifting supplements if you “get into” the weight training and gym scene.
Set SMART goals. Write down SMART goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-limited goals. If your primary goal is to reduce all types of stress in your life and recharge your batteries, your specific goals might include walking during lunch at least three times per week or attending a cycling class.
Exercise in increments. The time you spend working out “doesn’t really count” if there is no effort. If you put in the effort, you only need half the time. Interval training, which entails brief (60 to 90 seconds) bursts of intense activity at almost full effort, is being shown to be a safe, effective and efficient way of gaining many of the benefits of longer duration exercise. What’s most important is making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle.
No matter what you may choose as your new exercise regimen, remember to enjoy it. This can vary from walking your dog every day to taking a hike you always wanted to explore. Whatever it is, any form of physical activity can help you unwind and become an important part of your approach to easing all types of stress.
Speaking of exercise, here’s another type: Mindful walking for stress:
Going on a walk can help you clear your mind, and relieve daily stressors. When practicing mindful walking you are simply meditating while in motion. You are focusing on your breathing and your body’s natural response to the movement.
Try this simple stress reliever before an important meeting, after a workday, or any time you need to re-capture a calmer, more centered state of mind.
Find a Quiet Place:
Choose an area you find relaxing, such as around the lake rather than a busy mall.
Tip: Don’t rush. Your goal here is to unwind, take your time and relax.
Keep your pace comfortable (as if you don’t need to get anywhere fast) and your stride short.
Breathe Away Tension:
Start to focus areas where you feel tensed. Take deep breaths with each exhalation imagining stress release. Spend several breaths on each area, gradually inviting every part of your body to relax.
Take Time to Unwind:
Walk for at least 15 minutes, or longer if you have time.
Tip: Focus on tension hot spots throughout your body; this will help you open up and unwind.
Pets and stress:
Pets have been shown to provide various health benefits, with lower stress levels being one. While human friends provide great social support and come with some fabulous benefits, this section is dedicated to the benefits of furry friends: cats and dogs! (And yes- horses, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs and all creatures who give you love of course “count!”) Research has shown that pets can provide excellent social support, stress relief, and other benefits if someone can care and love them properly. The following are more health benefits of pets.
As a tie-in to the “exercise theme” we’re on:
Pets Encourage You To Get Out And Exercise:
Dog owners have been shown to take more steps throughout the day than those that do not have pets, especially in urban settings. You can take long or short walks. They are equally beneficial for all types of stress.
Pets Can Improve Your Mood:
Animal lovers find it difficult to be upset with an animal as they are always forgiving and loving creatures. Research has shown how moods can be enhanced because of pets, with a recent study finding that men with AIDS were less likely to suffer from depression if they owned a pet.
Pets Control Blood Pressure Better Than Drugs:
ACE inhibiting drugs are often used to reduce blood pressure, but for BP spikes due to stress they are not that helpful. However, in a study on pets and blood pressure, groups of hypertensive New York stockbrokers who got dogs or cats were found to have lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who didn’t get pets. When they heard of the results, most of those in the non-pet group went out and got pets!
Pets Can Help With Social Support:
When we are out with our animals, such as taking a walk, or better yet, at a dog park, we become more approachable. This gives people a reason to meet and greet us. This is an opportunity to increase our network of friends and acquaintances, which also has great stress management benefits.
Pets Decrease Loneliness and Provide Unconditional Love:
When you are a sad, lonely, or “need an ear,” pets provide silent unconditional love. They provide the best hugs while listening to your sorrows with no judgment. They may well be the best antidote to loneliness. In fact, one study found that nursing home residents reported less loneliness when visited by dogs alone than when they spent time with dogs and other people! These benefits can reduce the types of stress felt by those who lack social support and/or experience and social isolation.
Pets Can Reduce Stress—Sometimes More Than People:
Having your pet around can sometimes be considered a larger benefit than being with a friend or another person. One study showed that, when conducting a task that’s stressful, people experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when a supportive friend or even their spouse was present! (This may be partially true because pets are great listeners with no judgment).
It’s important to realize that owning a pet isn’t for everyone. Pets do come with additional work and responsibility, which can bring its own stress. However, for most people, the benefits of having a pet outweigh the drawbacks. Having a furry best friend can reduce all types of stress in your life and bring you support when times get tough. I sure couldn’t live without my three rescue collies!
I can’t resist this dog-centric stress break:
Relieve Stress With Just a Breath:
Taking time to take a deep breath is beneficial, but when you take time to focus on breathing alone, it is a complex bodily function. Research shows that a few simple tweaks to the way we breathe can improve health and reduce stress/cortisol levels.
Take a Breather to reduce stress!
Slow, deep breathing utilizing the diaphragm and abdomen causes your heart rate, breathing rate and, therefore, your blood pressure to drop. Quick, shallow breathing focuses on the upper chest which doesn’t give you these physiologic benefits. One study found that for people with hypertension, deep breathing techniques caused a drop in blood pressure and relaxed the body.
Another study was able to confirm these conclusions that breathing bolstered the body’s parasympathetic nervous system’s strength over the sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system is responsible for relaxation, while the sympathetic system is responsible for the fight-or-flight response. So, calm breathing can boost relaxation and calm quick-trigger reactions.
Cortisol levels have also been shown to be affected by deep breathing. The levels of this stress-induced hormone were significantly lower in subjects who practiced slow breathing, suggesting the breathing techniques decreased stress hormone release and even feelings of stress in the subjects who were studied.
Better Breathing — Here are all the ways to breathe yourself into reduced stress!
When you incorporate slow and deep breathing into your daily life, after a short time the technique feels natural.
The quick how to:
With each inhalation, allow the abdomen and rib cage to expand as the lungs fill with air. Exhale, allowing, but not forcing, the air to completely leave the lungs. Relax and repeat. A good first step is to practice this breathing technique for 10 minutes each day to help the body adjust. Before long, it’ll be second nature!
There are plenty of alternatives to help feel calm when you are feeling the exact opposite. Breathing is a free alternative that can ease many types of stress in less than 10 minutes. Here are six expert-approved ways to relax using breathing techniques borrowed from yoga, meditation, and even the therapist’s chair.
Start focusing on your breathing before you feel like your head is going to explode! Controlled breathing not only keeps your mind and body functioning at their best, but it can also lower blood pressure, promote feelings of calm and relaxation, and help you de-stress. While the effects of breathing techniques on anxiety haven’t been studied at length (at least in a controlled clinical setting), many experts encourage using the breath as a means of increasing awareness, mindfulness, or for the yogis among us, finding that elusive state of Zen.
Your Action Plan:
Here are six techniques that can come from basically anywhere to keep calm and carry on:
Sama Vritti or “Equal Breathing.”
Start by inhaling for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four (all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath). Advanced yogis can aim for six to eight counts per breath with the same goal in mind: calm the nervous system, increase focus, and reduce stress.
When it works best:
You can perform this anywhere, but the best time has been shown to be right before bedtime. Similar to counting sheep, if you’re having trouble falling asleep, this breath can help take your mind off the racing thoughts, or whatever might be distracting you.
Level of difficulty: Beginner
- Abdominal Breathing Technique
Place one hand on your chest and the other on the stomach, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm (not the chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. The goal: take six to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes each day to experience an immediate decline in heart rate and blood pressure.
When it works best:
Try this before an exam or any stressful event. It is important to keep in mind that individuals who operate in a stressed state all the time might be a little shocked at how hard it is to control the breath.
Level of difficulty: Beginner
To reduce tension all over, close your eyes and focus on tensing and relaxing each muscle group for two to three seconds each. Begin with the feet and toes, then move up to the knees, thighs, glutes, chest, arms, hands, neck, jaw, and eyes. Do this while maintaining deep, slow breaths. If you are having trouble, try to breathe in through your nose, hold for a count of five while the muscles tense, then breathe out through the mouth on release.
When it works best:
Anywhere! If you are feeling dizzy at all try to tone it down for a few seconds.
Level of difficulty: Beginner
Nadi Shodhana or “Alternate Nostril Breathing.”
Begin in a calm, meditative pose, hold your right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb, and exhaling through the left nostril.
When it works best:
It is best not to do this before bed as it can make someone feel more awake.
Level of difficulty: Intermediate
Before you start, perform this with a coach, therapist, or helpful recording as your guide. Begin by breathing deeply while focusing on pleasant, positive images to replace any negative thoughts. While it’s just one means of achieving mindfulness, guided visualization helps put you in the place you want to be, rather than letting your mind go to the internal dialogue that is stressful.
When it works best:
It is best to perform this anywhere that you can safely sit down, close your eyes and relax.
Level of difficulty: Intermediate.
Kapalabhati or “Skull Shining Breath”
Start with a steady, slow inhalation, followed by a quick, powerful exhalation generated from the lower belly. Once you are comfortable with this action, increase the pace to one inhale-exhale (all through the nose) every one to two seconds, for a total of 10 breaths.
When it works best:
This is best in the morning as a pick me up as you can warm up your body while working your core.
Level of difficulty: Advanced
Breathing will always be available as a de-stress method no matter what you daily stressor may be. So, take time and breathe. It’s useful for chronic and acute stress.
In light of the following two topics, see below!
Here you go with this stress break:
Meditation: Reduce stress fast and easy!
Meditation can help ease stress and create inner peace. You can easily learn to practice meditation whenever you need it most.
If you are feeling stress with all of the accompanying symptoms, consider meditation to help. Even just a few minutes of meditating can calm you down with no expense to your wallet and time. You can practice meditation anywhere, anytime, too!
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. It originally was meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. In today’s society, we use it to reduce stress and relax.
Meditation creates a mind and body connection with a profound state of tranquility and deep relaxation.
During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts which may be crowding your mind and causing stress.
Meditation can decrease many types of stress and increase your sense of overall well-being.
Benefits of meditation
Meditation can provide various benefits, especially for those who experience stress on a regular basis. When you are done meditating, it doesn’t end there. In fact, the benefits can extend throughout your day giving you a sense of calmness. This may very well be new for you. More so, it’s good for you too!
Meditation and emotional well-being
When you meditate, you can erase your stress from the day.
The emotional benefits of meditation can include:
Gaining a new perspective on events that can cause stress
Focusing on the present
Building skills to manage your stress
Decreasing negative emotions
Meditation and illness
Meditation can help those with a medical condition which becomes worse with the addition of stress. A large amount of research is espousing the benefits of meditation, while some research still believes that no conclusions should be made yet. (I’m with the “yes” camp big time).
With that in mind, research suggests meditation may help people manage symptoms of conditions such as:
High blood pressure
In rare cases, meditation can worsen symptoms associated with certain mental and physical health conditions. Therefore, I need to counsel you to check with your doctor first. Meditation isn’t a replacement for traditional medical treatment. However, it certainly may be a useful addition to your other treatment modalities.
Types of meditation
Meditation has a variety of techniques to achieve relaxation. However, all of them share the same goal of achieving inner peace and reducing all kinds of stress.
Different ways to meditate can include:
Guided meditation. With this method, you are guiding with images or visualizations, such as mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. You can use all types of things to guide you through this process with a teacher or with other types of guidance.
Mantra meditation. This method involved silently repeating a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
Mindfulness meditation. Mindful meditation involves being aware and accepting life in the present moment. With this method, you can broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgment.
Qi gong. This method combines the use of physical movement, meditation, relaxation, and breathing exercises to restore and maintain balance. Qi gong (CHEE-gung) is part of traditional Chinese medicine.
Tai chi. Tai chi is a form of gentle Chinese martial arts, where you perform a self-paced series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner while practicing deep breathing.
Transcendental meditation. This is a simple, yet effective, technique where you silently repeat a personally assigned mantra, such as a word, sound or phrase, in a specific way. This method allows your body to settle into a state of profound rest and relaxation and your mind to achieve a state of inner peace, without needing to use concentration or effort.
Yoga. Yoga is a technique of moving your body in a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. With each move, you have to have concentrate and have balance. The point is to focus more on the movement than what might be weighing down your mind. I’ve discussed yoga in depth in other articles.
Note: Some of us just plain can’t “sit still, ” and I sure get that. For us, the best forms of meditation are Qi gong, Tai chi, or Yoga.
Elements of meditation
There are different goals with each meditation technique, but each one depends on the guidance and methods used. Some of the most common features include:
Focused attention. Concentration is the most general element found in meditation. Focus your attention so you can release any tension and types of stress.
Relaxed breathing. With this technique, you are to take deep, even-paced breathing using the diaphragm muscle to expand your lungs. This allows you to take in more oxygen with the reduction of effort. It focuses on your shoulders, neck, and upper chest muscles so you can breathe more efficiently.
A quiet setting. During the beginning stages of meditation, finding a quiet spot with little distractions is best. When you become more advanced, you may be able to do it anywhere, especially in high-stress situations where you benefit the most from meditation. These situations include a traffic jam, a stressful work meeting or even a long line at the grocery store.
A comfortable position. Meditation can be practiced almost anywhere, but it is important you are comfortable enough to get the most benefits.
Everyday ways to practice meditation:
There is no wrong way to meditate so don’t worry about doing it exactly right. If you choose to, you can attend special meditation centers or group classes led by trained instructors. You can also practice meditation easily on your own. However it suits your lifestyle and situation, just build it into your daily routine if you find it “works for you.”
Here are some ways you can practice meditation on your own, whenever you choose:
Breathe deeply. Taking deep breaths when you are feeling stressed. This can be done anywhere no matter what your current level of meditation expertise is. Breathe deeply and slowly. When your attention wanders, gently return your focus to your breathing.
Scan your body. With this method, you are to focus your attention on your body becoming aware of what is tense or in pain. Alternatively, it can be the simple act of focusing on how your body moves as you breathe.
Repeat a mantra. You can create your own mantra, or you can search a variety online that people use. It can be anything that brings calmness and meaning to you during all types of stress you feel.
Walk and meditate. Try meditating while you walk to create relaxation and clear your mind in nature. We discussed this in the “exercise” section, but here is a reminder as I think this is an easy and great way to unwind while walking doggies!
During this method, try to slow down the pace of walking so that you can concentrate on each movement of your legs or feet. Don’t focus on a particular destination. Focus on your legs and feet, while repeating action words in your mind such as lifting, moving and placing as you lift each foot; move your leg forward and place your foot on the ground. Each “placement” can be a repetition of your “mantra” as an example.
Engage in prayer. Prayer is the best known and most widely practiced example of meditation. You can pray using your own words or read prayers written by others. You can visit your library for the self-help section on this subject as well as talking with your rabbi, priest, pastor or other spiritual leader about possible resources.
Read and reflect. Several people find they benefit from reading poems or sacred texts and taking a few moments to quietly reflect on their meaning. It doesn’t matter what it may be as long as you find it relaxing or inspiring.
Focus your love and gratitude. With this method, your concentration is on a sacred object or being, weaving feelings of love, compassion and gratitude into your thoughts. You may also close your eyes and use your imagination or gaze at representations of the object.
Building your meditation skills:
Meditation does take practice, but judgment should be kept aside as there is no perfect way to do it. Bear in mind, for instance, that it’s common for your mind to wander during meditation, no matter how long you’ve been practicing meditation. If you’re meditating to calm your mind and your attention wanders, slowly return to the object, sensation or movement you’re focusing on.
Find out what meditation techniques work best for you and what you enjoy doing. Adapt meditation to your needs at the moment. What matters most is meditation helps you reduce many types of stress, and you helps you feel better overall.
And as promised the next spiritual stress humor break:
Learn how to achieve a relaxed and focused state:
Everyone can experience anxiousness at some point of time in their life, whether it is a small or large event happening. Everyone gets anxious from time to time due to public speaking, job interviews, the dentist and much more. This is when people are almost continuously anxious and find it difficult to concentrate, have trouble sleeping and become irritable and restless.
For healthy individuals, anxiety is a normal process of life. However, dealing with it effectively is essential for your mental and physical health. What is NOT healthy is taking anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals and I’ll give you alternatives at the end of the article. Here are relaxation training methods to help and add to your “armamentarium” of breathing and meditation skills. Here are five common methods with the most evidence to support them:
This is the most common type of relaxation technique that involves mentally going around the muscle groups in your body, first tensing then relaxing each one. It is simple, and with practice, it becomes easier to spot when you are becoming anxious, and muscles are becoming tense. Oddly, people often don’t notice the first physical signs of anxiety. This is based on the idea that your mind will follow your body. Once you body is relaxed your mind will be as well. This was mentioned in the “breathing section” but is really not about breathing per se. That’s why it’s being discussed again here because it’s helpful for all types of stress.
- Applied relaxation
Applied relaxation builds on progressive relaxation. Once you begin, you will learn how to relax you muscle groups one after the other. The next stage is to cut out the tensing phase and move straight to relaxing each muscle. You then learn to associate a particular cue with a relaxed state and after, learn to relax quickly. Finally, you practice your relaxation technique in real-world anxiety-provoking situations. Once again, mostly this is about mind following the body. Once again, helpful for all types of stress.
- Autogenic training
Autogenic training involves doing a mantra in which you repeat to yourself as you go around major muscle groups: “my right arm is very heavy” and so on. A second stage involves inducing a feeling of warmth in the muscles. Once they feel ‘heavy’ from the first stage, you follow another mantra about warmth: “my right arm is very warm” and so on. Further steps involve calming the heart and the abdomen and cooling the brow in much the same way. This is useful for all types of stress.
Once again, you will realize how your mind can follow your body and become calm. As mentioned, practitioners recommend daily practice so that you can relax more rapidly. With practice, the simple intention to start the training will be enough to cause the body to become relaxed and warm.
As mentioned, meditation has various benefits related to the mind compared to the other techniques above. It doesn’t just target the body and wait for the mind to follow. Instead, it’s about the way attention is focused. This may be partly why people find it harder. Again, I know we talked about meditation, but I am giving you many techniques. This is a reminder that you might find a type of meditation which is quick and easy and doable and effective. Please don’t write any of these off as too complicated to learn. O.K.? Again, this is ideal for all types of stress.
Cognitive behavior therapy
The last relaxation technique to discuss is cognitive therapy, or CBT, that targets both mind and body. As it’s primarily a talking therapy, you normally have to go to a psychologist who will help you target unhelpful thinking patterns. This helps for the types of stress which take thoughtful collaboration on planning ways to reduce the stressors.
All together- what do we have for stress?
There’s no reason why you should stick to only one approach. Multi-modal techniques are effective as well. It’s all about what works for you. Experiment. Take a weekend day. Just try some things which sound easy such as repeating a mantra or doing progressive relaxation. Even try “breathing correctly” to interrupt the hyperventilation pattern which occurs when we are stressed. I hope I’m not stressing you out with all of these choices and that you will find one or two which “resonate with you.”
Hugs for stress
Hugging your animal, child, family member, or even a stranger is proven to reduce stress and blood pressure in adults. Maybe it’s time to seriously consider hugging it out whether or not you have the types of stress that respond to hugs!
Go Get a Hug!
Research indicates hugs can do a body good by decreasing stress, reducing blood pressure, and improving your mood! For women, regular hugging has shown to decrease heart rate and levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone” linked to depression and immune problems.
People who are frequent huggers even have a more positive outlook on their mental health than those who don’t embrace as often. Along with this, hugs may increase levels of oxytocin, a hormone shown to ease stress and help with social bonding potentially.
If you don’t have someone close by to hug, hug yourself! Other research suggests self-induced hugs can ease pain by tricking the brain. When one crosses their arms, the right and left hands visually appear to be on the wrong sides of the body. When this happens, the brain can’t pinpoint the origin of pain and therefore has difficulty registering it.
Kissing for stress
Studies show kissing triggers feelings of closeness, sexual excitement, happiness, and even motivation. In various forms, kissing has been around, well, forever. The first literary evidence of kissing (or something like it) came from ancient Sanskrit texts. Do you think they had the types of stress we do? I doubt it.
While there are several reasons to kiss, romantic kissing has its motivation rooted in biology. Researchers believe that we kiss to help find the right person, stay committed, and reproduce.
When we kiss another person, neurons in our brain release the neurotransmitter dopamine, triggering a desire for that person. Serotonin levels also spike, creating obsessive thoughts about partners, as do levels of oxytocin (aka the “love hormone”), eliciting a feeling of bonding and attachment. One study suggests all this brain action occurs to focus our biological attention on one person (essentially, a potential mate to reproduce with) and stops us from spending too much time and energy elsewhere.
But, most of us know that not every kiss is the same. A whopping 59% of men and 66% of women say they have ended a budding relationship because of a kiss! Another study shows men are more likely to initiate kissing prior to sexual activity, while women are more likely to “steal” kisses afterward. However, each gender believes that kissing before sexual intercourse with a long-term partner is important (with cuddling and saying “I love you” being the most important after sex).
I know this hasn’t been studied, but in my humble opinion “social kissing” is good for you too. Until this is proven, you have my permission to kiss like the Europeans do meaning both cheeks for all. This may not help all types of stress, but it makes life more fun so how bad could that be?
Quick stress break since the next topic is fun!
Just read that 4,153,237 people got married last year, not to cause any trouble but shouldn’t that be an even number?-Unknown
Stress and sex and you knew this was next, didn’t you?
Sex is much more than just the “heat of the moment.” Science suggests sex can improve mood and combat anxiety by reducing many types of stress signals in the brain.
Life is stressful, and relief goes far beyond an occasional indulgent treat to feel better. But, hey, it sure can’t hurt. In one study, researchers found daily intercourse for two weeks led to cell growth in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that keeps most types of stress levels under control. Disclaimer: This study was tested on rats, not us “feisty” people, but it might still help explain that post-coital bliss.
Another study found that individuals who had daily intercourse for two weeks showed lower stress-related blood pressure increases than those who chose to fool around in other ways or abstain from sex altogether. (Solo sessions didn’t cut it either). There is, even more, good news: the body also releases oxytocin (aka the love hormone) during sex. This acts as a natural sedative and can trigger feelings of compassion.
Now, I think you have enough to get started. Of course, as promised, a bit about supplements: Here is a link to the ultimate guide to natural stress relief supplements. You’ve read enough already!