Stress. It’s the alarm bell of today’s fast-paced world. “I can’t sleep, let me pop some pills,” or “I’m falling behind at work, what will I do,” or “Will I pass my final exams, what if I fail,” are a few examples of how stressful thoughts might plague your mind.
If you are going through something similar, rest assured you are not alone. Surveys have shown that at least one in every 10 people encounter stress in their daily lives (and some days that number seems low!) If left unattended, however, stress can create havoc in your life. Although stress-inducing circumstances can be outside your control, choosing thoughtful reactions that will lead to a calming of your body and mind is completely controllable.
The sooner you realize the importance of dealing with stress, the faster you can live a healthier and more successful life. If you find yourself facing stressful circumstances, read through the following three ways to expand the power of your stress-busting techniques.
1. Take a huge sigh of relief!
When you’re stressed, you tend to breathe rapidly. By slowing down your breathing by exhaling, you can counteract this stress-related response. Practicing the act of exhaling every time you encounter a stressful situation can really help in sending relaxation signals to your brain, clearing your mind, and thereby tackling stress. Remembering to take advantage of this act of relaxation in your everyday life can work wonders. By exhaling slowly, you are inviting your body to reverse the effects of stress.
Let’s try it now.
Begin by closing your eyes, relaxing your shoulders, and loosening your jaw. Gently breathe in through your nose while silently counting for five slow seconds. Then hold your breath at the top of the inhale for five seconds, and then release — again for a slow count of five seconds — with your mouth open. Hold that empty exhale for the magic count of five seconds, and then begin again. You may find it helpful to make your exhales audible so you can focus on performing the act deliberately. Keep it smooth and slow, and repeat as often as necessary.
2. Try progressive muscle relaxation.
Another way to tackle stress is via a simple exercise called progressive muscle relaxation. Stress makes our muscles tense and tighten. Try to consciously contract and then relax your muscles. This will help trigger the relaxation response, and help relieve tension from the body and anxiety from the mind.
Let’s try it now.
Start with lying down on your back, and then slowly breathe in and out through your nose. Bring your attention to one area of your body at a time. Tense all the muscles of that area, holding them as tight as possible for a few seconds, and then release. A good order in which you should tense and release is to go feet, legs, pelvis, stomach, chest, arms, shoulders, hands, neck and face. When the sequence is over try to squeeze all your muscles as tightly as you can while inhaling, and then hold your breath for a few seconds. Now release, with a big and exaggerated sigh of relief when you’re finished. You can repeat this sequence as many times as you’d like.
3. Hug, hug, hug it out!
Giving someone a big, warm hug can help relieve stress and encourage positivity. Hugging makes your body produce the hormone oxytocin, which is associated with bonding and the relaxation response. Oxytocin helps to dilate your blood vessels and strengthen your heart, meaning it makes your body more prepared to handle stress. The best part is, these benefits apply to both the hugger and the “hug-ee.”
Let’s try it now.
Go to your nearest friend, family member, neighbour, or pet, and then give them a big, warm hug for as long as you both like. After all, isn’t it better to deal with our stress together?
The next time you feel burdened with worry or anxiety, choose one of these three strategies to regain your sense of happy, healthy balance.
And always remember the simple golden rule: YOU control your response to stress; it doesn’t control you!