The modern world is full of pressures and challenges, and for many of us stress is pretty normal. But functioning in emergency mode 24/7 can damage both body and mind. Managing stress is about finding ways to unwind.
Some stress isn’t bad. Stress can initiate change, help us focus on the task at hand, and in some cases even save our lives. Yet when stress builds up, it can result in unpleasant, disabling symptoms.
The first tip in managing stress is to recognise your stressors, then put these reactions in their place. You can act positively to limit the harmful effects of stress on your health! Here are some ideas to help you relax and reduce stress.
How to Ease the Stress
Exercise is a great way to desensitise your nervous system and banish stressful feelings. It clears out your mind and recharges your batteries. It is also very good for your mental health. The endorphins that your body produces during exercise promote a state of well-being. Movement brings oxygen to your muscles and brain, helping you to feel at home in your body and experience a true sense of being alive.
Deep breathing. We all know that when we allow ourselves to be overcome by stress our breathing cycle becomes shorter and faster than normal. To directly attack stress, take deep breaths by inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. This quickly transforms a state of intense stress to one of peacefulness.
Sleep is very important to our health. It has a repairing function. If it is deficient in quantity or quality and doesn’t fulfil our body’s requirements, functional disharmony will ensue. This will affect our nervous, cardiovascular and digestive systems.
Take a power nap. This is a proven way of boosting brain power, but you may not realise the additional stress-relieving benefits a 5- to 15-minute nap can provide. Sometimes the only way for your brain to recover fully is to have a snooze and allow your subconscious to sort itself out.
Go out in the sun. Being outside and soaking up the sun’s rays naturally boosts levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and enables us to enter a deep state of relaxation.
Laughter really is the best medicine! Research has shown that just thinking about a funny moment reduces levels of stress hormones. Talk with friends. Expressing your emotions by having a quality conversation about your problems with a trusted friend will always help relieve stress. He or she may provide helpful suggestions, encourage you to relax, help take your focus off what’s stressing you, and allow you to get that bottled-up fury out of your system.
Get a massage. A quality massage is an extremely effective way to reduce stress levels. The physical relaxation a massage provides will slow down your mental processing and leave your body and mind with a new freshness and vitality.
Take a vacation. Give yourself regular breaks and try to slot a vacation into your schedule. For some this could just mean taking the day off work, for others it could be a 2-week all-inclusive stay in Fiji. Sometimes taking a vacation is clearly your best option for letting go of stress! Take regular breaks during the day. Spend 5 – 10 minutes reading something uplifting or humorous, or chatting with a friend. If you are at work, offer to run an errand or go for a short walk. These little breaks help to prevent your mind and body from becoming fatigued, a major source of stress.
Soak in the tub. A hot bath will relax your muscles and your mind. For optimal stress-relieving results, add a bath salt that’ll moisturise your skin and help you loosen up with a soothing scent. For maximum relaxation light some candles.
Read a book. A good book can take you to another world for a while and give your frazzled brain a rest.
Music. Listen to relaxing music. Classical or nature music has been shown to lower the heart rate and slow breathing. People often report feeling calmer after listening to calming music.
Be around calm and positive people. A great technique is to surround yourself with calm people. Their beliefs, actions, and behaviours will rub off into your consciousness. Spending time with stressful, negative or hyperactive individuals is likely to drain your energy and will not aid the process of de-stressing.
Water! When you’re feeling swamped, it’s totally natural to reach for a caffeine fix. But coffee, soda and energy drinks don’t just jack you up – they also dehydrate you, leaving you feeling even more worn out when the buzz wears off a little later and you come crashing down. Grab a glass of water instead. If you’re properly hydrated, you’ll feel better overall – less fatigued, with fewer aches and pains, plus your skin will glow. Perhaps make yourself a soothing spa-style pitcher? Spike iced water with slices of orange, lemon or lime.
Unravel The Tension
Our emotional life has an enormous impact on our structure. Every thought and feeling registers in our muscles and joints, and our emotional structure and physical structure blend to make up who we are, and how we act and react. For example, think a happy thought, then look at your posture. Now compare this with the effect of a sad thought. We all have a physical personality that matches our personality in general; all our behaviour is expressed through our structure, and personalities can be analysed by their structural behaviour. When we find it inappropriate to express certain feelings we suppress them by muscular contractions. These contractions are responsible for holding in feelings: we call this tension.
A set of muscles that tighten up in response to stress are the sphincter (circular) muscles along your gut. If these tighten whilst material is trying to pass along the gut, it will have the effect of squeezing a toothpaste tube – gas and matter will build up behind these restrictions leading to bloating and alternating constipation and diarrhoea. Reflux (heartburn) is also a consequence as the oesophagus (food pipe) entering the chest gets compressed.
Adrenaline is the hormone that gets released from your adrenal glands when you’re on a roller-coaster, or something equally scary or exhilarating. Known as the ‘fight or flight’ response hormone, it is very important in survival. When you’re stressed it’s released slowly by your body every day. Adrenaline suppresses the immune system and after a while, those small glands on top of the kidneys which release adrenaline get tired too which can lead to adrenal fatigue. This is not a sustainable environment, at some point you’re body is going to protest, if all those aches and pains aren’t protestation enough.
How Can Osteopathy Help?
Bodywork such as osteopathy can be very helpful in chronic stress and associated complex pain syndromes. By affecting the structure of the body it can unravel these tensions, having a direct impact on the physiology and psychology of the patient without the need to experiment with one medication or supplement after another.
Osteopathy helps the body to heal and regulate itself by removing any barriers to recovery and encouraging a re-balancing of the internal environment via external manipulation. A couple of sessions may be all that’s needed to help to ‘reset’ the body and provide a strong foundation for a healthier lifestyle.
By working on the areas of the spine where the autonomic nervous system emerges, we can encourage a re-balancing between the sympathetic and parasympathetic components. We can also work more directly on the symptomatic areas using a range of techniques to help reduce muscle tension and soreness, and restrictions within the digestive and respiratory systems. There are exercises that can be done at home to help maintain the body’s equilibrium and manage the physical effects of stress.
Ultimately, effective stress management via a multidisciplinary approach is the only way to deal with this situation long term. However, osteopathy can help effectively with the process.
To learn more about how your lifestyle may be affecting your health, inside and out, book an appointment with one of our Osteopaths today.
Content courtesy of osteogoodhealth.com