Simply put, stress is the human body’s response to any type of change.
We talk about stress in negative circumstances, but stress has been quietly helping our survival since day one. In situations that require our immediate attention, physical responses to stress have helped us escape threats and emerge victorious from battles.
Nowadays, as we face less physical battles at the expense of mental ones, our physical responses to stress do not always address our stressors adequately.
When Stress is Harmful
As stress levels peak, our ‘fight or flight’ response to threats is activated. Our breathing and heart rates increase to prepare the body for action. Muscles tense in preparation for physical activity. Non-essential body functions such as our digestive and immune systems slow down.
All these actions improve our chances of survival in the wild, however in our urban day-to-day lives, when prolonged they lead to:
- insomnia and headaches from the lengthened state of alertness;
- muscle cramps, aches and pains from the continued muscle tension;
- bowel discomfort and (ahem) problems from the lowered activity levels of the digestive system;
- colds and flus from the inactivity of the immune system.
All of us have experienced one or more of these symptoms.
As stress is a part of daily life that cannot be removed, we must learn to address it and prevent it from overwhelming us.
3 Practical Workouts For Preventing and Dealing With Stress
1. The 4-7-8 Breathing exercise
Before going to bed, either sitting or lying down try the following exercise.
- Slowly inhale through the nose to the count of 4
- Hold your breath to the count of 7
- Exhale slowly through the mouth to the count of 8
“…4-7-8 breathing can help people fall asleep in just 60 seconds by acting as a “natural tranquilliser for the nervous system” that reduces stress and tension in the body.”
2. The Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise
When you have a moment find a comfortable, quiet place and perform the following exercise to release muscle tension and stress.
- Starting with the lower extremities tense a muscle group (for example your feet) for 5 to 10 seconds while breathing in. Then breathe out and quickly release the tension, relaxing the muscles.
- Rest for 20 seconds.
- Slowly moving up towards the upper body, head and face, tense another muscle group close to the previous one (for example the leg muscles) for 5 to 10 seconds. Breathe out and quickly release the tension, relaxing the muscles.
“Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a deep relaxation technique that has been effectively used to control stress and anxiety, relieve insomnia, and reduce symptoms of certain types of chronic pain.”
3. The Oak Tree Grounding exercise
The Oak Tree Grounding exercise is to help ground us, make us feel strong and in control. You can even perform this exercise on the move or in the office. It goes as follows.
- Sitting comfortably with your back straight breathe calmly and close your eyes.
- Imagine your torso as the trunk of an immovable, strong oak tree and your legs and feet as the roots buried deep into the ground providing the support.
- Focus on your stability and strength. As a problem may arise in your mind keep that belief that you are stable, immovable, strong and able to deal with anything that is incoming.
“A good grounding meditation should leave you feeling focused, refreshed and strong in your physical body. You should feel alert and confident, not relaxed and dreamy like other techniques.”
I’m a wiseacre Millennial, but you’ll find my articles are the result of meticulous research and careful observation.