Stress is quite a buzzword these days. And for many it is a ‘bad’ word…a four-letter word stretched out into five. But did you know that stress can be broken down into distress and eustress? Simply stated distress is ‘bad’ stress and eustress is ‘good’ stress. Distress results in anxiety and sorrow while eustress is moderate or normal stress that the experiencer finds beneficial. That’s right…stress can be beneficial. Some examples of eustress are getting married, being promoted at work, taking a vacation, or even learning a new hobby.
While certain types of stressors can be beneficial there are many stressors that are not. Examples of those that cause anxiety, pain and sorrow are losing a loved one, getting divorced, legal problems, financial issues, and getting an illness/injury just to name a few. One common factor with all these issues is the feeling of lack of control. While having control over events that happen in our lives is nearly impossible, we can control our response to these events. It is in how we perceive the events that result in how much stress we experience.
We are living in a stress-filled world and it is important to have ways to manage our stress levels. In future blogs we will discuss more about the body’s stress response and how it impacts our health, but for now let’s leave you with some simple tips on how to begin reducing your stress.
Tip #1: Notice Your Breath
Take a moment and stop what you are doing. Take a deep breath by inhaling for 4 seconds, holding breath for 7, then exhaling for 8 seconds. Focus on the sensation of the breath entering and exiting. Repeat for 5 breaths. Then check in to see if anything in your body has changed. Do you feel more relaxed? Is your breathing slower?
Breathing is something that happens automatically. We don’t have to think about breathing…we just do it. But we can change how we breathe when we consciously focus on it.
Tip #2: Breathe In Your Nose
Breathing in your nose allows the air to get lower in your lungs allowing for a deeper abdominal breath. Nostril breathing increases nitric oxide which causes your blood vessels to dilate (open) reducing blood pressure.
Tip #3: Stretch/Foam Rolling
Stretching/foam rolling your muscles is great to do in the evening. Stretching helps increase blood flow and when performed in a non-forceful manner creates relaxation in the body. Do not push into pain. Turn off the TV and focus on the sensations as you stretch.
Tip #4: No More Sugar
Sugar is highly inflammatory to your body. Inflammation is a stressor and has been shown to correlate to decrease in pain tolerance. Inflammation also decreases the immune systems ability to fight infection. Your body has to work overtime to maintain health and a simple way to reduce inflammation is cut out sugary and processed foods.
Tip #5: Get Good Sleep
Sleep is one of the most underrated aspects of health, in my opinion. Sleep may be the most important component to our health and imperative to reduce our stress levels. Let’s leave the topic of sleep for another blog, but in the meantime make sure you get up at the same time everyday and don’t stay up too late.
Tip# 6: Massage and ‘Bodywork’
Regular sessions of massage or other forms of bodywork can be quite beneficial in reducing stress levels. It is important to find what type of bodywork is right for you. Here at Body Evolution we tend to focus on using John Barnes Myofascial Release, a gentle form of hands-on techniques, to reduce stress and tension.
Remember, not all stress is bad, but too much stress is not good. If you want to reduce your stress contact us here at Body Evolution Physical Therapy & Wellness to find out how we can help you get to feeling more relaxed and in control of your life.
I'm just a guy helping active adults and athletes frustrated by nagging aches and pains naturally return to a healthy lifestyle.