Managing stress and anxiety in today’s fast paced world can sometimes feel next to impossible. Work demands, family responsibilities and social commitments can become overwhelming leaving you mentally tired and emotionally drained. While a certain amount of stress is healthy, neglecting to care for yourself can cause serious physical and emotional complications. The physical repercussions of an overly scheduled life can range from mild fatigue to serious mental health issues.
Symptoms Of Stress
It is important to pay attention to the subtle signs that our bodies give as warnings that we are out of balance. The first step to managing stress is to be aware of the symptoms. These symptoms include:
- low energy
- shortness of breath
- change in appetite
- nervous behaviors
Natural Ways To Managing Stress
Balancing the demands of a stressful life-style isn’t always easy. For most people, avoidance would be the most desirable means of stress management; unfortunately, that is not always possible. Fortunately, there are natural, relaxing and time effective ways to de-stress and bring balance back into your daily life.
It is important to acknowledge that anxiety is not just a physical or emotional phenomena. It has spiritual components. The spiritual perspective as it relates to managing stress doesn’t necessarily involve a religious practice but encourages the development of a strong sense of self and well being. It involves a connection to something deeper and more meaningful than physical experience.
Below are a few examples of mindful and effective techniques to reduce anxiety and manage stress.
Breathing exercises such as this one should be done twice a day or whenever you find your mind dwelling on upsetting thoughts or when you are experiencing pain.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. When you take a deep breath in, the hand on the abdomen should rise higher than the one on the chest. This insures that the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of the lungs.
- After exhaling through the mouth, take a slow deep breath in through your nose imagining that you are sucking in all the air in the room and hold it for a count of 7 (or as long as you are able, not exceeding 7)
- Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. As all the air is released with relaxation, gently contract your abdominal muscles to completely evacuate the remaining air from the lungs. It is important to remember that we deepen respirations not by inhaling more air but through completely exhaling it.
- Repeat the cycle four more times for a total of 5 deep breaths and try to breathe at a rate of one breath every 10 seconds (or 6 breaths per minute). At this rate our heart rate variability increases which has a positive effect on cardiac health.
Key points in mindfulness mediation are:
- A quiet environment. Choose a secluded place in your home, office, garden, place of worship, or in the great outdoors where you can relax without distractions or interruptions.
- A comfortable position. Get comfortable, but avoid lying down as this may lead to you falling asleep. Sit up with your spine straight, either in a chair or on the floor. You can also try a cross-legged or lotus position.
- A point of focus. This point can be internal—a feeling or imaginary scene—or something external – a flame or meaningful word or phrase that you repeat it throughout your session. You may meditate with eyes open or closed. Also choose to focus on an object in your surroundings to enhance your concentration, or alternately, you can close your eyes.
- An observant, non-critical attitude. Don’t worry about distracting thoughts that go through your mind or about how well you’re doing. If thoughts intrude during your relaxation session, don’t fight them. Instead, gently turn your attention back to your point of focus.
Practicing yoga can not only be an effective stress reliever, but also a way to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. By transferring focus and attention to the body and breath, yoga can help to temper anxiety while also releasing physical tension.
“Yoga helps our entire system slow down,” ViraYoga founder Elena Brower tells The Huffington Post. “Our bodies are programmed to heal naturally, and what stops that healing are all the stressors of daily life. Yoga dissolves those stressors for the time during practice and usually the effects last for hours after.”
Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.
With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.
- Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
- Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
- Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
- Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
Psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout. Some studies show that exercise can work quickly to elevate depressed mood in many people. Although the effects may be temporary, they demonstrate that a brisk walk or other simple activity can deliver several hours of relief, similar to taking an aspirin for a headache.
Science has also provided some evidence that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress. In one study, researchers found that those who got regular vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years.
We know it can be hard to get into a good exercise routine so here are a few tips to get you well on your way to a healthier and stress free life:
- Do something you love: Select sports or other physical activities that you enjoy. If you enjoy lifting weights then don’t begin training for a marathon or try a triathlon. Any form of exercise or physical activity will increase your fitness and combat stress so stick with what you like doing to keep motivation levels high.
- Don’t run before you can walk: Start off slow! Don’t go throwing yourself into the deep end as this will result in a higher risk of injury and you will feel less motivated as you won’t be enjoying the exercising that you are partaking in. So instead, build up your fitness levels slowly, perhaps start with 20-30 minutes initially and work your way up to an hour over three months.