Stress Relief Made Easy

By Julienne McCulloch

This time of year comes with a lot of stress. Stress is “being subjected to physical, mental or emotional strain in response to real or imagined stimuli.”

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This stress can come from many different avenues. Whether the stress is positive or negative, the body responds the same way to both of them. If the body is exposed to too much positive or negative stress, it can become depleted, which is a very common theme during this time of year. 

It is important to recognize when your body is becoming overly stressed and then use stress management techniques to promote relaxation. Sometimes it is hard to recognize stress, but the more we are in tune with the way our body responds to stress, the quicker we can begin to bring ourselves back to a normal and happy resting state. An exercise you can try is to track symptoms your body has when it is stressed. You will quickly see there is a pattern and as you begin to recognize these stressors, you then will be able to begin working on reducing the stress sooner. 

Many of us try relaxing by sitting in front of a TV or a computer. Even though this may feel like a relaxing activity, it is not physiologically reducing stress or relaxing the body. There are multiple ways to help the body reduce stress and experience higher levels of relaxation. Some of these include: relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, massage, guided imagery, rhythmic exercise (running, biking, swimming, rowing, etc.), Tai chi and yoga. These methods work by bringing the nervous system into a balanced state which then promotes relaxation. 

Not every relaxation technique works for each person. For instance, while taking a stress management class in college, my professor did a guided imagery session focusing on dogs. I’m scared to death of dogs, so not only did this not decrease my stress and promote relaxation; it actually increased my stress and anxiety. Even though this is an extreme case, you will find that some methods might do the same for you. Try a few of them and figure out which one works best. Some might take practice and mastery while others might come naturally. The key is finding the best fit for you. 

Practice:

Here is a relaxation exercise that you can do while sitting at your desk. Sit up nice and tall with your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths in through your nose, out through your mouth. As you breathe out, create pursed lips, which is similar to blowing out a candle softly. Feel your diaphragm expand and relax rather than your breath moving your shoulders. Breathe in for 2 seconds, out for 4. This should automatically start a relaxation process within our body. This is a quick and easy way to relax the body regardless of where you are at.

Check out out Intermountain LiVe Well site for more on recognizing and managing stress.