As my last article showed, acute and chronic stress isn’t just an inconvenience – it can create physiological and psychological warfare, with negative feedback loops affecting every aspect of our minds and bodies.
It would be ignorant and foolish of me to think that stress could be totally eradicated from one’s life. However, there are better ways than others to manage, and in some ways eliminate, certain stressors.
For the “big” stressors of life, such as financial strain, raising children, divorce, natural disasters, loss of a loved one and more, there are coping mechanisms and lifelong practices that can help mitigate the effects of those types of stress, but there also needs to be an acknowledgement that the passage of time in certain situations is what it really takes – and unfortunately, we can’t speed that process up.
In many cases, the best way to cope with these kinds of “big” stressors is to solicit the help of a professional therapist, or a friend or family member who knows how to listen and not be judgmental. These kinds of stressors can also be called chronic stressors and can take a huge toll on the body over time, which is why it is so important to try and do something positive and healing for the body.
Any type of exercise helps to release dopamine and other feel-good chemicals, calming down the nervous system and amping up the feeling of euphoria. A runner’s “high” is a real thing, but we can get that same feeling without pounding pavement. Yoga, which has been around for centuries, is one of the best forms of movement for not only managing stress and stress effects, but also for prevention.
According to the Western Indian Medical Journal, “In yoga, physical postures and breathing exercises improve muscle strength, flexibility, blood circulation and oxygen uptake as well as hormone function. In addition, the relaxation induced by meditation helps to stabilize the autonomic nervous system with a tendency towards parasympathetic dominance. Physiological benefits which follow help yoga practitioners become more resilient to stressful conditions and reduce a variety of important risk factors for various diseases, especially cardio-respiratory diseases.”
As the journal mentions, meditation and specific breathing techniques, which can be practiced anywhere, are also incredibly helpful forms of stress reduction. For years I thought I was “bad” at meditating because I felt like I was never “Zen enough” to do it, when in reality, the practice itself (the “trying”) is, in fact, meditation.
You may feel like giving up when your mind wanders. “I can’t turn my mind off,” “there are so many other things I could be doing” – sound familiar?
That is the point: To take time out of your day to sit and to breathe. When (not if) your mind wanders, recognize it and bring yourself back to trying again. For this reason, I find guided meditations to be extremely helpful. By following along with a guided program, I am not solely responsible for turning down the noise in my head.
I specifically use Insight Timer, a free app with millions of meditations for sleep, for feeling grounded, for letting go of anger, for grief and much more. It also has breathing exercises and demos. Did you know that there are as many as 10 different styles of breathing, all of which can be found (with demos) at www.healthline.com/health/breathing-exercise. Each style of breathing has its own purpose in helping reduce stress and anxiety.
Stress will always be in your life in some form, sometimes showing up loudly and other times slowly creeping in. Either way, be ready for it and learn how to manage it in a healthy way. And as always, reach out if you ever have any questions: [email protected].