Tension and stress have unfortunately become ubiquitous in our world which seems stuck underneath the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Israel and Jerusalem we have been far from immune to these effects, with the threat of a lockdown always looming and the difficulties of renewed restrictions recently rearing their ugly head.
Stress has the potential to seriously impact your health and overall wellbeing. Anything that lessens your quality of life is the antithesis to self-care. With this in mind, here are some holistic ways to release tension in order to live your best life. These lessons apply not only here in Jerusalem at my Acupuncture Jerusalem Clinic, but anywhere in the world where someone may be seeking to reduce the amount of stress in their lives for the betterment of their health.
Acupuncture is one of the most effective treatments available for stress and anxiety. Unlike therapy which cannot address chemical imbalances or physical factors influencing stress or anxiety levels, acupuncture gets to the root of the physical issue causing or exacerbating stress. Additionally, unlike prescription medications, acupuncture is designed to alleviate the problem permanently – as opposed to simply masking or treating symptoms.
Stress can be caused by any number of different factors, whether mental or physical. After diagnosing the cause of the stress or anxiety, an experienced acupuncturist can perform acupuncture treatment to strengthen underlying bodily weaknesses through the redirection of internal energy and by promoting healthy blood circulation.
The fact that tension manifests itself in shallow breathing is proof that the way in which you breathe affects your mindset. When you’re cognizant of your breathing, your energy levels naturally increase. This is because oxygen is an essential resource for your cells. By maximizing your breathing, you subsequently maximize your body’s optimal functioning. Your brain requires more oxygen than you think to function. Increased oxygen intake (aka focusing on your breathing) allows you to think clearly, improve productivity and generally feel more grounded.
When I’m feeling tense, I tune in to those emotions, allowing them to bubble to the surface, and then I focus in on my breathing. This helps me to identify my emotions for what they are. When I release the breath, I simultaneously let go of the tension that came with it. Try breathing in for five seconds, letting your diaphragm fully expand and holding for five seconds. Then slowly exhale through the mouth for as long as you can (ideally around eight seconds) and repeat until you’re completely immersed in your breathing. You should feel your body physically relax.
Our sense of smell is directly connected to the brain, specifically the limbic system and amygdala. These parts of the mind are in control of our emotions, memory and overall mood. This explains why scents are able to trigger physical reactions in the body that have lasting effects. In this vein, using aromatherapy is a viable option when looking to release pent-up tension. In fact, essential oils have the potential to interact in the same way that certain anti-anxiety medications act on neuroreceptors.
Aromatherapy is my go-to cure whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed and the tension is building that little bit too much. My favorite calming essential oils are lavender oil or lemongrass oil. Lavender has been used for centuries to relieve anxiety and depression by calming the central nervous system. Meanwhile lemongrass essential oil is known to have an immediate effect on reducing tension, helping you to recover quickly from triggering situations. Whichever oil you decide to go for, you’ll be surprised at how you feel the tension just melt away.
4. Exercise For Release
If you’re looking for a way to reduce tension whilst simultaneously improving your overall health, then this one’s for you. It should come as no surprise that exercising releases endorphins which are the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters in your body. In addition to releasing endorphins, working out also releases dopamine and decreases cortisol production which is the body’s stress hormone. Physical activity allows oxygen to circulate through the body and improves blood flow. This essentially means that your body is able to function at its optimum.
Whenever I’m feeling particular tense or need to release some pent-up frustrations, I try to hit the gym or roll out my mat for a yoga flow. Within minutes I can feel the negative emotions releasing themselves and transforming into motivation for my workout. Exercise also has the potential to improve your sleep quality and boost you overall energy levels. The best part about this outlet is that only five minutes of aerobic exercise can do the trick!
Sometimes when you’re feeling tense there’s just too much going on in your mind to make sense of it. That’s where journaling comes in as a tool to release tension. Feelings of tension are often masking deeper emotions simmering beneath the surface. Journaling can help you to identify the root of your frustrations through defining and understanding your emotions. Developing this self-awareness is a highly therapeutic way to get to know yourself better and lift a weight off your shoulders.
One of the ways that I use to identify my emotions through journaling is by really trying to describe the emotion. If it was a color, it would be red. If it was music, it would sound like a drum solo. If it was weather, it would be thunder. Whatever the emotion, try and describe it as best you can to see if it’s masking something deeper. Don’t forget to end off your journaling session on a positive note. It’s important to remind yourself of things that you’re grateful for, potential solutions to problems and things that give you hope.
6. Talk It Out
Releasing your frustrations through ‘venting’ is a technique that most of us are familiar with. There’s something about verbally expressing your feelings that almost allows them to be ‘removed’ from yourself. One of the biggest obstacles in coping with anger is the ability to appropriately articulate your emotions. By talking it out with a confidant you teach yourself how to communicate tension or anger in a productive way. This is a big step in developing healthy anger management strategies.
I find that talking to someone that I trust can lift a weight off my shoulders. Not only does it allow me to put things in perspective, but it helps me to get in touch with what I’m feeling. It’s not easy talking about your emotions but it’s an important part of understanding yourself and others better. If you feel that your anger is out of control, it might be time to consider speaking to a professional who can help you with your self-awareness.
In order to release tension, you first need to possess the ability to recognize your emotions. Being in touch with your emotions helps you deal with what you’re feeling in a healthy way. Self-care comes in many forms and knowing how to release tension is a vital element of living a serene life. Whether it’s journaling, employing some breathing techniques or investing in an essential oil or two, take the necessary steps to achieve inner harmony.
Acupuncture is a fantastic treatment option to help relieve stress, but there are many excellent do-it-yourself options that can help, too. In these turbulent times, it’s important to prioritize this kind of self care. You owe it to yourself and your health!
Jamie Bacharach is a Jerusalem-based Acupuncturist and Eastern Medicine Practitioner with a passion for Health and Wellness. Jamie is a graduate of the Reidman International College for Complementary and Integrative Medicine in Jerusalem. Jamie is now the Head of Clinic at Acupuncture Jerusalem.