Reduce Your Stress Level With Relaxation Techniques
Do you ever feel stress? Physically or mentally? Or both?
If not, congratulations. You are among the less than 25% of Americans who say they don't feel it. But I'm a little skeptical of that percentage. Everyone I know feels stress to one extent or another.
The American Institute of Stress (yes, there is such an organization) tells us 77% of Americans experience stress that affects their physical health.
A total of 73% have stress affecting their mental health. Another 48% have trouble sleeping due to their stress. This next one might be the scariest of the statistics. One-third of Americans report feeling extreme stress.
And as we all know, stress can trigger all sorts of serious health problems. Both physical and mental.
Why Are We Stressed?
In a moment I'm going to provide you with some ways to deal with physical and mental stress you might be experiencing.
In the meantime, let's look at some things many people are stressed out about. In no particular order, they include finances, at-work issues and the economy.
Others are relationships, family responsibilities and personal safety. Plus housing costs and job security.
Not surprisingly, health is another big one. Both personal and family health issues.
How Is It Manifested?
How does this stress play out in our lives? Again, in a wide variety of ways. Including…
- 45% of people report irritability and anger
- 41% fatigue or low energy
- 38% lack of motivation or interest in things
- 36% anxiety, nervousness or worry
- 36% headaches
- 34% sadness or depression
- 26% indigestion, acid reflux or upset stomach
- 23% muscle tension
- 21% appetite changes
Others experience sexual problems or weight changes. Or diarrhea or constipation, or forgetfulness and lack of attention.
Resting and Massage
Today I want to focus on relaxation techniques. Not only are these techniques helpful, but they're easy to do. And best of all, you can start doing most of them the moment you start feeling stress.
A new study published by Scientific Reports shows that short, easy-to-apply relaxation techniques can activate your body's regenerative system (parasympathetic nervous system) for offsetting stress (sympathetic nervous system).
Scientists have been studying what stress does to people for many years. But only recently have neuroscientists joined in to learn ways to relieve that stress.
Psychologists at the University of Konstanz in Germany say simply resting for 10 minutes can reduce stress somewhat. And that higher levels of psychological and physiological relaxation can be achieved after only 10 minutes of a massage.
Professional Treatment Not Required
According to the group conducting the study, it was not important whether the massage was soft or moderate. Physical contact seemed to improve the body's relaxation either way.
Physiological relaxation was measured by monitoring the heart rate of participants. And measuring their heart rate variability.
Psychological relaxation was measured in a less scientific way – by asking participants to describe how relaxed or stressed they felt following a massage or rest.
Maria Meier was lead author of the study. "You don't need a professional treatment in order to relax," she said.
"Having somebody gently stroke your shoulders, or even just resting your head on the table for 10 minutes, is an effective way to boost your body's physiological engine of relaxation."
So, resting and massage are good ways to reduce stress. But there are plenty of others we should be aware of.
Exercise is an important one. It can be anything from a leisurely walk to an intense workout. Physical activity can pump up your feel-good endorphins. And that can enhance your sense of wellbeing.
It allows you to refocus your mind on your body's movements and away from what's causing your stress.
It might be walking, jogging or gardening. It could be biking, swimming or weightlifting. Even housecleaning will get your body moving and your mind refocused.
Meditation and Yoga
Meditation is another stress reliever. For some this means simply closing your eyes and letting your mind go blank.
For others it can be quoting Bible verses you have memorized. Or thinking about all the things you are thankful for.
Meditation seems to be most effective when it's connected to deep breathing. A vast majority of people do not breathe deeply enough normally, so this is a good time to change that.
Some people find that yoga with its controlled-breathing exercises brings together physical and mental disciplines that help them relax.
Here are a few more suggestions. Eat a healthy diet (plenty of fruits and vegetables). Get plenty of quality sleep. Avoid unhealthy habits (too much alcohol, too much caffeine, smoking, overeating, etc.).
Laughing causes positive physical body changes, so watch a comedy you enjoy. Read or tell some jokes, or reminisce with an old friend.
Keep a journal. Sometimes recording your thoughts and concerns can release them or help you deal with them more effectively. Listening to or playing music can also turn your attention away from problems.
And if your stress goes beyond your ability to help yourself, seek counseling. It's nothing to be ashamed of. We all need help in different areas of our lives.
Stress and stressful situations will never go away. But learning how to cope with them will help us physically and mentally. And make us healthier and happier.