Stress is a physiological reaction to difficult environments, situations, or people. Its effects can range from general annoyances, to the urge to fight, flee, or freeze. It often keeps you disconnected from yourself while dominating your thoughts and making you feel anxious, overwhelmed, and helpless.
While some stress is unavoidable, letting stress go unchecked can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. Because all of us are confronted with daily challenges and stressors, it’s important to find effective ways to release stress.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Everyone’s experiences, reactions, perceptions, and lifestyle are unique to them and their choices. So, the stress relief solutions that work best for you will be unique to your situation and preferences.
Read on for some practical techniques to help connect with yourself, regain control of your emotions, and maximize your stress management.
How Does Stress Affect You?
Chronic stress negatively impacts every system and function of your body. It can raise your blood pressure, cause tension and discomfort, increase your risk for heart attacks and disease, suppress your organ function and immune system, interrupt your sleep, and speed up the aging process.
Think of your body as an organism. It works synergistically; every part of it affects the others.
When you’re stressed, your body and mind go into “emergency mode”. Instead of focusing on important tasks or maximizing your physical and mental wellness, you’re focused on surviving the perceived threat. This constant state of “fight or flight” is unsustainable and will cause a domino effect of deterioration.
What’s the Best Way To Manage Stress?
To combat hyper-anxious feelings, practice ways to get your body and mind into a state of calm. The relaxation response helps reduce and even reverse the effects of stress and promote a grounded, peaceful mind. From this state of calm, you can then regain control of your emotions and reactions so you can choose how to best respond.
Allowing your nervous system to rest and reboot allows your neurological and physical systems to regain full function - instead of staying in emergency mode.
It’s All In Your Mind
Sometimes, your reactions to perceived stressors are habitual. Meaning, you may be so accustomed to reacting emotionally to difficult situations that it’s now a habit for you. Many people even stress about things that haven’t even happened - meaning, you’re making up things to worry about, instead of staying in the present moment and strategically dealing with reality.
2 Quick Stress Management Practices To Help You Regain Control
As soon as you wake up in the morning, take a few minutes to breathe deeply and focus on what you’re grateful for. It could be your loved ones, animals, favorite places or foods, or something you’re excited about.
- This practice puts you in a happy, high vibrational state – which is the opposite of anxious, overwhelmed, and helpless.
- It’s especially powerful to begin your day with a thankful, positive mindset. You can also do this any time you feel stressed.
- Bonus points if you can wake up 15-30 minutes earlier than normal and write down what you’re grateful for. This helps your mind stay focused and present.
Intentional breathing is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to control your body's rhythm and change your state.
- Take a deep, sloooow breath in through your nose and out through your mouth as you allow your shoulders to drop and your body and mind to relax.
Don't you feel more calm and focused?
- Now, do 10 shallow breaths as fast as you can.
Is your heart rate up? Do you feel flustered and lightheaded?
That's a simple example of how you can use your breathing to change the way you feel.
Try this Box Breathing exercise to calm your mind and body. It’s also a great technique to help you calm your racing thoughts, relax your body and mind, and prepare for a restful night’s sleep.
The goal is to remain relaxed and clear headed, focused only on breathing.
Stretch out your limbs, get comfortable, and relax.
- Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath at the top for 4 seconds.
- Breathe out slowly for 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds.
Repeat as needed.
Once you master this, you can practice working your way up to longer intervals.
Stress Also Affects Your Body
One of your body’s specialties is adapting to and masking stress. The downside is, we often allow the stress to linger and stay top of mind, which prevents us from releasing it. This also causes our body to store the stress, which can lead to tension, pain, dysfunction, and all kinds of illness.
Most of us lead busy lives and don’t take enough time to connect with and listen to our body. A great way to break that cycle is to schedule time for intentional relaxation and stress release.
It sounds simple enough, but self-care is so much more than self-pampering. It’s any stress-relieving, grounding, mental health boosting, relaxing, soothing, wellness-enhancing practice that works for you. Keep it simple, meaningful, and consistent. Most importantly, make sure to schedule and prioritize this sacred, uninterrupted time with yourself.
Try These Stress-Relieving Self Care Strategies:
- Take a walk in nature (bonus: walk barefoot)
- Exercise (move however you enjoy)
- Give yourself a KOA massage, or schedule a massage with a practitioner
- Take a bath (bonus: epsom salt and essential oils)
- Give yourself a facial or spa experience
- Journal, read, or write
- Take a nap
The Power of Releasing & Relaxing
Your body stores trauma and stress. One of the reasons myofascial release therapy is so effective is because it helps you communicate with your body, identify tension, and release it.
An easy way to find out if you’re holding tension is to do a full body KOA Massage. Spend a few minutes on each area of your body and pay attention to what you feel. If an area is very stiff, sensitive, or painful, it could be a sign your body is subconsciously holding tension. Some common tension areas include the neck, traps, shoulders, chest, back, and hips. Spend a little more time easing into any tense areas so they have time to relax and release.
The best stress relief methods are the ones that work best for you. Learning to relax and regain control may be easier said than done, but it’s a practice that’s worth perfecting. Take your time, keep it simple, and stay consistent.
Until you learn to pause, find your groundings, and choose how to react to stressful situations, you will continue to be controlled by them.
Self care is both wellness and prevention. When your body and mind are healthy and happy, you’re better equipped to handle stress.