Fitness Facts: Quick stress-reduction strategies
By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
With everything going on in the world right now, stress and anxiety can get the best of us.
Here are some quick stress strategies to help ease the effects of the stress we all feel.
- Tense your muscles, one area at a time, and relax upon release.
- Take a deep breath and hold it as you curl your toes for about 5 seconds, then let your breath go all at once. Don’t ease off — let go completely!
- Next, clench your calves, thighs, buttocks, arms, shoulders and jaws and then squeeze your eyelids.
- Feel the tension leave your body — exhale!
- When tense, we often breathe from the upper chest. A full, deep breath helps relieve tension.
- Take a deep breath, letting your abdomen expand fully.
- Hold it for about 3 seconds.
- Let your breath out all at once (with a sigh if you want).
- As you exhale, relax your jaw and shoulders. Think calm. … Focus on positive thoughts, Scripture or visualize yourself in a calming place such as ocean, mountains or beside a rolling creek.
When our minds are filled with stressful thoughts, our bodies become stressed. Focusing on body processes can help calm mental activity, which in turn can result in physical relaxation. This technique will help you take a break from stressful thoughts.
- With your eyes closed, shift your attention to the tip of your nose.
- As you breathe in, become aware of the air entering your nostrils.
- As you breathe out, be aware of the sensations of air passing back out. Do this several times.
- Repeat several times: breathe in … breathe out … breathe in … breathe out …
Guided imagery relaxation:
- Picture a place (real or imagined) where you can be totally relaxed.
- With your eyes closed, take a moment to visualize an ideal place to relax. Make it any place attractive to you.
- Using all senses, feel yourself in comfortable clothes, hear pleasant sounds, see beautiful colors.
- Visit this spot whenever you need to relax. Take a mini-vacation!
Slow it down to soothe mind and body.
- Exhale with sound through your mouth to the count of 8.
- Inhale quietly through your nose to the count of 4.
- Hold your breath to the count of 7.
- Repeat for 4 breath cycles and ideally twice a day.
Quick burst of exercise:
Exercise is an excellent stress relief because it is great for your whole body and brings physical benefits other than those experienced because of a reversed stress response. Exercise can provide a distraction, endorphins and an outlet for frustration.
In situations where it can work, even a quick burst of exercise (such as a quick run up several flights of stairs, or several sets of pushups or jumping jacks) can be useful for stress relief. (Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program, of course.)
For this technique, you silently repeat a short prayer or phrase from a prayer while practicing breath focus. This method may be especially appealing if religion or spirituality is meaningful to you.