Managing Stress

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 6.12.14 PMIn today’s ever so busy world, it is likely that we often find ourselves a bit stressed out.  Most of us are constantly juggling – partner, children, job, and so on.  Stress is the non-specific response made by the body to any order placed upon it. We experience stress as a predicable pattern of response the body makes to demands, opportunities, and/or changes.  Some of these factors may be positive or negative – however, the body does not differentiate between the two.  Stress is a natural response, affecting us physically, emotionally, and mentally.

There are external sources of stress as well as internal sources.  External sources include: physical environment (noise, pollution, harsh lighting), social interaction (dealing with other people’s moods, rudeness, bossiness), work related (overworked, tight deadlines), major life events (death, marriage, divorce, birth of a child, job loss, moving), and the everyday stresses (keeping on schedule, managing your family, traffic, misplaced keys/phone/wallet).  Internal sources include: lifestyle choices (lack of sleep, caffeine, over-commited schedule), negative thinking (self-criticism, overanalyzing), and personality traits (type A behavior, workaholism).

The ABC’s of Stress Reduction 

A – Awareness 
To identify the stressors and the events that trigger a stress reaction, as yourself these two questions – “what causes you stress?” and “how do you react?”

B – Balance 
There is a very fine line between stress and no stress.  How much can you cope before stress becomes too overwhelming?  What is your tipping point?  Can an intervention be made before the stress becomes unmanageable?  Answer these questions to see where you stand and see where you can become better balanced.

C – Control 
What can you do to help yourself combat the negative effects of stress?  Choose methods and techniques (below) that reduce the impact of the stressful event.

Active Relaxation Techniques

Progressive Relaxation
– Lie on your back and close your eyes.
– Really feel your body, sense the weight of your body, from your feet all the way up to the top of your head.
– Begin to consciously relax each part of your body while paying attention to your breathing.
– As you begin to relax, feel the energy of the stress sink into the ground below you.
– As you being to sink into the ground, feel the tension begin to slide off of you.
– Mentally scan your body to see if there is any place that is still tense, then consciously relax that place and let it sink into the ground.

Toe Tensing 
This activity will help draw out tension from the rest of your body.
– Lie on your back, close your eyes.
– Sense your toes.
– Now pull all of your toes back toward your face.
– Count to ten slowly.
– Now relax your toes.
– Count to ten slowly.
– Repeat the above cycle ten times.

Deep Breathing 
By concentrating on our breathing, deep breathing allows the rest of our body to relax itself.  It is a great way to relax the body and get everything into synchrony.  Relaxation breathing is an important part of yoga and martial arts for this particular reason.
– Lie on your back.
– Slowly being to relax your body. Refer back to the progressive relaxation technique mentioned above.
– Being to inhale slowly through your nose if possible.  Fill the lower part of your chest first, then the middle, and then the top part of your chest and lungs.  Be sure to do this slowly – over 8-10 seconds.
– Hold your breath for a few seconds.
– Quietly and easily relax while letting the air out.
– Wait a few seconds and repeat this cycle.
– If you find yourself getting dizzy, then slow down!
– You can also imagine yourself in a peaceful situation such as on a warm, gentle ocean (or another “happy place” that you would like to go to).  Imagine that you rise on the gentle sweeps of the water as you inhale and sink down into the waves as you exhale.
– Continue this breathing technique for as long as you like until you fall asleep.

When you find yourself stressed to the max, remembering to practice these active relaxation techniques will help to un-stress you and get your life back into a place of balance.

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