We’ve all heard doctors, the media and various medical reports stating how beneficial exercise is good for beating stress but did you realise that it needn’t always be sweating away in a gym, lifting weights or pounding away at a treadmill knowing your body is so going to hurt the next day?
There are great alternatives which also have a soothing effect on your body and soul.
Gentler stress busting…you don’t have to feel the burn
Hatha yoga: is one where you stretch into positions and hold them and is gentle on joints. I took up Hatha yoga 12 years ago primarily to help strengthen my now damaged joints (I fall over a lot) and have been amazed at how beneficial it has been.
Not only has it helped my joints but it does tone you at the same time. The stretches discover muscles you had forgotten you had and forces them to remember where they should be and how to act – a great antidote to tight shoulders, computer neck, and painful lower backs.
While you are doing it your mind slows down as it concentrates on the pose you are in. Stress and worry evaporate and a feeling of calmness overtakes you which I wish you could bottle and take away from the class.
Meditation: Don’t groan. Meditation or practising mindfulness really does calm everything down. Your heart rate slows, your blood flow increases and thoughts are turned inward forgetting about problems and stress for a while.
It can be a little ‘grrr’ getting into the ‘zone’ but using an app (I use https://www.headspace.com/) which guides you through the process helps. It also doesn’t have to be for hours like a Bhuddist monk, 10 minutes can be enough.
I have found that I come out of meditation feeling much more energetic and my mind is crystal sharp which helps me whizz through work problems with ease.
Massage: Apart from the obvious benefits of a professional manipulating your aching shoulder muscles, back, legs etc it increases blood flow around your body, muscles and into your brain. It helps unblock lymphs and pores which in turn helps with circulation and, my favourite bit, it is sooo relaxing I often fall asleep so am not thinking about anything!
Other stress busting suggestions
Water: Some people find they must get sweaty to release stress toxins- so if you are that type then your stress busting technique may be more rigorous. However, to protect your body- I suggest something like swimming- it is great for stamina, strength and suppleness and if you do it first thing in the morning it can set you up for the day. Alternatively- harness the power of water with a good old-fashioned bath, plus essential oils. Showers are great for kickstarting your day, but a relaxing bath at night time can help you sleep.
Don’t forget to please your brain too- with an interesting hobby that is non work related.
Non-physical stress busting
Music: Sometimes you are almost too stressed to consider doing anything physical. This is where I find music can help. Not loud rock stuff- though that is good for getting anger out- but calming, gentle music, literally forcing your brain to slow down.
Music is very smart- it matches or interrupts brain patterns. I’m not talking about background music- that can help motivate you through household chores, or block out other noise. I’m suggesting that when everything seems overwhelming that you take yourself off to a darkened space, put some soothing music on and close your eyes to listen. Just ten minutes of this will slow your heart rate and give you a breathing space. This is especially good when you feel too tense to relax even though you know you are exhausted and ought to sleep.
Stress busting should suit you
These are a few of the things I have found have helped me but we are all different. Try anything and everything at least once. If you find you like it and notice a benefit then keep it up, if not then no-one is forcing you to do it (e.g. I did not get on with acupuncture at all!) so give it up and move on to something else.
You owe it to your overall wellbeing to find ways that work to help you relax. Stress is not some imaginary concept, it is real and it threatens your health. Think of it as part of your routine, like brushing your teeth. If you do some form of relaxation regularly it maintains your health and reduces your chances of stress related illness. I’d love to hear your favourite stress busting techniques- leave a comment below and feel free to share your suggestions.