By JOANN BISHOP, CSCS
Everyone experiences stressful situations in life ”“ the key is recognizing the stress. Is it a short-term problem that can be managed with a deep breath? Some stressful situations are out of our control, a serious illness for example. Maintaining a positive attitude to stress and stressful events is possibly the best management technique, although one of the most challenging.
How do you react to stressful situations?
- Do you tend to become angry, agitated, or keyed up?
You may respond best to relaxation techniques that quiet you down, such as meditation, deep breathing, or guided imagery.
- Do you tend to become depressed, withdrawn, or spaced out?
You may respond best to relaxation techniques that are stimulating and that energize your nervous system, such as rhythmic exercise.
- Do you tend to freeze-speeding up internally while slowing down externally?
Your challenge is to identify relaxation techniques that provide both safety and stimulation to help you “reboot” your system. Techniques such as mindfulness walking or power yoga might work well for you.
Exercise and Stress Relief
Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits.
- It pumps up your endorphins.Physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.
- It’s meditation in motion.After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements.
As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything you do.
- It improves your mood.Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, it can relax you, and it can lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression, and anxiety.
These exercise benefits can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.
What kind of exercise is best to improve mood and reduce stress?
The one that you enjoy.
Remember to take a breath! Here’s a simple, powerful breathing exercise:
- Inhale slowly to 4 counts
- Hold the breath 4 counts
- Exhale slowly to 4 counts
While breathing, try not to think. Just breathe. Breathe at least 4 sets, or until you feel your face and jaw relax.