Stress Management: Listen To Your Body

These days we live in difficult times where we’re constantly stressed over our health, our safety, work, finances…the list is endless. And the constant release of stress hormones in our bodies means we’re constantly at risk of chronic diseases, stress-induced pains and aches, and poor mental health.

“When we are faced with stress, whether it’s giving a talk in front of a hundred people or feeling pressured to get a second gold medal at the Olympics, we experience changes in our body,” said Lori Haase, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.

“Improving internal communications with our bodies may be as simple as spending a few minutes each day in focused breathing. Over time, this exercise should teach you to have a change in breathing when anxious but be less attached to that reaction, which may help to improve your reaction in a stressful situation.”

Being aware of your body and the signals it sends us, helps us ward off diseases and break the cycle of stress. This is what strong, resilient people do when they’re faced with stressful situations. They know their weaknesses and strengths, play on both and they’re able to bounce back and recover.

The first step to manage stress is to familiarize yourself with your stress triggers, both internal and external. Internal triggers refer to how much you worry and overthink. External triggers are the physical stressors that cause your body to retaliate with pain or discomfort.

For some people, being stressed out makes them flustered and unable to focus. Others get sweaty and disoriented. Others get butterflies in their stomachs and their hearts start to race. Slouching, poor posture, heart palpitations, and shallow breathing are all warning signs as a direct result of a boost of adrenaline in our blood as well as other stress hormones.

The second step is being aware of the situations that make you anxious. Make a mental list of all the times you’ve been stressed out. Then ask yourself, where were you? Who were you with? What were the circumstances surrounding the situation?

The third step is to learn how to decrease your stress levels. Here are some stress-managing techniques you can try:

• Change your perspective. If you see the glass half-empty, then the way your body reacts to stress will be more intense than someone who’s more positive and has a better attitude.

• Laughter really is the best medicine. It reduces cortisol levels and allows healthy blood flow to your brain and heart, thus reducing your risk of chronic diseases.

• Having someone to turn to in times of difficulty is a great way to handle stressful situations. It doesn’t need to be a gut-wrenching session where you lay your soul bare in front of your friends or family. Simply spending time with people you care about will help you shift your perspective.

• Relaxation techniques help counterbalance the effects stress has on your body. They help unclench your muscles and activate relaxation responses. You can try massage therapy, aromatherapy, and music reduction therapy. Breathing technique is also a great way to go. Here’s one way to try it:

• Sit up in your chair.
• Close your eyes.
• Breathe in through your nose, while slowly counting to three. Then exhale counting to three.
• As you’re breathing, imagine a peaceful scene where you feel relaxed and at ease.
• Repeat for 5 – 10 minutes.

• Focusing in on the moment and being aware of your surroundings is called mindfulness. Those who practice mindfulness, yoga, and meditation are more resilient. They’re also more in sync with their bodies and pay attention to stress signals before they hit full force.

• One major step towards managing your stress is by managing your time. We’ve been programmed to take on way too much in a short amount of time. It leaves us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Here are a few simple steps to help you manage your time:

• Set goals; daily, weekly and monthly
• Break down big goals into little, more manageable ones
• Plan your work, then follow through
• Avoid procrastination; it leads to further stress

• Working out regularly increases ‘feel-good’ hormones in our bodies and reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. Incorporating that with a well-balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals is also key.

Being proactive and learning how to cope with stress is one way to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle. And whenever you’re faced with a stressful situation, you’ll know how to deal with it without letting it get the best of you.

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