Do you feel like you're constantly stressed out? We get it.
Managing stress is hard.
You probably just want to hang your stress up on a shelf and let your mind relax, but don't know how. As hard as you try to stay positive, present, and focused on life's beauty, it's not as simple as making an instant choice to be happy.
But there are things that you can do to help shift out of stress and into relaxation. The trick is to get out of your head and back into your body.
Stress is Physical
Stress is essentially the result of physiological processes.
When you feel worried, overwhelmed, tense, etc., this is due to chemical changes happening in your body. Stress is your fight or flight response firing up in response to potentially threatening triggers, whether they are related to your physical wellbeing, emotional stability, or mental state.
Take a moment to think about just how physical the experience of stress is.
Mental stress has physically corresponding signs and symptoms, like sweating, a churning stomach, and headaches. The mind and body are deeply intertwined.
Relax Your Body, Relax Your Mind
Now that we've explained that stress is in both your mind and body, here's the big secret behind the tips we're about to give you:
Managing physical manifestations of stress will help relieve mental stress.
To be clear, relieving physical stress (which you might also call tension) will not completely dissolve your mental stress. For example, if you’re stressing over a huge bill, you don't need us to tell you that the bill will still be there after you take a quick jog.
But what will probably happen is that after you take a moment to reset your physical state, you'll be able to approach a stressful situation from a more grounded, balanced space with a clearer perspective. When you’re stressed, you oftentimes can’t see clearly. You might even get stuck in the illusion of being boxed in by a situation. In contrast, when you're relaxed you can often start to see your situation more clearly, as if from a higher vantage point. You can begin to see solutions. A single stressor no longer seems to be as all-consuming as it did a moment ago. From this point of view, you're usually much better equipped to really take action and resolve the source of your stress. That's a win-win!
Now that you know why we believe in tackling stress with physical relaxation, let’s jump right into it: 5 ways to manage stress with physical relaxation techniques so that you can handle whatever is stressing you out with greater ease and confidence.
1. Take a deep breath
Deep breathing is the foundational technique of stress management. (Seriously - Google it and you’ll find it listed on practically every stress reduction article.) When you take a deep breath, you actually override the physiological stress response (i.e. sympathetic nervous system response) and trigger the physiological relaxation response (i.e. parasympathetic nervous system response). Deep breathing actually gives your body the signal to calm down when it’s trying to ramp up into fight or flight mode, a.k.a. stress mode.
When you have mental stress, it shows up as tension in your body. That’s why releasing tension in your body helps to release tension in your mind. Stretch your arms and legs, do some twists, shake it out. Do whatever you like. Just create movement in your body. Stretching is probably the easiest way to quickly relieve tension, but other forms of exercise are also great stress relievers. Try yoga, running, biking, or anything that gets you moving and back into your body, instead of trapped in your mind.
Cue up some bangers and get moving! Dance to move your stress through you. This technique is also a nice two-in-one: you are using active movement (i.e., dance) to shift your physical state, as well as music to empower and uplift you. It helps to have a go-to song or playlist that gets you pumped up every time; keep that in your back pocket for an (almost) instant mood-lift.
4. Walk outside
Here’s another two-in-one: couple movement with nature for a quick and easy reset. Surrounded by nature, your senses will be stimulated and you’ll have a refreshing change of scenery. Once you’re outdoors, you usually can’t help but expand your perspective away from your linear focus on what’s stressing you, to the bigger picture. If nothing else, you’ll have had a chance to clear your mind and come back to the problem with a greater sense of clarity.
5. Get a massage
A massage can get deep into your tissue and manually release tension in areas that you’re holding tight. Even the simple act of making an appointment and holding the space for self-care is a powerful counter to stress, in a time where you might otherwise forget to address you needs and put yourself last. Massage is also a way to invite someone else to work with you in taking care of yourself. Let your ego dissolve as you receive their care, and let your stress melt away at someone else’s hand. Don't have the time or money for a professional massage? Give yourself a little self-massage and literally take self-care into your own hands.
Are any of these suggestions techniques that you already use? Let us know! And if you have a go-to song or artist, let us know in the comments! We’d love to expand our playlist. (And maybe even create a community-curated playlist!)