Exercise as a stress-reliever
Exercise is a good stress-reliever that's why some NHS GP practices are prescribing sessions for patients suffering from some ill-health problems - where stress and anxiety can exacerbate the problem - at gyms and leisure centres – they're paying for the first few sessions to help the patient get fitter and at the same time helping them to release some of their dis-stress. Cost-free or almost cost-free exercising
Walking is good for us (and it doesn't cost anything) however it's no good 'pounding the pavements' with jogging if you really dislike running or jogging, so how about going for regular 'walks in the parks' nearby
If you have a dog then a 20minute walk per day is great
Using a step machine can get your blood pumping around a bit more. Can't afford a machine? – are there any stairs where you live or work? Go up and down the stairs about a dozen times (over a period of time)
Catching the bus? Get off a stop earlier than normal, and walk to the next stop to get on – might even save you some money
Enjoy swimming? Just 30 minutes per week can help you begin to feel better and begin to tone you up
When you're exercising you'll be breathing better too, taking deeper breaths rather than shallow breathingEndorphins
And whilst you 'doing' whatever it is you're doing, guess what? This is allowing your mind to unwind from some of the stresses you may have, releasing endorphins into your system to make you feel better. The more regular the exercise the better you'll begin to feel. The secret is making sure you enjoy the exercise – then you'll keep it up.
How much exercise should you take? It should be regular, exercising for 30 minutes up to 3 times a week is normally recommended. If you can walk the dog every day then brilliant. If you go to the gym regularly then 3 times a week is great. RELAXATION
When we begin to relax we manage to switch off a little from our stresses, we allow (that means we're taking control) our minds to wander onto other things, onto things that may even be pleasant and enjoyable to us.Breathing
It's surprising how often someone will say "I can't relax! I can't breathe properly!" Now there is a connection here because when we relax our breathing slows down. When our breathing slows down we can start to feel more comfortable in ourselves. Although we may not notice it just yet others may notice it in our skin colouring (it can be less pasty or less ruddy), in our body posture (our shoulders may move away from our ears), in our voice (getting slightly deeper and more relaxed), in our speech (words are not as rushed). However this does not begin to happen straight away – it's a gradual process.
To help ourselves to breath deeper and calmer we can use a simple breathing technique I call Belly-Button-Breathing.
- Just imagine a piece of string (about 10inces/25cms long) coming out of your belly-button
- Take hold of this piece of string and pull it s-l-o-w-l-y away from your body
- As you pull it s-l-o-w-l-y away your feel your stomach being pulled out too
- As your stomach is being pulled out you automatically fill your lungs more than previously
- Then slowly let your piece of string relax and you breath out.
- Do this 3 or 4 times as you begin to feel out of control and as your breathing clams down you begin to feel better too. But don't pull that string too quickly!
You control the flow of air into your body by using a visualisation technique, and therefore your body processes the air slower then previously (ie faster breathing when dis-stressed or anxious) and you begin to come back into a state of equilibrium with your breathing. When our breathing is at an optimum level we can actually induce a state of relaxation (as in meditation or trance states) and as we do this we can release endorphins – which help us feel better and more relaxed. Endorphins can also help with some aspects of pain too.Types of relaxation
We really need to find out for ourselves what kind of relaxing techniques suit us as individuals.
- One person may like to have a body massage
- another may just like de-stressing in a warm bath with pleasant smelling relaxing scents (aromatherapy)
- another may like their feet being massaged (reflexology)
- or their head, neck and shoulders being massaged
- or maybe just meditating
- listening to relaxing music
- istening to a relaxation recording
- relaxing using crystals
- even just sitting in front of a nice warm fire with a relaxing cuppa and a chocolate or two
- reading a good book
- going to the gym
- imbibing a relaxing glass of wine (as long as it doesn't becoming too regular and is in itself then a problem)
- or relaxing each set of muscles one at a time
- watching a beautiful sunset
- or any number of scores of other ways to relax – experiment and find out which one suits you the best.
Better still find out at least 3 that you like to do, varying in time, a 5minute relaxation, a 15minute relaxation and a 30minute relaxation, and make sure you use them at least 3 times per week.
So when we journey down that road of 'Saying "YES" to Less Stress';
You can use your awareness of what stresses you to learn more about yourself and then use this knowledge for change
Be willing to change what you are doing- if what you have been doing has not been working – be willing to do something different
You are responsible for, and have had some input into, all that happens, and has happened, in your life. Be willing to recognise that you are in total control. Be willing to give up victim status
Get clear on your outcome, what are you really trying to achieve? – are you trying to prove someone else wrong, to force someone else to be different, to have something to complain about, to get sympathy or attention? Do you really want to reduce your stress?
Above all, know that you can cope. Avoid the stress caused by fear of the unknown. Imagine the worst possible scenario. Find out how you would deal with it. Then get on with handling the present.
I hope that by reading this third article in the series you have now realised that stress is quite normal to all of us and occurs in everyday life. Feeling stress is your choice and you can chose to continue or to stop. There is no such thing as a universal stress. Some people are able to cope much more successfully if they become aware of techniques and methods which assist in lowering stress levels.Links to more articles on Stress:
Saying "YES" to Less Stress - Part 1Saying "YES" to Less Stress - Part 2How Stressed are You?
Take a Stress Test: Monthly Stress Self Assessment
By Christina Elvin
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