When you feel stressed your body reacts. Sometimes your heart beats faster; you start to breathe heavily; maybe you perspire or feel generally agitated. This is a normal response to a fearful or risky situation. When faced with danger, our instinct is to avoid it. We get a physical response to stress because our bodies are preparing to escape. Our hearts pump more blood and our skin sheds excess moisture resulting in sweating. These responses cause shaking and heavy breathing. These responses are important in a risky situation where you may have to flee, but if you have conditioned a habit of responding with fear where there is little real danger, then the physical responses are just uncomfortable and inefficient. They are just a response to what you are thinking. Learn to control these physical responses with the following tips and, by doing so, train your mind to not trigger them so easily.
Start by sitting in a comfortable armchair. Close your eyes and let go any tension in your body. Allow your muscles to relax. Focus your mind on one part of your body, maybe starting with one lower limb. Tense it up and then slowly release it. Spend longer on releasing than tensing. Now feel those muscles relax as you slowly let go.
Now move to another part of your body, maybe the opposite limb? Tense it, then relax it slowly. Remember to spend more time letting go of the tension than tensing it up. Breathe out very slowly.
Gradually move your mind to all of the different areas of your body, relaxing each section and letting go any tense muscles until you feel a sense of physical ease. Remember to include your head. Smooth out your forehead and relax the muscles in your face. Take a few deep breaths, breathing in slowly, and exhaling even more slowly.
Learning to control your breathing has a big impact on reducing stress. All forms of meditation have been shown to have a positive effect on your brain and physical health generally. Check out information on mindfulness meditation which reduces physical agitation and keeps your mind focused on the present rather than on a stressful past or fear-filled future. Here is a simple mindful exercise to try as a sample:
Sit comfortably in an armchair. Close your eyes and just notice your breathing. Don't change it, don't breath faster or slower, just notice it. After a few minutes start to count your breaths each time you breathe in. Do not breathe in time to the counting. Instead just count to the natural rhythm and flow of your breath. Count up to 10 breaths as you inhale and then go back to 1 and count up to 10 breaths again. When you have done this a few times you can change and count each time you breathe out instead of when you breathe in. If you practice this gradually, your body will relax.
Physical exercise, whether going for a run or doing a workout helps change your body physiology. It is helpful for a variety of reasons. It is good for physical health; it distracts you from your worries and it harnesses the same physical response as that of fear, but in a positive way. So head out for a run or even a walk, or a gym session. Even if you dont feel like it, just do it. It will give you a physical release.
When you feel very stressed and physically tense then making yourself do something that distracts the mind is helpful. There are of course times you do not want to be distracted but if your worry or mood is going around in circles then this is the time to do something else for a while. Even trivial actions can help and prevent overthinking and worry.
When you become very tense while you are trying to get something done, then it is important to take breaks. This will reduce tension making it easier to return later to whatever task you were doing. It is always better to plan frequent short breaks rather then push on until you are exhausted and demotivated or stressed. By taking a break, even a short one, you will take a break from stress, achieve more, feel more energised and be better able to tackle the challenge.
When your anxious thoughts are affecting your life, you might want to make a more active change. Sometimes you just need to know how to do that and how to make a plan. Start by clicking the button below.