Stress of both kinds is inevitable in life. We need the consistent stimulus of eustress and cannot avoid some distress in our modern, fast-paced and results-driven society. The trick is, as with everything else in life, to maintain a healthy balance between the two. We are either moving toward a balanced state or away from it. The trouble is many of us take two steps away from balance for every one we take towards it! This, eventually, leads to breakdown or illness.
Stress may come from many sources. You may work a physically demanding job or be constantly stressing your body through physical exertion. Perhaps most of your stress is accumulated as emotional stress. Most of the time, we don’t notice how much stress is building up, as quite a lot of this build up happens sub-consciously as a result of the constant bombardment of stimuli in modern society. Don’t believe me? How relaxed are you in your shoulders right now? How about your torso, facial muscles, neck etc? Try releasing stress in your shoulders by inhaling deeply & letting your shoulders completely relax upon exhalation. Now repeat with your hands, feet, face etc. Got it? Now go back to your shoulders – my guess is they have slightly tensed up again.
The point is that stress happens; it accumulates in our body independently of our conscious awareness. Stress is physically manifested as that physical tension held by your body tissue. So what can you do about it? Are you eternally doomed to a life of being stressed out? Thankfully, no! Here are some simple strategies to relieve stress. Try incorporating one or two of these into your daily life.
1) Conscious Breathing – for 5mins, focus on your breath. As you inhale, picture yourself absorbing peace & relaxation into your body, particularly those areas that feel tight. As you exhale focus on releasing any built up tension. It can help to release an audible sigh as you exhale.
2) Visualisation – close your eyes for 5mins and imagine yourself enjoying the peace & tranquillity of your favourite setting. Play around with this and use different imagery to invoke the feelings of relaxation, peace & happiness you desire.
3) Exercise – even 5mins of moderate to vigorous exercise has been shown to relieve symptoms of stress. Bounce on a trampoline, run up & down the stairs, and crawl around with the kids. Just remember to take to deep breaths afterwards to relieve the physical tension in your muscles as well.