How to Manage & Deal with Stress

Posted by Michael Dean on

Welcome to another post where we are following on from our discussion relating to the topic of Stress.

In the previous Blog Posts we discussed Stress and what “stress” actually is, as well as the effects of Stress and how it impacts our lives. Today we will discuss some proven techniques on how to manage and deal with stress in our lives.

In the late 1960’s Herbert Benson, M.D. discovered that there was a counter-balancing mechanism to the stress response. Just as stimulating certain areas of the brain can cause the stress response, activating other areas of the brain results in its reduction. He defined this opposite state the “relaxation response”

When you are in a stressful state, the first thing we need to do is get our mind and body to activate that opposite response, the “relaxation response”. The relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that can change the physical and emotional responses to stress. When we elicit the relaxation response:

  • Your blood pressure lowers
  • Your muscles relax and your heartbeat slows
  • Your breathing slows down
  • Your metabolism decreases
  • You return to a calmer state of being

If you practise this regularly, it can have positive and long-lasting effects. Eliciting the Relaxation Response is quite simple and easy to do. There are two essential steps:

  1. Repetition of a phrase, word, sound, prayer, etc.
  2. Slowly and quietly disregarding everyday thoughts that will inevitably come to mind and then return to your repetition.

The following are simple techniques that elicit the relaxation response:

  • Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system, such as “one,” “peace,” “The Lord is my Shepard,” “Hail Mary full of grace,” or “Shalom”.
  • Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck.
  • Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.
  • Assume a relaxed and quiet attitude. Don’t worry if you are doing well or not. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, “Oh well,” and gently return to your repetition.
  • Continue for approximately 15 minutes.
  • Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising.
  • Practice this technique once or twice daily

Regular elicitation of the relaxation response has been scientifically proven to be an effective treatment for a wide range of stress-related disorders. In fact, it is also proven that any disease that is caused or made worse by stress, the relaxation response can help. Other techniques for evoking the relaxation response are:

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation that nurtures mindfulness can be very effective at reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions. Mindfulness is the quality of being fully engaged in the present moment, without over-thinking or analysing the experience. Instead of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, mindfulness meditation switches the focus on what is happening right now. When practising Mindfulness Meditation, it takes effort to keep concentrating and to bring your focus back to the present moment when your mind starts to wander. But with regular practice, mindfulness strengthens the areas of the brain associated with joy and relaxation. Mindfulness is a potentially powerful medicine that counteracts the common causes of daily stress such as pressure, distraction, agitation, and interpersonal conflicts.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is another effective and widely used strategy for stress relief. It is a great technique for reducing overall body tension. It involves a two-step process in which you tense and relax different muscles in the body. With regular practice, progressive muscle relaxation helps you recognize what tension as well as complete relaxation feels like in different parts of the body. This awareness helps you spot and counteract the first signs of the muscular tension that accompanies stress. As your body relaxes, so will your mind. You can combine deep breathing with progressive muscle relaxation for an additional level of relief from stress. As you practice tensing and relaxing all the muscle groups in your body, you can move to a shortened procedure, where you rapidly relax your whole body. As you reduce the tension you carry in your body, your whole being will feel less stress and you can enjoy increased physical and emotional health.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is a relaxation technique that can be self-taught. Deep breathing releases tension from the body and clears the mind, improving both physical and mental wellness. We tend to breathe shallowly or even hold our breath when we are feeling anxious. Sometimes we are not even aware of it. Shallow breathing limits your oxygen intake and adds further stress to your body. Breathing exercises can help to reduce this stress.

Thanks for reading this latest post, and I look forward to discussing more topics relating to Personal Development and creating a positive Mindset in the coming days and weeks.

Mike Dean

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