Best Stress Relief Exercises
“Stress” is a commonly used term, and it is often used with different meanings. The standard definition for stress that will be used in this article is the disruption of the body’s homeostasis or a state of disharmony in response to a real or perceived threat or challenge. The threatening or challenging situation is referred to as a “stressor.”
When a person encounters a stressor, the body prepares to respond to the challenge or threat. The autonomic nervous and endocrine systems respond by producing the hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. The result of this hormone production is a cascade of physiological reactions that make up the stress response.
Epinephrine and norepinephrine are involved in the initial changes that take place to prepare the body to react and to prepare for a challenge. These responses include increases in heart and respiration rates, blood pressure, perspiration, and energy production.
There also is suppression of immune function, production of β-endorphin (the body’s natural pain killer), and increased acuity of the senses. These changes make up the fight-or-flight response, which prepares the body to cope with the stressor. If the stressor is perceived as negative or more as a threat than as a challenge, cortisol production is increased. Cortisol is involved in energy production but also suppresses immune function.
We all face stressful situations throughout our lives, ranging from minor annoyances like traffic jams to more serious worries, such as a loved one's grave illness. No matter what the cause, stress floods your body with hormones. Your heart pounds, your breathing speeds up, and your muscles tense.
This so-called “stress response” is a normal reaction to threatening situations, honed in our prehistory to help us survive threats like an animal attack or a flood. Today, we rarely face these physical dangers, but challenging situations in daily life can set off the stress response. We can't avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them.
Stress isn’t just a mental or emotional issue – it can physically hurt too. Chronic tension can be the culprit behind both long-term conditions (depression, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure) and everyday health woes (headaches, back pain, insomnia, upset stomach, anxiety, anger).
Stress isn’t gender-neutral either. Research shows that women experience it more acutely than men and we’re more susceptible to the physiological effects of chronic stress.
But crashing on your sofa isn’t the answer. Sweat it out instead. “The human body isn’t designed to sit all day,” says Jeff Migdow, M.D., an integrative physician in Lenox, Mass. Just getting up and moving around is a powerful way to reduce stress, he says. “It allows our muscles to move, encourages blood to flow and helps us feel more like ourselves.”
Exercise also gets us breathing deeper, which triggers the body’s relaxation response. But some exercises are more helpful than others when it comes to stress reduction.
What Is Stress?
Simply put, stress is an emotional response to threatening situations. You might feel tense or anxious in response to something that might harm you, like a robbery, a car accident, a death in the family, a near-death experience, or an attack on the family pet.
The stress response is carried out by the hypothalamus, a region of your brain that helps regulate many bodily functions including your heart rate and blood pressure. Here, your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) prepares your body to handle an emergency by ramping up your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.
Stress is the “fight-or-flight” response, one of our biological responses to danger. In response to an immediate threat – such as the sudden appearance of an enemy – our bodies release hormones that cause us to want to act immediately to prevent or escape the threat. Your body is preparing to either run away from the perceived threat or fight it.
That is what the adrenaline rush is. In this case, the hormone cortisol triggers the muscles to tense and pump blood toward the muscles. This physiological reaction “forces” us to stay alive and alert. If the threat goes away, the stress response is over and we go back to our normal, healthy behaviour.
Why Does Stress Happen?
So what's actually causing us so much stress?
Physical stress is essentially the result of a hormone, like adrenaline or cortisol, surging through your body. These hormones go to work – fast. They direct your muscles to tense up, and keep you alert and awake. You may feel a short, sharp surge in your heart rate, or your breathing becomes more rapid. And you may experience a feeling of well-being, the “endorphin high,” which actually stimulates the brain to release endorphins as well.
You may not feel the physical effects of stress for a while. When your body gets the message that you're in danger, adrenaline increases your heart rate, constricts blood vessels and makes your muscles tense. This flurry of activity sets off your “fight or flight” response.
Stress happens for many reasons, including the challenges of daily life, caring for a family member or friend, financial difficulties, or a loss of a job. Stress is often referred to as “the body's natural reaction to getting too much to do.”
When stress is severe, it can cause physical symptoms, such as headaches, anxiety, and fatigue. When these symptoms persist, it's likely you're experiencing “stressed-out” stress.
Other chronic effects of stress include: constant changes in blood pressure, gastrointestinal upset, tiredness and weakness, muscle cramps, and problems sleeping
Also, watch for subtle signs of chronic stress. Chronic stress raises your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, headaches, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease.
What Are The Symptoms Of Stress?
Not everyone will experience every symptom of stress. For example, when you’re in a job that’s really stressful, you might feel more depressed or anxious and experience stomach problems or difficulty sleeping. Some people experience more than one symptom of stress at a time.
Stress symptoms can be mild or extreme. The goal is to try to find a balance between each. The following is a rough guide to common signs of stress that we could identify: Severe anxiety, A heart pounding or pounding sensation, Shortness of breath, Nausea, Increased heartbeat, Crying for no reason, Vomiting, Sweating, Increased perspiration, Heart palpitations, Respiratory difficulty, and Rapid heartbeat.
Moreover, the body creates a protective “sensory layer” to help us identify and identify approaching dangers. This includes the production of the hormone cortisol, which mobilizes the immune system to prepare for fight or flight. Cortisol can make us feel shaky, fatigued, and low-spirited. Stress also upsets your digestive system, affecting your stomach's ability to digest food, as well as its sensitivity to tastes and smells.
Can stress affect your physical health? Stress can affect your physical health in more ways than one. The way the body responds to stress can affect your mood, sleep, and even your heart rate and blood pressure.
How Can You Reduce Your Stress?
Luckily, there are many ways to reduce your stress levels. You don't have to go cold turkey or throw in the towel after a few days. Instead, try one of these three stress management techniques.
- Take time to relax. Take a walk or a bubble bath. Take a nap. Skip your morning shower. Some people work better with a few quick breaths of fresh air or walking in the park.
- Talk to a friend or loved one. Have a cup of tea with a friend or partner. Do something nice for yourself (like watching a funny movie, playing a game, or having sex with your partner). You can also talk to a professional about how you can reduce your stress.
- Meditate. A major study published in The Lancet found that people who do meditation not only lower their stress levels, they also have healthier hearts.
- Breathe deeply. When you start breathing more deeply, you become more relaxed and more able to tolerate stress. When you feel more relaxed, you are more able to cope with stress.
- Relax your muscles. When you consciously relax your muscles, you are able to feel that relaxation in your body, and so you naturally relax more. This is what athletes call “muscle memory” – a quick and involuntary response to repeated physical actions or reminders. One particular muscle often tied to stress is the autonomic nervous system, the network of cells and nerves that help regulate involuntary bodily functions, like your heartbeat and blood pressure.
Yoga is a truly ancient form of exercise that originated in India in the 3rd century BC. The word is derived from two Sanskrit words, Yama and Ajaya, meaning “exercise, cultivation, and union.”
Some of the physical and mental health benefits of yoga include relaxation, meditation, posture maintenance, and breathing exercises.
Yoga is an excellent stress management practice. One study found that it helped alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and even prevent it from developing in the first place. Another found that it was beneficial for the treatment of chronic pain and that those with more muscle strength were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Nowadays yoga is very popular, even among non-practitioners, for its numerous health benefits and for its ability to help people gain perspective, improve strength and flexibility, and even boost self-confidence. A recent review of studies on yoga found that it was more beneficial for the cardiovascular system than aerobic exercise, and that those who used it regularly reduced their risk of death.
For many people, meditation is their go-to coping skill, but most forms of meditation focus on breathing. Other meditation methods can help you put your attention in the present moment, giving your body the full physiological benefits of meditation.
Start slowly. There's no need to start with intense meditation. “Build yourself up slowly,” suggests Goletz. “How about taking five or 10 minutes to focus on breathing?” Try the following guided breathing exercises:
Close your eyes and take five full breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Repeat this 10 times, concentrating on your breath.
Hold your breath for 5 seconds. Inhale through your nose and hold for five seconds. Exhale through your mouth and hold for five seconds. Repeat this 10 times.
A few deep, slow breaths can help the heart beat more slowly, which is good news for the heart. Also, studies have shown that even a single, deep breath of slow-moving air can have a calming effect.
By slowing down the rate of your breathing, you can ease physical tension, as well as stress hormones. If you're feeling a lot of stress or anxiety, try taking five or 10 deep breaths at a time. You can also try repeating an “attention” meditation: instead of focusing on your breath, notice when you start feeling anxious and then notice your breath.
Exercise – Running, Weight Lifting, Sports, etc.
Stress doesn't always have to be bad. Our bodies and brains have evolved to respond to it as a survival mechanism, so we're not surprised to feel it now and then. In fact, a series of studies found that acute stress actually helps people experience improved moods and more motivation, and recent research shows it may even enhance your immune system's response to the common cold.
For many people, a good way to alleviate stress is through exercise. Research has shown that low-intensity exercise like walking, riding a bike, swimming or taking a walk around the block lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, increases your breathing rate, and improves your mental and physical state of mind.
Many recent studies also show that these benefits persist for up to eight hours. You don't need to do a long workout every day. Any moderate exercise – even small bouts of walking around the block – can help.
By getting your heart pumping, stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are produced and can help protect against physical threats, including high blood pressure and stroke. These hormones are also important for your emotional well-being and stress resilience.
Take up a sport you love, whether it's soccer, basketball, or fishing. Play every day if you can.
Exercise is a proven stress reliever. It stimulates the release of stress-relieving endorphins and removes the effects of stress on your joints and muscles.
Furthermore, running is one of the best ways to relieve stress. It burns a lot of calories and even distracts your mind while you feel exhilarated. If running outside isn't an option, go for a brisk walk instead.
In addition to improving your overall health, exercise is a stress reliever for everyone around you. When we feel better about ourselves, we're less likely to be stressed out by circumstances. Research shows that people who exercise report less tension in their muscles and less fatigue and report less worry and frustration.
Besides being good for your physical health, regular exercise has many other benefits. Exercise is good for your mental health and your relationships, and it improves the quality of your sleep.
Socializing With Friends And Family
Research shows that people who regularly socialize with friends and family are much more likely to experience high-quality lives than those who don't – even if they have stressful jobs.
Going for long walks, stretching, such as yoga or tai chi, and spending time with pets, can be ways to form social bonds.
Alleviating stress on a daily basis is good for your health in many ways. High-stress levels can increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, being overweight, drinking too much, and not exercising.
Research suggests that when we feel stressed, it triggers the brain to release chemicals that can be so stressful that we begin to physically feel the symptoms. For example, studies show that simply making small talk with a stranger actually changes how your brain reacts to stress.
Sometimes, the physical effects of stress are so severe that we feel compelled to stop socializing entirely. However, socializing with friends and family – even if it's just while watching a TV show together – can actually lower your stress response.
Go outside – even just for a little while. Staying inside during the summer is pretty common. But when the heat and humidity combine to make it feel like your skin is melting off, taking a few minutes to get out of the house is a must.
In addition to the benefits of social relationships, doing other activities – even simple ones like exercising, gardening, or volunteering – can also help reduce stress. When we face threats to our health, such as a serious illness, stress puts a strain on our bodies. But when we face situations that have relatively minor effects, such as feeling sad for a week or getting irritated by a flat tire, our bodies don't respond the same way.
Eating A Healthy Diet And Getting Enough Sleep
Two out of three adults worldwide are not getting enough sleep, and health experts have linked a lack of sleep to chronic health problems. People with chronic stress often complain of poor sleep and have higher blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), depression and even higher risk of dying from heart disease and cancer.
Simple tweaks to your diet and daily habits can make a big difference.
Limit consumption of fatty, fried, and sugary foods. Instead, eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Consuming a handful of nuts every day may help ease stress.
Exercise regularly and get enough sleep. Sleep makes you less stressed, both by decreasing your heart rate and promoting relaxing hormones.
Take some time for yourself. If you find yourself frequently stressed out, take some time for yourself. Get outside and breathe deeply. Take a short walk or go for a short yoga class. You will be surprised how this simple act of self-care can reduce your level of stress.
Practice meditation. Deep breathing techniques can help you practice mindfulness and create a more stable emotional balance.
Rest and relaxation can help soothe the stress response. People with chronic stress have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their bloodstreams, which also promotes inflammation. In contrast, relaxing behaviour, such as meditation, yoga, or a walk in the woods, promotes the body's natural ability to produce anti-inflammatory chemicals. These chemicals help the body heal itself by lowering inflammation and regulating hormones that lead to the stress response.
The endorphins released when you’re stressed can help you feel better, but the release of a similar hormone called noradrenaline may cause problems. The noradrenaline system has been linked to such mental health issues as addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Antihistamines can also block the release of noradrenaline, leading to drowsiness and fatigue.
Eating a healthy diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins will help keep stress hormones under control. But the following simple exercises will do more to help relieve tension.
There's a difference between taking a little stress for a bit of a breather and over-stressing yourself with a stress-relieving practice like yoga or meditation. Yoga and meditation are typically wonderful stress relief methods, but if you simply press on, you could create problems for yourself. Try yoga and meditation if you feel overwhelmed. If your stress response has become chronic, however, consider other methods of relaxation or relaxation techniques, like listening to soothing music.
Thanks to chronic stress, our chances of becoming unhealthy rise with each passing day. It can even shorten our lifespan. It's time to bring the stress back down to a manageable level. After all, nobody likes a “walking trauma patient.”
Unfortunately, you need to do more than just alter your thoughts to reduce your stress level. Changing the habits that cause stress isn't easy. But with a few small lifestyle changes, you can begin to create a stress-free lifestyle.
I trust you enjoyed this article about Best Stress Relief Exercises. Please stay tuned for more blog posts to come shortly.
Your Opinion Is Important To Me
Thoughts? Ideas? Questions? I would love to hear from you. Please leave me your questions, experience, and remarks about Best Stress Relief Exercises in the comments section below. You can also reach me by email at Jeannette@Close-To-Nature.org.
You might also enjoy these blog posts:
8 Best Ways To Stop Worrying About Health
I did the keyword research for this blog
post in Jaaxy. Click on the banner
below and try it yourself for free.