If we were all together in a room and asked how many of you, at least once in your life, felt stressed or anxious? I would probably see many hands raised!
What does it mean? Well, an anxiety component is present in everything we do, it allows us to be ready and to know how to react. We could almost call it a “good” anxiety, but when it starts to get more intense and to be “too much” we notice its inconvenience. In this case, we can speak of “bad” anxiety that affects thoughts, behaviors and not least our body.
What to do to learn to manage anxiety and stress?
There are several techniques and strategies, which we can learn and use to calm down and relax when anxiety and stress take over. An example is: breathing and muscle relaxation.
Breathing against Anxiety
Breathing is a vital activity for our body but it is also the only involuntary activity that we manage to modify as we please and without great difficulty.
Listen to the breath and feel how it changes when you are in a state of agitation, tranquility, fear, tension, before an exam, while you are running, or when you are lying comfortably on the sofa.
Feeling these differences is important for learning how to manage breathing.
In fact, good breathing can be an excellent remedy for stress and tension that occur throughout the body and that cause anxiety.
To lower the level of stress or tension it may be sufficient to take slow, continuous and very deep breaths and never hold your breath. This helps our body to relax thus lowering all the rhythms and muscle tone and consequently reducing tensions.
Furthermore, breathing of this type can be applied in any place, in any situation and without the need for special equipment. All this makes relaxation simple and affordable for everyone.
Muscle aches, headaches, stomach cramps and other ailments we often experience on a daily basis are a consequence of the tension we build up.
Muscle relaxation can therefore have a dual effect. The first consists in preventing anxiety, the tendency to worry and the presence of constant negative thoughts that generates psychosomatic disorders such as high blood pressure, muscle tension headache, bruxism, irritability, gastritis, irritable bowel in the long run. The second is to reduce the intensity of these symptoms if already present.
Through constant exercise you will learn to identify situations that cause muscle discomfort and tension. Unlike other methods, you won’t need a quiet place to take refuge, but you will learn to relax and overcome this discomfort at any time of your day.
You can use imaginative games to control and calm the mind, and exercises to develop self-control. You will learn to put the right muscle tension in every situation and to eliminate what is not functional. For example, while behind the wheel you should only contract the neck, shoulder and arm muscles that are useful for driving. When, on the other hand, we employ more tension than necessary in our activities, we feel exhausted and lacking in energy.
Jacobson’s relaxation is an active technique, you are in full control of your person to use it at all times when needed.
In the medium and long term, stress causes serious mental and physical damage. Many physical ailments are the result of this unhealthy psychophysical state. Likewise, stress freezes us, does not allow us to think clearly and can have repercussions on our relationships.
If it is not a too serious case, which requires the intervention of a psychologist, you can learn to manage stress through a few simple tricks. Sometimes it is enough to take a break and put into practice the healthy habits that we present to follow.
7 Tips To Manage Stress
1. Identify The Time When Stress Arises
Recognizing stress is not as easy as it might seem at first glance. Many times we can only identify it when it reaches high levels. Stress occurs on a physical and emotional level. It can have increasing intensity or remain latent.
A physical indication of stress is muscle tension, especially in the jaw, neck and shoulder area. There is also some tension in the face, and we often tend to tighten our lips. Emotionally, we experience a feeling of irritation mixed with anxiety. These feelings are telling us that it’s time to take a break.
2. Put Breathing Techniques Into Practice
Breathing is a powerful tool for everyone and easy to use at any time or situation to manage stress. It is an extraordinary means of recovering serenity. Slow, regular breathing has been shown to activate the vagus nerve, which is responsible for moderating the response to stress.
Just put yourself in a position as comfortable as possible and start to inhale very deeply. Try to focus on the feeling of the lungs filling up with air. Then exhale very slowly. In just two or three minutes, you will have reduced your stress levels.
3. Divert Attention
Stress is associated with an attack or flight response. For this reason, when we are under stress, our attention is focused to the maximum on the object that originated the state of tension. If you continue to focus on the source of disquiet, the feeling of stress will only increase.
For this reason, it is important that you strive to divert attention. Look at an object that is near you. Try to describe it mentally in as much detail as possible. Then repeat the same exercise with two other objects. This simple trick will help you manage stress by adjusting your impulses and immediately expanding your emotional landscape.
4. Look at a relaxing image
The images convey sensations that remain etched in the observer. For this reason, it is good to always have a photograph or image at hand that conveys a sense of calm. The most suitable are the images of the landscapes, especially if they are isolated places, with a cold climate, a lot of greenery or a lot of water.
When you feel heavily stressed, watching these images will help you relax. It is also a useful way to focus attention on something pleasant, which helps to decrease the feeling of anxiety.
5. Reinterpret the experience
Sometimes knowing that we are stressed increases the stress we experience. We realize that we are distressed and want to get rid of that feeling as soon as possible. But since it is not always easy, instead of calming us, this awareness worries us even more. After identifying and accepting stress, it is important to put in place a number of useful mechanisms to reduce it. There is no need to apply complicated and frustrating strategies that will only raise it.
Try to recognize all the ways that stress manifests in you. What state is your body in? What position did you adopt? How does your heart beat? What kind of thoughts are produced in your mind? This and other similar questions will help you reinterpret what you are feeling. In this way, the feeling of tension will gradually disappear.
6. Adopt an anti-stress body position
You should know that there are stressful and other anti-stress body positions. The first are, for example, sitting cross-legged or moving one leg, or both, at a fast and constant pace. The back will be more arched and the muscles of the face very tense.
On the contrary, standing up, with your back straight, and grimacing with your face will help you manage stress. It is a position that gives us confidence and security. According to a study published in Health Psychology, this position also inhibits cortisol production.
7. Do a simple exercise with your hands
Clenching the fists of both hands and then opening them up has been shown to be an exercise that helps reduce stress. It is an aggressive gesture, and for this reason it helps to release tension in moments of strong anxiety.
All these little tricks can be very effective for managing stress. It is normal to feel a little tense in a world like the present one, especially if you live in a big city. The important thing is not to let ourselves be invaded by stress and apply the necessary tools to control it when it appears.