Stress relief can save your life. But you have to do it, rather than say: “I don’t have the time”, or I “should do it”, and NOT do it!
What is stress?
Stress begins with awareness of a situation or event. We think or perceive it, and then react with an emotional judgment about it. Is it bad, unsafe, or dangerous? Your brain’s reaction to a stressor (the thing we a reacting to) shifts your body’s priority to preserve your life. “Fight or Flight” are two of the responses that would enable you to battle or escape a stressful situation. But for the majority of people, we no longer are faced with life-threatening events. So your response to someone cutting you off in traffic, your boss calling you into her office, financial difficulties, relationship problems, trying to do too much to do with too little time, and anything else is going to have the same as a being chased by a Grizzly Bear.
Think about the only things your body needs in the case of outrunning a bear. Every other physiological response slows or stops until you escape or are eaten.
That’s why, when you feel stressed out, and you don’t relieve it, your life is going to be miserable:
It’s hard to concentrate, digestion is impacted, blood pressure is up, immune system suppressed… I’m not going to recite the litany of potential problems.
The good news is, there are many effective ways to relieve stress, and even build resilience to the things that once bothered you. EFT, meridian tapping is an immediate self-administered technique to get yourself calm. HeartMath’s programs can also show you how change your physiological response within minutes (after practice) by checking your progress with the EmWave (similar to biofeedback).
Mind/Body Stress Relief
And then there’s Yoga. We’ve all been told that exercise is important for your body, but the fact is, exercise when not over-done, and done mindfully, is a great stress reliever. The wonderful thing about Yoga is you can do it at any level of proficiency. You don’t have to go outside in weather, go to a gym, or have years of training. You don’t have to worry about injuring yourself (when you pay attention to your body). And yoga is exercising your mind at the same time it’s exercising your body.
Yes, it’s great to go to a yoga studio (or even a good class at a library or “Y”), but you can start by viewing videos online, and start there. A good teacher will tell you to keep your mind focused on your breathing and your body. You should NOT strain yourself; but just notice your comfort level in each part of your body that engages in the particular asana (that’s the name of a position). With continued practice, you will notice that your shoulder has more flexibility (or whatever part of you was tense or stiff). You’ll find yourself moving more easily.
Mindful Yoga practice, will help you regain lost flexibility, strength, fluid motion and confidence in your body and your mind (and that will improve your posture), and your mood! I actually found that my bad cholesterol went down 30 points in 3 months of beginning my Yoga practice. And my muscles are tightening up. I never get on a scale, but I can see that my clothes are fitting better.
Negative Body Obsession
One of the most important reasons for people with weight issues to do yoga has to do with a negative body image you have. It’s hard to love your body unreservedly, when it won’t lose weight and keep it off. Many people mistakenly blame their body and feel betrayed because your body won’t do what you want it to do. It becomes a vicious cycle: You hate your body, and your body reacts to your emotions with stress – which then slows down your metabolism!
Beginning a yoga practice can break this negative cycle, and replace your negative emotions with positive, appreciation for your body.
In fact, the best stress relief is doing yoga mindfully, and slowly, allowing your muscles to “melt” into the positions. You will feel so much better as you end the class in “shavasana”: 10 minutes in the pose of total relaxation. You earned it!
To really benefit from yoga, practice at least 3 times a week. Consistency in learning and applying any stress relief program is important. However, you can follow a DVD at home as well. Even getting yourself out of your chair, and doing a routine of stretches and slow breathing (through your nose only) will be helpful.
Be your own doctor, and practice yoga, instead of practicing medicine!