Simple Relaxation Techniques to Reduce the Effects of Stress on Your Mind and Body

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“Non- reaction is not weakness, But Strength!”

Eckhart Tolle

 

Do you ever meet someone who seems to exude an inner calm and wonder, how do they do it? 

Daily stressors in our lives are inevitable. We can’t control what the world throws at us—there will always be another deadline or sudden stop in traffic on the freeway—however, we can control how we respond to stress!

 

What happens in your body when you become stressed

Stress floods your body with hormones, including several cortisone-like compounds called glucocorticoids. The most prominent glucocorticoid in humans is cortisol. 

That all sounds pretty high-tech, but all you know is your heart is pounding, 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. 

Hans Selye, a pioneer in this fascinating research discovered that glucocorticoids are “Goldilocks” compounds, meaning, as an article in Psychology Today explains: a little doesn’t do much, a lot is damaging, and intermediate levels are “just right.”

Today, we rarely face physical dangers of wild animal attacks and flash floods, but challenging situations in modern daily life can set us off and make us feel so out of balance. 

I approach healing and self-care through multiple modalities, from food to cryotherapy, because our mind, body, and soul are intricately connected. That’s especially evident when we’re stressed. 

For the most part, our bodies adapt to stress relatively quickly, and these changes are normalized. But when we can’t control our stress and let our mind and body return to normal, that stress can lead to a cascade of health issues affecting every major organ system, including our circulatory (heart), digestive, nervous and endocrine systems, as well as our immune and reproductive systems. This includes depression and anxiety, heart disease, skin conditions, high blood pressure, a weaker immune system, insomnia, weight gain, and even diabetes.

Studies have shown that prolonged stress completely changes our brain structure, function, and connectivity, which is why it’s so much harder to remember things and retain new information. New studies are also showing that certain autoimmune diseases are triggered by prolonged increased levels of cytokines, the cells that signal for inflammation, which is tied to stress.

 

Below are 5 simple relaxation techniques.

If you practice these tips to tame stress even a few minutes per day you will find you can handle almost any curveball that life throws your way!   

                   

1) Breathe – When you breathe deeply, this signals your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends the message to your body. The effects that happen when you are stressed, such as faster breathing, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax.

To start, take five long, deep breaths, inhaling in for five seconds through your nose, then exhaling for five seconds through your mouth. This helps bring your mind to the present and effectively lowers your cortisol levels. Once you’re more comfortable with this simple breathing technique, try guided meditation, yoga, or tai chi as these are activities that focus on breathing, to calm your body and mind.

 

2) Guided imagery – For this technique, try conjuring up soothing scenes, places, or experiences in your mind to help you relax and focus. You can find free apps and online recordings of calming scenes—just make sure to choose imagery you find soothing and that has personal significance. 

Harvard Health suggests that guided imagery reinforces a positive vision of yourself, but it can be difficult for those who have intrusive thoughts or find it hard to conjure up mental images.

 

3)  Exercise – Cortisol and adrenaline pump up your heart and give you more energy, perfect for working out! Moderate exercise also helps decrease your cortisol levels at night, helping you sleep better. Find an exercise that you genuinely love as it’ll bring you to the present. If you love to dance, sign up for that dance class or simply crank on some Prince and get your groove on in your living room!

 

4) Develop a conscious practice of mindful non-reaction. Meditation is a great way to help you flex those muscles. The ultimate goal of your practice should be to have an awareness of your reactions so you can feel more in control. 

To be as Stephen Covey says, “Response-able” or “able to control our responses.” This means instead of being swayed by the winds of external circumstance, you’re anchored into your own lack of emotional reactivity.

 

5) Play with a pet – Pets are truly our best friends. Gizmo and Jezebel, Team Serena Loves dog mascots, love hanging out with our friends and clients that come to us for energy healing. 

Playing with pets calms our minds, which results in lowered cortisol levels. 

Next time you’re feeling anxious or stressed, give your fur baby a cuddle! The best part? The benefits are mutual as cuddling helps pets lower their stress levels as well. If you don’t have a pet at home, go for a walk near a dog park and ask dog owners if you can pet them.

As you experiment with things that make you feel centered and calm, you open yourself up to discovering new strategies for your strong-and-centered toolbox. The key is to find an activity that brings you to the present and helps you practice mindfulness. Of course, getting a solid, restful night’s sleep is also a foundation of good physical and mental health. 

Cooking, organizing, walking in nature, or taking a hot bath are all great activities that can help to manage stress. When you remind yourself to breathe and practice those non-reactive techniques, people will stop you on the street and ask you how you exude such inner calm!

XO – Serena

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This content is strictly the opinion of Chef Serena Poon and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Serena nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.

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