Stress and tension seem to be part of daily life. With each passing year and with each new life phase, we face ever more complicated challenges. Sometimes stress and tension are due to our work. Relationships can also be a primary source for tension. Health problems can create anxiety and uncertainty. Sometimes one’s financial situation can cause paralyzing stress. The holidays can be a particularly challenging time of year, as the season can magnify the external conditions that cause stress and tension.
Sure it seems easy: Just eliminate or change the external cause of your stress and tension, and all of these feelings can go away. However in reality it’s not so simple – in all likelihood we cannot quickly or easily change or solve the external cause.
Giving up is not an option. In dealing with stress and tension you need to take action, even if you don’t think you can immediately change the external causes of the anxiety. There are ways to effect changes in attitude and thoughts, to stay focused on solving the external factors leading to stress.
Here’s a simple, if unscientific case study. Let’s take two different people, both facing stress in their lives. One gets stressed easily, and feels exhausted mentally and physically, dwelling on their negative thoughts. The other person faces similar stressful situations, however they somehow seem to remain calm, relaxed, and they are able to remain energetic and even happy.
So what are some ways that might help us to be more like this second person?
3 Ways to Relieve Stress and Find Peace
Before we review these three simple strategies to relieve stress and find peace, it is very important to realize you are not alone. You might feel like you are the only one who has such high levels of stress and tension in your life, but while you may not realize this, everyone has their own “crosses to bear.” Stress and tension are fundamental conditions of our shared human experience.
Here are some ways to help deal with stress more effectively.
1. Breath. This might sound counter-intuitive or even bone-jarringly obvious; you might immediately think “well of course I’m supposed to breath to stay alive, I’m doing it right now!” But we are talking about what is called “conscious breathing.” This is deep, rejuvenating breathing while you focus intensely on relaxation and envision stress leaving your body.
When you get the sensation of stress and tension pressing down on you mentally and physically, don’t ignore the tightness that creeps into your body and muscles. Rather stand up, move your head back aligning it directly over your spine, and take several deep, slow inhales of breath through your nose. Fill your lungs completely, focusing on the sensation of air reaching every square inch of your lungs, right to the very top. Hold the breath for the count of three, and then slowly exhale all of that air slowly through your open mouth – letting the air pass through the back of your throat. Again focus on exhaling every single ounce of air in both lungs, and imagine all the stress and tension leaving your body with the exhale of this air.
Do this 4-5 times, each time focusing on your body and mind becoming more relaxed with each deep inhale and exhale. You should immediately notice subtle but important changes in your body. Conscious breathing will lower your pulse, and help melt the tension you hold in your muscles during times of high stress.
2. Move. Stress and tension aren’t just in our thoughts. Stress in our minds manifests itself in our physical bodies, and can cause feelings of fatigue or low energy levels. Combat these effects with movement. When stress or tension start to build, give yourself permission to leave everything that you are doing at that moment, and take a walk outside. If it’s beautiful outside, great. However even if it’s cold the bracing air and movement will help you to clear your thoughts while loosening the muscles in your body through movement. If you are a member of a gym, don’t skip your workouts because you feel stressed – your training will help lower stress levels by releasing tension through exercise.
For some people meditation is a difficult strategy, however when we exercise this is in many ways a form of meditation. Physical activity forces us to focus on our exertion and bodily movement, and on our breathing, and afterwards feel more peaceful and rejuvenated.
3. Massage. Massage therapy is most often associated with therapeutic healing of a physical injury. While this is certainly a key benefit of massage, massage is also a rejuvenating and relaxing activity for our mental state of mind. Massage movements increase circulation and aid the lymphatic system, fostering the release the toxins that build up in our muscles due to exertion as well as stress and anxiety. During massage we receive a sense of peace and mental quiet that distinct to the massage experience. Too often people consider massage an indulgence to be enjoyed on rare occasions – however massage can and should be a daily part of our lives to help combat the effects of stress, and help us gain an enhanced mental state to deal with stress and tension with more energy, and a more positive outlook. Massage chairs are a great way to make massage a part of daily life.
Stress and tension are a part of our shared human condition, but these practices can help to reduce stress and find a sense of peace, so that problems begin to seem more manageable.