Stress is on the rise in the U.S. In fact, 24 percent of U.S. adults surveyed for a 2015 American Psychological Association study noted that they were highly stressed–a marked increase from 18 percent in 2014. High stress levels can damage a person’s health, and if left unchecked, stress can directly contribute to a number of serious maladies, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Combating stress on a daily basis is critical, and thankfully, there are a number of techniques that can enable someone to reduce their personal stress levels. From breathing exercises to martial arts, here are a few alternative–and effective–methods for alleviating stress.
Using positive affirmations repeatedly can have a calming effect when we are stressed or anxious. Affirmations can help combat anxiety provoking thoughts by turning our attention to thoughts of calmness, peace, serenity and confidence. Often a vicious cycle of stress, anxiety, fear and negative self-talk can quickly develop, we can lose sleep, feel powerless, out of control and fatigued.
Our own “negative self-talk” can increase our anxiety. To empower ourselves and take control we need to turn the negative self-talk into a positive one.
Here are some self-help tips to combat the daily stress and anxiety
- Create your own affirmations: Here are some examples, follow the construct of I, your goal and a reward and you are already halfway there.
- Deep abdominal breathing: Breathing in deeply and slowly through your nose, taking the air right down to your abdomen, saying the word “calm” to yourself as you breathe in and breath out slowly and gently can help increase that relaxation.
- Progressive relaxation: Lie down in a comfortable position relaxing all the muscles, as you visualize the stress and tension leaving your body with each breath, and think the word “relax.” Start with a minute a day and gradually build up to 20 minutes, relaxing music can help deepen this experience.
A Qigong warm-up Exercise
Traditional Chinese medicine has a complex approach to understanding stress and anxiety based on individualized pattern diagnosis and treatment. However, most people can benefit from acupuncture, massage, and meditative practices focused on rooting, grounding, or sinking the Qi into the lower body. This simple exercise helps to calm the mind and relieve muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, where many people hold their stress. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform this tension relieving exercise
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and shoulders relaxed.
- Shift the weight slowly side to side. Allow the knees to bend and the upper body to slightly tilt to the side and sink towards the foot you shift to.
- Allow the arms to hang, feeling the gentle pull of gravity on your arm and shoulder.
- Imagine that with every tilt and shift, the arm is relaxing so much that it stretches and sinks towards the floor.
- Feel the tension melting down your shoulders and arms, sinking towards the ground.
- After 1-3 minutes, gradually decrease the depth of the weight shift, tilt of the torso, and stretch of the arm.
- End back in the center, breathing deeply to the lower abdomen.
- Return to your daily activities feeling grounded, revitalized, and relaxed!
Practicing these two tools has been shown through scientific studies to facilitate the rate of recovery for those affected by stress and anxiety.