Practical exercises to reduce stress

Stress is caused by overexertion in one element or area of the body. You can feel stress on a tendon when you are overexerting yourself, which can create tendonitis. The same thing can happen to your nervous system, when you are overexciting it and overloading it with thoughts and actions.

You may well notice the stress when you have been in this state for some time, resulting in headaches and/or muscle tension in the shoulder and neck area. In our society of very sedentary and mental habits, it is very normal that this sensation of stress is centered in this area, and can expand through your central nervous system affecting other parts of the body.

When you base your life on mental responses what you are doing is centering all your energy in the mind. The mind has the great quality of imagination, but when it is based on a fear response, it can play very bad tricks on you. When you spend day after day worrying about work, your partner, family, money, and you worry about losing it or making a mistake or justifying yourself, the only thing you are doing is creating a closed cycle of thoughts based on feelings of danger and fear. A danger that is rarely real and that, when it is real and you face it, is actually much less than you had imagined.

To reduce this feeling of stress, two actions are very beneficial. Breathing and self-massage.

Breathing is a basic axis in our survival. You can go two weeks without eating, you will go hungry and lose weight, but more than two minutes without breathing and you are no longer here. Luckily it is the parasympathetic nervous system that takes care of this function, and we don’t have to be constantly thinking about breathing to survive. But we’ve never been taught to breathe properly and this can have serious consequences in the long run, such as stress.

If you look at your breathing you will probably notice that it is shallow, that is, you fill a very small space of all your chest and lung capacity with air, and this means that your breathing is very short.

This type of breathing can be compared to the breathing you have when you feel in a moment of real danger, an accident, an aggression, etc., a moment in which you must make a quick life or death decision. And this is the signal you are constantly giving to your brain given this short and fast breathing in your day-to-day life.

This creates a constant internal alarm of danger, which makes your nervous system constantly on alert, creating a brain vibration accelerated and making you feel over time, clumsy or with very little lucidity to make decisions, in addition to chronic fatigue.

With Breathing you can reduce this feeling of stress.

You can do this exercise anywhere, anytime. Sit comfortably or stretch out.

1 Take air through your nose little by little, and bring it as deep as you can, almost as if you were breathing through your lower abdomen. And keep filling your chest until you are full of air, as if you can reach beyond your head.

2 Once you’re full, hold your air for about 3-4 seconds.

3 Release the air slowly through your mouth from the top down. When you’ve got all the air out, hold your breath for 3-4 seconds. And again the cycle begins. Repeat this breath again 4 times.

4 Another important point is that you can do this exercise about 3 or 4 times a day, maybe you can join it with other habits you already have, such as doing it before every meal.

It is important that you do this breathing movement little by little, and that you follow the path of the air inside you in the most conscious way. It may feel a little strange at first, and you may even feel a little dizzy, so it is best not to take more than five breaths in a row at first.

When you do this type of breathing, several changes occur:

On the one hand, you will stop thinking that stressful or scary thought, at least for a few minutes, because if you do it correctly, you will be focused on the breath and not on that other thought.

By increasing your ability to breathe deeply, you will oxygenate your brain and your cells, so that they can relax and not be in a constant state of lack and danger.

This will also help slow down your mental vibrations so that thoughts and sensations will be less intense and more manageable.

#Finally, you’ll be expanding your chest, your back will straighten out and you’ll open up your chest. Realize that when you are stressed the tendency is to close your chest and curve your back, this makes you tend to look down and shut yourself up. When this happens your ability to respond to what is happening outside is less, and therefore, any action coming from outside will be more difficult to sustain.

Notice that having your chest open and your back straight helps you to be able to observe what is going on both inside and outside your body, and also puts you in a position and attitude to be able to face what is happening.

If you now look at your worry from this attitude, it is very possible that your feelings of stress and anxiety have gone down a little. If you carry out this exercise with continuity, you will realize that little by little, you will reduce stress and will have more capacity to sustain this type of situation.

Through the massage you will be able to relax those areas where tension and energy have accumulated that have not been able to be released.

It is very possible that when you are stressed it is difficult to express or verbalize, and this leads to this tension accumulates in areas such as the jaw or neck.

For this exercise, sit comfortably, you can do the deep breathing exercise to help you relax. This massage is focused on your head and neck area.

#1 Place your thumbs in the space between your upper and lower jaw, and begin to explore that space by first squeezing gently and then trying different intensities that you feel comfortable with. It’s not so much about squeezing and “popping”, but more about communication with your own body.

#2 Go down your lower jaw, following your jaw until your thumbs meet at the chin. It can be a continuous movement or with small pressures.

#3 From the chin, go up in a straight line, squeezing with your index finger in the space below your lower lip, above your upper lip, and finally in the space between your eyebrows.

#4 Again with your thumbs, follow the lower contour of your eyebrows to the temples, where you can massage in a circular motion, being careful with this very sensitive area.

Continue to the area of your ears, and massage the point that is at the junction of the ears with the head, there you can notice the auriculotemporal nerves and arteries and veins that connect to the brain.

5 From here, go backwards following the lower contour of your head, temporal and occipital bone, until you reach the height of the cervicals. This area bears a great deal of muscular load and massaging it can relieve a lot of tension.

#6 Finally, from this point and with all your fingers you can massage the muscles on both sides of the neck, going down to the shoulder blades. There is a trigger point, or area of muscle contraction, a point normally painful that by releasing it we can relieve much tension in a wider area of the body.

You can also follow the line from the neck to the shoulders, where you may find knots of tension, which will be mitigated as you massage them.

These two practical exercises will help you to connect and contact a little more with your body and your breathing, and to relieve your areas of tension without the need to be a professional masseur.

I invite you to make this exercise part of your daily life, making it a habit, and you will see that with a little time and practice your body and your life in general will be less stressful and a little healthier.