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5 Simple Ways to Release Tension in the Mind and Body

Posted by UWSPcps - May 14, 2020 - Featured, Health Sciences and Wellness, Students

Student Guest Blog: Joy Becker is a first-year health promotion and wellness student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The following article was originally posted on her personal blog, In Pursuit of Wellness, and re-posted with permission.

Hello reader! Today’s post is fairly short and simple but I figured that would be appropriate for this topic. My intention with this post is not to arm you with a list of a million things you should be doing to keep your mental health in check. Instead, with just 5 practical tips, I want to provide you with a simple set of reliable suggestions for refreshing your mind and body when under stress. These don’t take any sort of mindset training or habitual practice. Use these as tools to pull out when you just don’t know what else to do. That’s how I use them. For example, when I’m feeling overwhelmed to the point where I can’t quite think straight anymore, I remember a few of these and try them, trusting that the calm mind that thought them up is more reliable than my current mind that’s in a state of panic.

1. Take 10 Deep Breaths

Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic system in our body, which counteracts the fight-or-flight response. The fight-or-flight response is what dominates our body and mind when we are anxious. Essentially, taking deep breaths is a way to communicate to our brain that we are safe and it’s okay to calm down. Nothing is guaranteed, but oftentimes, our brain listens and begins to calm. Why 10 breaths? Counting through 10 deep breaths will center your mind on one thing, improving the overall effectiveness of deep breathing.

2. Go for a Walk/Run

Fresh air clears the mind and invigorates the body, I’m sure we’ve all experienced that to an extent. I also notice that fresh air can improve my mood almost instantly. On a walk or run, the rhythm of your feet hitting the ground over and over creates a unique focused state that stimulates the mind and the body, increasing your self-awareness and control. Once a rhythm is established, it is easier to become aware of the more quiet things around you; the smell and sound of the outdoors, the feeling of wind on your skin, your thoughts. Going for a walk or run can be a great recharge and reset for a stressful day.

3. Take a Hot Shower

Everyone knows a hot shower feels nice. But most people don’t think to put it into use as a relaxation method when they are stressed and overwhelmed. I say, why not?

Hot showers don’t just feel nice, they relax nerves and muscles. They’ve also been shown to increase oxytocin levels in the body, which is linked to lowering anxiety. Taking a hot shower can also increase mental clarity. I almost always feel more alert and refreshed mentally after a hot shower; it gives my mind a bit of a break/reset if I’m having a bad day.

4. Stretch for 5 Minutes

One way to relieve stress is to take it on physically. Your body tissues and muscles actually hold on to stress – it’s not just mental. This is why taking even a five-minute break to stretch it out can have such a positive impact on dealing with stress and tension. Most often we hold our stress in the neck, shoulders, hips, hands, and feet. Stretching also improves blood flow which will help our brain’s ability to focus and our body’s ability to function at its best. If you benefit from guided routines, try this video by Fitness Blender for a simple 5-min stretch, or use this article by Healthline. For a deeper stretch, there are plenty of videos online for full-body and flexibility focused stretches.

5. Pray/Meditate

If you are a Christian like me, you’ve felt the unexplainable peace that comes from bringing our worries and anxieties to God. Too often, I overlook the importance and the gift of prayer when I’m overwhelmed and anxious. But when I do pray, I’m reminded of how sweet a refuge I have in my Heavenly Father. There are so many passages in the Bible that encourage us to do this.

For example: 1 Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

The first phrase, “humble yourselves”, reminds me that to bring my anxieties to God is to admit that I don’t have it all together and that I need his help. I encourage you to bring your worries to God, knowing that he is constant and good, which is such a pure thing to rest in when you feel like you’re living in a whirlwind. 

Alright, that’s all I got this time. I hope you’re able to put some of these to practice and try them for yourselves! If you do, I would love to hear how it goes 🙂 Be sure to contact me or leave a comment below with any feedback, questions, or suggestions.

– {just joy} 

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