Cast a S.P.E.L.L on Stress!
By Ryan Unverzagt
I hope all of you had a memorable holiday season and happy new year! After all of the hustle and bustle that the holidays bring (gift returns, credit card bills, writing thank you notes, tolerating shopping crowds), it’s very easy to accumulate stress. Everyone has their own unique way of handling stress, but I would like you to consider these healthy ways to cope with it all.
Stretch Your Muscles: Flexibility is one of the most neglected aspects of staying healthy. It’s not only good for your muscles, tendons, and joints, but it also can have a calming effect. Take a few minutes each day to gently stretch the major muscle groups of your body (Neck, shoulders, chest, torso, low-back, hips & legs). Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds several times a day. Your local health professional can show you safe, effective stretching techniques to help relieve that stress.
Practice Progressive Relaxation: This is a relaxation technique that you can do sitting in a chair at work or lying in a bed. It involves tensing particular muscle groups for 10 seconds, and then releasing that tension for 20 seconds to help reduce anxiety. It will take some time and practice before you really notice the benefits. For example, clench your fist firmly for 10 seconds then slowly release that tension and remain relaxed for 20 seconds. Do not hold your breath during any of these exercises (flexibility too). Progress your way to other muscle groups and focus on releasing the tension completely. A quiet place is helpful to practice progressive relaxation.
Ease in To the New Year: Approach the New Year slowly. Give yourself time to get back into a new routine or return to your pre-holiday mode.
Listen to Your Favorite Music: Music is powerful and can help change your state of mind. Stress relief doesn’t always come in the form of relaxation. Depending upon what type of music you like, it can calm you down or get you going. Music can make you forget about life’s problems for a little while.
Laugh Often: I can’t stress enough (no pun intended) the importance of laughter. Medical studies have shown that laughter increases the level of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killer, and lowers epinephrine levels, the stress hormones. Laughter helps connect people emotionally, improves mental alertness and mood. It has too many benefits to fully cover within this article, but has watching a funny movie ever put you in a bad mood? I didn’t think so. I truly believe that laughter is the best medicine.
Stress will always be a part of your life, there’s just no getting around it. How you cope with it is what matters. There are many more healthy ways to handle stress, but these four activities can help you keep your worries to a minimum.
About the Author: Unverzagt holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Wellness Management from Black Hills State University. He is a certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association and a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.