Stress is an obstacle that we all face at various points in our lives. Like most people I’ve talked to, I often think of it in terms of its physical symptoms, such as shoulder tension and raised blood pressure. But stress is a psychosomatic problem, which means its effects manifest both physically and mentally. In fact, symptoms that present in a physical way can migrate to become mental symptoms, and vice versa. This interchangeability is why prolonged periods of mental stress can make us sick and why muscle tension can lead to heightened emotional states—I know that I, for one, am more prone to getting the flu when my stress levels are too high. The stress reduction techniques that we use therefore need to address both of these aspects and take a mind-body approach in order to promote self-awareness.
Do you want to naturally reduce your stress and break down the roadblocks standing in your way? Try these three mindful exercises.
Yoga is a centuries-old exercise system that focuses on strength, flexibility, breathing, and sensory awareness. In addition to forging a connection between the inner and outer worlds of the participant, Yoga is known to increase strength and flexibility, improve balance and coordination, and promote better lung capacity and cardiovascular function. While the poses reduce signs of physical stress, the concentration that these poses require clears the mind of mental noise.
The Chinese system of tai chi highlights the dual nature of existence in its exercise moves. Based on the Yin and Yang, or light and dark, aspects of the world, tai chi allows the participant to move between opposites during each session. Movements often progress in a succession of rigid to relaxed, quick to slow, forward to backward, and static to active. This fluctuation of energy permits stress to build and release in a cathartic, focused way, which is more constructive than letting stress build in daily life until it can no longer be contained. Learning the moves becomes a form of active meditation for the user.
Mindful stress relief doesn’t necessarily require you to learn new exercises. By paying attention to your inner feelings and opening your senses to your surroundings, you can turn a daily walk into a form of stress relief. In addition to releasing physical tension in your body, meditative walking gives your mind focus and calm. The simple act of noticing how your body moves and feels gives you an opportunity to reflect on how to improve tight joints and muscles. While you’re walking, take some time to focus on each of your senses one by one. What do you see? What sounds do you hear? How does the air smell? What does the terrain feel like? Do you notice a change in taste in your mouth? Don’t attempt to answer these questions right away. Just observe and feel. Doing so will melt the stress from your mind and your body.
Managing stress should be an active, reflective venture. Without the right mindset, physical exercise is ineffective. Likewise, meditation and reflection do not go deep enough when the body is tight or out of shape. If you want to bring balance to your life and learn some effective techniques for managing stress, give me a call or send me an email. The various coaching programs that I offer in the Miami area, both group and individual, are designed to make life more balanced and less stressful.