12 TIPS TO REDUCE STRESS AND TENSION NOW
By Matthew Fischer, MSPT
Owner: One Wellness
1. CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE: We often over-amp our stress state by our thoughts, based upon incomplete information. Get in the habit of focusing on what is right and good in every situation. Focus on the outcomes you desire rather than all the problems.
TAKE ACTION: Try placing your current stresses in perspective of the big picture. If you were lying on your deathbed now, with 5 more minutes to live, how big of a deal would it be?
2. TRY AN EXERCISE THAT TRICKS AND RETRAINS YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM: Did you know that our brains receive input from nerve receptors in the body that give it information about your current state? Yes, you could merely smile for 5 minutes while looking up with your eyes and it would improve your mood! We at Fischer Physical Therapy teach several exercises that are designed to move you away from “fight/flight/freeze” to “relax/heal.” One exercise we use in this category is called “Reflexercise” (not associated with reflexology). It was developed by a colleague of mine, Scott Musgrave, PT. It has gained national recognition.
TAKE ACTION: Would you like to receive instructions to do this Reflexercise? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you them.
3. PRACTICE PROPER BREATHING: Yes, breathing is a powerful and primal (deeply hard wired into your nervous system) way to change stress! Think about it, what was the first thing you did when you came into the world? Breathing is one of the deepest foundations to the function of our nervous system…and stress is all about the nervous system. Most people struggling with stress do not breathe correctly. Inefficient breathing uses neck and chest muscles to expand the ribcage at the expense of the amazing diaphragm muscle. Breathing is a learned behavior. The results of improving breathing quality improves the core of your nervous system and is immediate. If you practice it long-term with good awareness, there will be a transformation that will become long term without you even thinking about it.
TAKE ACTION: Tune into your breathing right now…how fast is your breath cycle? Are you using your diaphragm? Would you like to have detailed instructions of our favorite breathing training mailed to you? Again, just contact me and we’ll get them to you.
4. CHANGE YOUR MENTAL STATE: This may seem similar to #1, but there is much more. Do you recognize that you often get ahold of a negative thought and it continues to reverberate throughout the day? Once this process begins, you may notice the jaw tightens and shoulders tense. What occurs here is the opposite of what was described by tricking the nervous system in #2 above. Now, the nerve receptors are instructing the brain that you are actually in a life threatening situation when really you are just ticked off about your friend’s recent comment. You are now stuck in a double negative feedback loop that is pulling you down and keeping you there.
TAKE ACTION: Ask yourself these questions by Byron Katie: Is it totally true?…or is there a possibility that there could be some level of misinterpretation or misunderstanding? Do you have all the information to know exactly what this means? What do you feel, experience and become like when you have this thought? If this thought didn’t exist, how would you feel, behave and experience life? What would you be like? Lets do that! This could be a powerful exercise to change your mental state, try it soon. You will begin to see the connection between your mental state and your muscle tension as well!
5. SIT LESS, EXERCISE MORE: Humans were not designed to sit for long periods of time. Muscles like the hamstrings, hip flexers, and pecs get shortened in this position. We then develop a negative feedback loop with them rather than positive. When you couple the stress of work demands with the sitting position, you magnify the stress response. Exercise (particularly aerobic) and stretching help create positive feedback loops and and an “outlet” for the stress as well. Even short doses of stretching are helpful, particularly if you combine it with slow, diaphragmatic breathing!
TAKE ACTION: Even if you don’t have a stand up work station, just put a box on the table for now and alternate standing with sitting. Also, schedule a 20 minute aerobic exercise that includes good range of motion. Start stretching at least once per day, for 3 minutes twice a day with slow belly breathing. Make it a habit…schedule it! If you’d like specific exercises we like in this category, let us know via email and we’ll get back to you.
6. PRIORITY CHECK: Personally, I believe we are designed for a certain priority, an order in life. When things get out of priority, stress often comes quickly. For example, if I put my recreational activities before the needs of my wife and children, things will begin to unravel and stress takes root.
TAKE ACTION: Take an honest look at the order of all dimension in your life. What is it now? What should it be? Commit to change it now. Your authentic relationships with yourself, others, God, and friends are key here (written in no particular order 🙂
7. GAIN SOME MARGIN: Margin is the opposite of debt or overload. I’m not just talking financial here, margin is for everything. It’s about creating buffers with time, finances, and lifestyle. I recommend an excellent book on this concept called Margin by Dr. Richard Swenson. In the intro he describes margin as “having breath left at the top of every staircase, money left at the end of the month, and sanity left at the end of adolescence.”
TAKE ACTION: To learn more about this concept, buy the book or read the review of the book online for free.
8. BECOME MORE RESPONSIBLE: As we grow and mature, the essential building block necessary for this is responsibility. Anyone can respond in a positive way to a positive stimuli. Even though we are essentially wired to avoid pain and seek pleasure, where the rubber meets the road is how you respond to negative things. To respond in a positive way to the bad stuff of your day is the making of someone special. This person not only becomes strong inside, but also doesn’t get stressed when the inevitable discomfort of life comes. There is no avoiding pain in this life.
TAKE ACTION: Recall at the end of each day 3 times you responded in a positive way to a negative situation or discomfort.
9. LEARN TO LET GO: In the midst of this amazing yet daunting experience of life, never forget who you are at the deepest level. In this place, fear need not rule your life. You can let go and not try to control everything with a tight fist and tense jaw. Much is outside of your control anyway, like the smoke in the air this day. All you can do is be responsible with what is within your control. Even there, do not have a rule and conquer approach that is often rooted in fear. You are loved! Give yield to this and you will discover a new perspective with the actions you must take. You need not worry about the rest.
TAKE ACTION: Lie down on your bed alone with pillow support. Take a moment to breathe slowly and feel your body as you gradually let go. If you feel comfortable, allow Love to descend upon you. If you are having trouble letting go, imagine you are basking in the sun, allowing the warmth to penetrate your heart. Continue for 10 minutes. Resist to the urge to quit as the demands of the day speak to you…just keep gently coming back to the exercise.
10. TRY SOL TEC: There are amazing new technologies available that interact with the nervous system using vibration, frequency, and sound. This is used to create a therapeutic effect in the central nervous system that can reprocess and release the foundations of stress held within. This technology, in the Sol Tec zero gravity chair, is now available at One Wellness. It is located in the same space as Fischer Physical Therapy.
TAKE ACTION: Read about this technology at soltecwellbeing.com and consider scheduling a free session at One Wellness. This is over a $50 value (FREE) over 50 minutes and you will receive a profound relaxation experience as well. (UPDATE: 5 months ago, in order to create more treatment space, the Sol Tec chair has been removed from the facility…sorry)
11. TRY PHYSICAL THERAPY, MASSAGE, ACUPUNCTURE OR CHIROPRACTIC: Did you know that there are approaches in these professions that can positively influence your stress based tension? Since starting FPT in 2004, we have strived to lead in this category by learning from the best in the country, if not world. The results, if combined with some exercise and personal responsibility, are often long lasting and frequently amazing!
TAKE ACTION: Book an appointment with someone you trust in these fields and see if you receive immediate benefit.
12. DON’T REPRESS, EXPRESS: Frequent stresses have become a normal part of life in 21st century American culture. However, in today’s world, it is not socially appropriate to fight or flee when exposed to everyday stresses. Can you imagine punching your boss on a bad work day? You’d be fired! Or, rolling down your window and throwing your coffee cup at the car that just cut you off? You’d be sued! Or running away like Forest Gump after the girl of your dreams says “no” to you when you ask her to the prom? What would everyone think? So, instead of acting on or expressing this feeling (as originally designed) we often will internalize or repress it, holding it within. This “bottle up” of the latter is called “freeze” and it is what we most commonly see and experience.
TAKE ACTION: In most situations, try to express your emotions in a reasonable, responsible and loving way. If you can’t, talk to someone you trust about it or see a counselor.