Stretch your stress and anxiety away
The never-ending battle of dealing with stress and anxiety is one of life’s expected constants. While each of us will experience a certain degree of stress and anxiety, some will experience higher levels that over time, can build up creating both physical and mental maladies.
We know that the build-up of stress and anxiety is not good for your body. But how do we release it? One smart and effective strategy bringing relief is to do regular stretching. When crunched for time, spending a few minutes each day doing simple, relaxing stretches before bed can be a great way to release tension, giving your body the extra attention it needs when feeling pressure from stress and anxiety.
Why is stretching good for us?
There are numerous health benefits we gain from stretching. Stretching helps improve the following:
· Improves energy levels
· Promotes circulation
· Improves posture
· May relieve lower back pain
· Increases athletic performance
· Reduces muscle tension
· Reduces risk of injury
· Can help you fall asleep
When we regularly practice stretching, it allows your muscles to let go of where you are carrying stress. Those who do yoga find that it can reduce mental stimulation, which is common in people with insomnia. It is also believed that the more physically flexible you are, the more likely you are to also be flexible in your mind. If you lead a stress-filled, anxiety-ridden life, it can be difficult to maintain an optimistic outlook on life. Because stretching reduces the amount of stress you are carrying in your body, it can relieve some of the instinct to be negative and “stretch” your mind toward a more optimistic outlook.
How to get started stretching
The nice thing about stretching is it can be done almost anywhere. If you have not done stretching for a while, ease yourself into it gradually. If at any time you are feeling pain, stop. Start off stretching for a few minutes several 2-3 times a week and build up to stretching 5 or more times a week. Sneak in stretching throughout the day – while watching TV, listening to calming music, or before bedtime.
Here are a few quick and easy ways to relax your body and spirit while releasing stress and anxiety:
· Practice deep breathing. Start in a comfortable position, either lying down or sitting. Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Inhale deeply through your nose and fill your belly with air. Exhale through your mouth. Continue this deep breathing throughout your stretching.
· Upper back stretch – Stand with your knees slightly bent or sit up straight. Clasp your hands in front of you, arms parallel to the floor. Keep your head relaxed. Round your upper back; push your hands forward, palms away from your body. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, breathing steadily. Repeat 2-5 times.
· Neck stretch – Stand with your knees slightly bent or sit up straight. Drop your chin to your chest. Place hands on back of head and gently push down until you feel a slight stretch. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 5 times
· Towel stretch for legs – Use a dish or hand towel, lay on your back, abdominal muscles tightened, knees bent, feet on the floor. Extend one leg toward the ceiling keeping knee slightly bent. Place towel behind back of leg or ankle (not the knee), holding both ends. Pull towel toward your chest until you feel a stretch. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, breathing steadily. Repeat 2-5 times.
· Lower back stretch – Lie on your back and pull your knees into your chest. Rock side to side. Roll up to a seated position while still hugging your knees in a rocking chair movement. Do 10 reps.
· Chest stretch – Start by standing with both hands clasped behind your back. Alternate leaning forward, stretching your arms away from your back, and standing up straight. Repeat 2-5 times.
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