On top of routine daily stressors, Americans are experiencing unprecedented deep-level stress. According to a poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association, “Americans are struggling with multiple external stressors (inflation, increased violence, political divisiveness, racial inequality, climate change fears, and general global uncertainty) that are out of their personal control, with 27% reporting that most days they are so stressed they cannot function.”
Research indicates the effects of stress can lead to physical and mental health consequences. According to the American Institute of Stress, the effects of stress can include the following.
- Body aches and pain
- Teeth grinding and jaw pain
- Tension headaches
- Digestive issues
- Appetite changes
- Irritability, depression, and anxiety
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
- Weakened immune functioning
- High blood pressure
- Chronic stress can cause coronary artery inflammation thought to lead to heart attacks
- Chronic stress can impair testosterone, lower sperm production, cause impotence, and lower libido.
- Chronic stress can cause irregular menstrual cycles and reduce libido.
- Disrupt hormone balance
While minimal stress is healthy and considered “normal,” continuous stress can wreak havoc on one’s body and psyche. Western medicine once perceived the mind and body as separate entities and treated each as such. More recently, western medicine has adopted a holistic view of health, recognizing the interconnectedness of mind and body, and the impact of each on one another.
In this article, we will discuss several techniques to help you relax, destress, and restore. While some techniques may require up to an hour, we will share other techniques that are quick and accessible.
Mind-body therapy techniques to reduce stress
Mind-body therapeutic techniques are designed to enhance the mind’s influence over the body. There are several categories of mind-body techniques including psychological, behavioral, spiritual, and exercise-based. With regular practice, these techniques can help produce a reservoir of calmness you can access when needed.
Somatic psychotherapy focuses on the connection between the mind and body by acknowledging how one’s body feels during a talk-therapy session. Though practitioners of somatic psychotherapy vary widely in how they practice, the overall foundational belief is: to overcome our mental health challenges, we must also work to relieve the emotional stress stored in the body.
A session may involve having a client discuss a stressful event while noticing where tension lies in their body. By recognizing and becoming mindful of where their tension exists, they can then work to relieve the stress. This can be done in any number of ways, including guided imagery.
Biofeedback is a practice that helps clients develop the skills to use their thoughts to positively influence their bodies. A practitioner uses special equipment with sensors to help monitor the client’s bodily responses. The client watches this on a monitor and is taught how to lower their blood pressure for example, by taking long, slow, deep breaths. With practice, the client will no longer depend on the equipment for feedback and will instead be able to master their thoughts to positively influence their bodily responses.
Mind-body healing practices
From Craniosacral therapy to Reiki, and everything in between, there are numerous techniques to help you relieve stress in your mind and body. Craniosacral therapy uses light touch to focus on the central nervous system to create relief. Reiki also utilizes light touch, or hands just hovering above a person, to shift energy – believing in the innate ability of the body to heal itself. Acupuncture, an ancient form of Chinese medicine, uses small needles on precise areas of the body to create healing.
All of these modalities require one hour or less to see positive results. Though Eastern medicine practices such as these may require more sessions, some research indicates the benefits may be longer lasting than conventional medicine.
Mind-body stress reduction
Yoga is perhaps one of the more familiar forms of stress reduction and body movement. There is restorative yoga that focuses on slow stretches, deliberate movements, and mindfulness. There is also yoga that focuses on agility and energy exertion. Both can be helpful in eliminating or diminishing stress.
Meditation is another popular practice for stress reduction. There are many different ways in which one can meditate. From Transcendental Meditation, where one repeats a sound or mantra, to guided imagery meditations, research has demonstrated the health benefits of this practice.
Time for healing relaxation of mind and body
With apps like Calm and Headspace, stress reduction practices such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can be accessed anywhere, requiring little time, and yet, make a positive impact on your health and wellness. YouTube also has numerous meditations free to use at your convenience.
Other quick techniques you can use anytime and anywhere include the following.
- Journaling – writing in a journal has been proven to be helpful in reducing stress and improving overall health.
- Transcendental Meditation (TM) – only requires twenty-minute sessions twice per day. TM has been recognized as one of the easier forms of meditation to learn. Famous people such as Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres are two vocal proponents of this form of meditation.
- Guided meditation – there are countless guided meditations available for free on YouTube and can also be accessed on apps like Calm and Headspace. Some meditations are as short as 5 minutes.
- Step into nature – taking a moment outside, whether walking or sitting on the grass, can greatly diminish stress. Take a moment to unplug, look around and take some calming breaths.
- Short bursts of exercise – if you don’t have too much time, a short sprint, or 5 minutes of jumping jacks, can help you relieve stress quickly.
- Deep breathing – inhaling for 4 counts, and slowly exhaling for 5 counts, can help eliminate stress and restore a sense of calm.
Regardless of your time constraints, taking care of your mental health is imperative. With limited time required, these research-based tools can help you destress. The more often you access a sense of calmness applying these techniques, the easier it will be to remain steady in the face of stressful situations.