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010417_stress
ATD Blog

3 Ways to Use Your Body to Manage Your Stress

Wednesday, January 4, 2017
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Stressful situations occur every day. Some of my friends handle them remarkably.  

For example, I was on the phone with my friend Bob. He said, “I’m going to be jobless, homeless, and childless in December. My close friends are freaked out. But I know everything will be in place like magic. I just trust.” I could tell his confidence through his relaxing voice. 

Another friend, Emily, was recently promoted at her company. She was assigned with much bigger responsibilities, which resulted in working overtime to meet the expectations with a lean team. When she called me, she sounded stressful, but grateful: “Many people lost their jobs and I am glad I was promoted.” 

Bob and Emily are unusual. It took major life transformations to gain the ability to handle life stress with calmness and confidence. Many of us have certain levels of stress in our lives—a change of leadership at work, uncertain outlook for your company’s future, overwhelming workloads, losing jobs or close friends, not enough time for your personal life, even new promotions with expanded roles. Life is not perfect. 

But can life be perfect? A wise reader, like you, might say, “Yes, life is just as perfect as it can be. Do you know our body can help us manage the stress?” If so, congratulations! If not, give yourself permission to try these new ideas and see if they help you. 

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Take a Deep Breath: Start With 1 Conscious Breath Every Day 

A deep breath is a fabulous conscious break. Before reacting to any stressful situation, remind yourself to inhale deeply, feeling your belly expand with fresh energy. When you exhale, imagine your stale energy and toxins leaving your body. If you strive for four to five deep breaths in one minute, it will dramatically enhance your self-awareness. 

For example, before you make a big presentation, you may notice that your heart is pounding, your hands are sweaty, and you’re out of breath. These are symptoms that your body is getting ready for a big show! You don’t want to be too relaxed. A deep breath with longer exhalation than inhalation will dramatically calm you down. It also balances your solar plexus energy center—around your naval area—which gives you power and strength to handle life challenges. The mindfulness expert Chade-Man Cheng suggests that we start with one breath every day, and then increase as needed.  

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Move Your Body: Start With a 3-Minute Desk Stretch 

According to classic yoga practices, the body has seven energy centers (or chakras) from the base of the tailbone to the crown of the head.  

  • The crown of the head is your energy center of understanding and wisdom. Try massaging the top of your head with your full awareness. 
  • The third eye is located between your eyebrows. This energy center oversees your intuition and vision. Circle your eyeballs with your breath so you see and perceive things clearly.  
  • The throat oversees communication and voice. Look up and down and bring your ears down to meet your left and right shoulders. By balancing your throat energy center, you are empowered to express yourself more effectively. 
  • The heart is responsible for love and compassion. A typical movement is to open your heart by squeezing your shoulder blades. This movement enhances your ability for love and compassion. 
  • The solar plexus is in charge of your power and will. Do a gentle spinal twist, giving you power to achieve your goals. 
  • The sacral, located an inch above the tailbone, is in charge of creativity and abundance. Try opening your hips. 
  • The root, located at the base of the tailbone, is in charge of your sense of security. Try a low lunge: When facing the unknown future and stress, strengthening your legs will enhance your self-esteem. 

I practice balancing these energy centers every week through yoga. For busy professionals, you could do this through a three-minute desk stretch. When you move your body, it releases nitric oxide, a chemical messenger that helps cure your body’s diseases. It also releases the happiness hormone, telling you that everything is fine. By managing your physical body, your mental stress is naturally decreased. 

Feed Your Body With Smart Food: Take Sugar Only From Fruits and Vegetables 

You are what you eat. Food that is high in sugar and fat, such as fried chicken, cookies, and soda, will cause mood swings and distress. If you eat at your desk while multitasking, try to take a real lunch. Sit comfortably. Enjoy the meal with your full attention. Eat plenty of vegetables, protein, and seafood. Try to remove refined sugar from your diet: A woman only needs 24 grams of sugar every day; a man only needs 36 grams. All sugar should be taken from fruits and vegetables. 

These three simple habits can be easily adapted to your daily activity; managing your stress doesn’t have to be difficult and complicated. Start with your body, and you will experience positive changes to your mindset.

About the Author

Jenny Wang has a passion for helping people improve performance through holistic learning. She is a senior consultant responsible for Career and Professional Development Programs for Office Depot. She is also a certified yoga instructor and health coach. Contact her at [email protected]

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