Stress is the “wear and tear” our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment. It has physical and emotional effects on us and can create positive or negative feelings.
Positive stress adds anticipation and excitement to life, and we all thrive under a certain amount of stress. Deadlines, competitions, confrontations, and even our frustrations and sorrows add depth and enrichment to our lives. Our goal is not to eliminate stress but to learn how to manage it and how to use it to help us.
Identifying unrelieved stress and being aware of its effect on our lives is not sufficient for reducing its harmful effects. Just as there are many sources of stress, there are many possibilities for its management. However, all need to work towards change – changing the source of stress and/or changing your reaction to it.
- Become aware of your stressors and your emotional and physical reactions.
- Determine what events distress you.
- Determine how your body responds to the stress.
- Recognise what you can change. Can you reduce their intensity [manage them over a period of time instead of on a daily or weekly basis]? Can you shorten your exposure to stress [take a break]? Can you devote the time and energy necessary to make a change [goal setting, time management techniques, and delayed gratification strategies may be helpful here]?
- Reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions to stress. Are you expecting to please everyone? Are you overreacting and viewing things as absolutely critical and urgent? Do you feel that you must always prevail in every situation? Try to visualise stress as something you can cope with rather than something that overpowers you. Do not labour on the negative aspects and the “what if’s.”
- Learn to moderate your physical reactions to stress. Slow, deep breathing will bring your heart rate and respiration back to normal. Relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension. Medications, when prescribed by a physician, can have a short-term effect in moderating your physical reactions. However, they are not the only answer.
- Build your physical reserves.
- Exercise for cardiovascular fitness 3-4 times a week [moderate, prolonged rhythmic exercise is best, such as walking and yoga].
- – Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals and maintain a healthy weight.
- – Avoid nicotine, excessive caffeine, and other stimulants.
- – Mix leisure with work. Take breaks and get away when ever you can.
- – Get enough sleep. Be as consistent with your sleep schedule.
- Maintain your emotional reserves. Pursue realistic goals which are meaningful to you, rather than goals others have for you that you do not share. Always be kind and gentle with yourself – be your friend.
Yoga techniques to counter stress
Here are a few simple yoga techniques that will help you control and manage stress.
- Sit relaxed, reclining against the wall.
- 2. Properly adjust your legs, feet and hands to a comfortable position.
- 3. Sit motionless and feel the quiet.
- 4. Focus your attention on the source of sound preferably of low intensity rhythm, such as the sound of a time-piece.
- 5. Remain passive and get completely absorbed in the sound. Stay for 10 minutes.
Introspective training of the mind, release of tension, physical and mental relaxation, subjective experience of quietude. This is an ideal technique for cultivating passivity.
Lie on the right side of the body in a state of relaxation. Keep the right arm under the head like you would keep a pillow. Extend the legs fully and place one foot over the other. As a variation, one could also bend the upper leg and keep the lower one straight.
- the ankles
- the knees
- the thighs and fingers together
- the genital area
- the anus
- the abdominal area
Then repeat the same on the other side.
Partial shavasana is recommended for complete relaxation of the body and mind. Lie supine [face up] on the floor. Consciously relax different areas of the body starting with:
- The toes
- The chest region
- The shoulders
- The neck
- The chin
- The mouth
- The tip of the nose
- The space between the eyebrows
- The forehead
- The mind
Sit on the mat with your legs fully stretched out. Bend the right leg at the knee joint slowly, fold it with the aid of the hands and bring the right heel to the root of the left thigh, with the right sole turned fully upward and stretched over the left groin. Now, bend the left thigh, and bring the left heel to touch the root of the right thigh, sole turned upward and stretched over the right groin. The ankles now cross each other.
Keep the knees pressed to the ground. Now, keeping the spine erect, draw the abdomen slightly in and close the eyes. Place the left hand over the two heels, palms spread upward. Place the right hand over the left, with palms upward. If it is not possible to use both the legs, one leg only can be placed on the opposite thigh.
Besides being a meditative posture, this asana improves blood circulation to the abdomino-genital region. This helps in toning the various nerve centres located in the pelvic, coccygeal and sacral areas of the spine.
Lie flat on the back with both feet flat on the floor and pull up the knees. Place one hand on the abdomen at the navel region. Inhale slowly and deeply, moving the abdomen upwards. Do not bloat the abdomen. Exhale in a similar manner. As soon as the exhalation is over, pull in the abdomen inwards to form a sort of cavity. Avoid any movement of the chest. Start with three seconds and go on to a maximum of eight seconds. Keep the inhalation and exhalation counts equal. [Maximum 10 rounds]
It is said that if one studies this region around the navel, then one would come to know the working of the entire body including its various systems, and higher nervous control. In fact, one aspect of Yoga in Hatha Yoga has gone into the details of this psychological aspect of human personality.
So, try these yoga techniques and you will see a gradual change in the way you manage stress.