If you find yourself feeling extremely stressed after the workday but unable to unwind, you may need a physical solution for your mental stress.
Our mental and physical well-being are intrinsically linked. Physical manifestations of our mental health can show up in our bodies in the form of chronic pain, injuries, disease, or other health ailments.
On the flip side, clinicians have found that reducing stress levels may actually heal and keep you in better health.
Although stress may be coming from external sources, such as work or a personal situation, we often experience stress in our bodies, so we need a physical way to release it.
Here are our top recommendations for physically managing stress.
1. Breathing: Slow and from the Belly
Science has long demonstrated the relationship between deep breathing and stress management.
When you breathe deeply and from your belly, it triggers your body to engage with your parasympathetic nervous system and release stress. Think of it like a “deactivate” button on a bomb. You’ll find yourself feeling calmer and in control with just a few deep breaths.
2. Getting a Thai Massage
If you need some assistance de-stressing your body, consider getting a Thai massage.
During a Thai massage, a professional moves your body through different poses in order to dramatically stretch and massage it. The result: intense relaxation of the muscles. Popular among athletes, Thai massages can also improve your circulation, range of motion, and energy levels.
3. Walking: Spend Time in Nature
Walking is a beneficial habit for your mental health. Moderate cardio exercise, such as walking, can help improve your cardiovascular health while increasing blood flow and circulation to your brain.
If you’re able to get out in nature, all the better. Researchers have shown that spending time in nature — or even just looking at pictures of nature — can help your brain and body relax. “Forest therapy” has been shown to reduce cortisol, the hormone in your body that causes stress.
4. Gardening: Creation and Nurturing of Life
If you have a love for plants, gardening may benefit your mental health may and help you manage stress.
There is something about the creation and nurturing of life that speaks to our mental health on a deep level. Gardeners also report experiencing improved self-esteem, focus, and concentration, as well as more positive emotions.
5. Aerobic Exercise: Running, Biking, Dancing
Finding an aerobic exercise you love and incorporating it into your routine could be a game changer for your stress management.
Aerobic exercise releases endorphins in your body, serves as a moving meditation practice, and counteracts the effects of stress.
It also actually mimics the effects of stress, which is probably why it’s so effective in helping you manage it. Aerobic exercise allows your body to follow through on its fight or flight instincts. Instead of keeping all that excess energy within, you get to release it in a healthy and fun way.
6. Anaerobic Exercise: Pilates
Anaerobic exercise, such as Pilates, requires short bursts of activity rather than sustained activity.
Pilates is a low-impact way of getting some physical activity in, stretching your body, and gaining strength while still relieving stress. Try some Pilates classes in your area or online to get a taste of anaerobic activity.
7. Yoga: Corpse Pose
Yoga is a great form of physical activity, but one of the most effective poses for stress management may surprise you. Corpse Pose also known as the Final Relaxation Pose (or savasana) can lower your blood pressure, decrease muscle tension, and provide an outlet for stress in your body. Most yoga classes end with this pose because it allows your mind and body to process and relax after a yoga sequence, so make sure you take the time to do a yoga sequence first, and don’t skip corpse pose at the end of your practice.
8. Tai Chi: Meditation in Motion
Although instructors originally taught Tai Chi for self-defense, many people now use it as a tactic for stress reduction.
Based on a graceful and meditative series of movements from Chinese culture, Tai Chi has been shown to help people relax and focus on their breathing. When you’re involved in a Tai Chi class, you may find that you enjoy focusing on something as simple as moving your body into different positions, and you can reduce physical stress as a result of the movement.
9. Playing Team Sports
If you’re a fan of watching a game or going to the stadium, why not try playing a sport yourself? Joining a team sport can provide you stress relief, physical exercise, and community engagement.
Playing a sport releases endorphins in your body, which is a chemical in your brain that relieves pain and stress throughout your body. Sports will also help you release cortisol and adrenaline, other stress hormones in your body.
10. Progressive Muscular Relaxation: Tensing and Relaxing Your Muscles
If you’re feeling truly overwhelmed by stress and need a dramatic way to relieve tension, try progressive muscular relaxation. This practice involves tensing one muscle group as tight as you can for 10 to 20 seconds, then releasing.
Try starting from your toes and working your way up until you’re tensing your whole body for several seconds. Oftentimes, your body needs a way to release this stress and tension. Progressive muscular relaxation often leaves your mind feeling more relaxed, too.
The Bottom Line
Since the mind-body connection is so strong, engaging with your body can help you manage the mental stress in your life.
Still, it can take some practice to help them work in tandem. Learning to listen to your body and give it what it needs takes practice, so go easy on yourself and try different stress management techniques to see what works for you.
Having an outside perspective can also help. If you’re looking to create healthier habits, Arootah Coaches can support you in making positive changes by identifying your challenges and helping you address them through self-accountability.
How do you manage your stress from a physical standpoint? Let us know what works for you in the comments!