Stress Management Techniques from Maya Katalena
Hello NECC members. I hope you are all well and able to find joy in your lives even during these challenging times. I’m writing to you to remind you of the importance of physical activity, and to give you a few simple things to do to stave off stress.
As I’m sure most of you already know, physical activity has benefits for the body as well as the mind. Physical activity increases the production of endorphins, a neurotransmitter that is often
nick-named “the feel-good hormone.” The benefits from increased endorphin production include an immediate increase of the feeling of wellbeing, the release of body tension, an
increased sense of calm, an increased ability to focus, an improved mood, and a better quality of sleep. That’s a pretty desirable list, isn’t it? So, I hope you have been able to continue to be
physically active and enjoy all these benefits. In addition to your exercise, there are several other simple things to do to reduce stress, and I want to give you a few things that you can do
in conjunction with your workout, or at other times in the day if that fits better.
The first one is intentional belly breathing; it is very easy to do, and it has an immediate calming effect. It stimulates the vagus nerve, which activates the relaxation response, which in turn lowers your heartrate and blood pressure. You can perform the belly breathing sitting down or laying on your back.
I either position, place one hand over your heart and the other one on your belly. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. With each inhale, the hand on the belly
should be noticeably moving up while the hand on the heart moves very little. With each exhale, the hand on the belly should move back down, while the hand over the heart still moves
Keep breathing like this as long as it feels good – your body will know when it’s time to return to your regular breath. Please get up slowly and make sure you can safely return to standing.
The second stress release method is called progressive muscle relaxation. It is a technique that is used to release tension held in the body. During times of increased stress, our bodies respond by tightening up, so this exercise will help relax your muscles and make you feel more calm and relaxed.
The technique is simple. With the focus on one body part at a time, tense the muscles for about five seconds and then relax them – notice the difference between the tension and the
If you have an injured body part, use caution, or if it’s painful just skip it. You should not experience any straining, cramping, or pain anytime during the progressive muscle relaxation.
Start by finding a calm and quiet place to lie down, and wear loose fitting comfortable clothes. When you are settled in, take a few relaxing breaths, and notice how your chest and belly are
moving. Imagine your body melting into the surface.
Below is a list of the muscles/body parts and the order to do them, but you can mix and match in whatever way feels good to you. You can even do the same part two or more times in a row,
or go back to it if it still holds tension.
- With the arms along the side of the body and the palm facing down, bend at the wrist and tense/relax.
- With the same arm, make a bicep curl and tense/relax.
- Repeat the wrist and bicep tense/relax on the other side.
- Raise the eyebrows as high as they’ll go and tense/release. Notice the forehead relaxing.
- Scrunch up your face including your eyes and tense/relax.
- Open the mouth as wide as possible as if you’re yawning, and hold the mouth open and then relax.
- Tighten the neck muscles without straining and hold – relax them back down into the surface.
- Tighten the shoulders and then release them back down.
- Take a deep breath in and hold and tighten all the muscle around your rib cage – relax and exhale.
- Focus the attention to your stomach muscles and tighten them. Release and notice the softness as you breath and your stomach moves up and down.
- Arch the back away from the surface and hold/relax.
- Tighten your hips and your buttocks and squeeze and hold and then release.
- Tighten your right thigh (quadriceps) and hold/relax, and repeat on the left.
- Tighten your right calf and hold/relax, and repeat on the left.
- Point your toes on the right foot down and hold/relax, and repeat on the left.
- The third and last stress reducing technique is self-massage. The one described here focuses on the head and neck.
- Use your thumbs and make tiny little circles along the sides of your neck.
- Use your thumbs to make tiny circles along the base of the neck, and then massage the head with your other fingers. Finish with tapping your fingers across your head starting in the front and moving to the back and to the sides.
- Put your middle fingers on the bridge of the nose and make tiny circles moving outward along the eye socket bones – repeat as many times as you want.
- Put your middle fingers on the bridge of the nose and make tiny circles moving outward along the eyebrows – repeat as many times as you want.
- Put your fingers on your forehead and use a combination of tiny circles, alternating fingers applying pressure, and tapping.
- Let your thumbs rest along your jaw line and put the other fingers on your temples and use a combination of tiny circles, alternating fingers applying pressure, and tapping.
- Put your fingers on your cheeks and use a combination of tiny circles, alternating fingers applying pressure, and tapping.
- Open your mouth wide and stretch your jaw muscles. If you want, you can stick out your tongue and say “aahhh.”
Finish by cupping your hands over your face and breath softly.