Stressful Situations Part 2: It’s Time to Relax
Welcome back to our discussion on stress! Now you know about the basics of stress, let’s talk about how lifestyle changes can aid in the long-term reduction of stress. Also included below are a variety of relaxation techniques to help cope with those stress attacks. Let’s get started!
Every health resource will tell you to maintain physical health by exercising a few times a week; however, physical activity also promotes mental and emotional health. As discussed in Stressful Situations Part 1, the ‘fight-or-flight’ response is activated when sensing danger. The body explodes with the energy needed to either ‘fight-or-flight.’ However, when an internal stressor triggers this response, we don’t do anything with the built-up energy because we aren’t actually in danger. Physical activity provides an outlet to use and release stress energy.
Make a plan for 30 minutes of physical activity per day to improve your health and reduce stress. Take a moment to find an aerobic or rhythmic exercise that fits your needs, such as walking, swimming, dancing, cycling, boxing and running.
WSU Resources for Physical Activity
Diet and exercise often go hand in hand as part of a healthy lifestyle. Just as physical health can aid in mental and emotional health, the effects of eating have a complex bi-directional pathway with mood and emotion. People often reach for high caloric, fatty foods to reduce stress and anxiety as these types of food activate reward pathways.
For this reason, it is essential to be mindful of unhealthy food habits used as a coping mechanism. Eat foods that will give your body the right energy to function properly, and reduce your intake of caffeine or refined sugars to avoid energy crashes.
We know sleep is essential for motor and cognitive function. Due to lifestyle choices, environmental factors, or disorders, lack of sleep has become a common stressor. Insufficient amounts of restful sleep can affect your productivity, problem-solving, and focus.
To combat daytime sleepiness, create a sleep schedule or routine to follow. Sleep routines can include reducing screen time, practicing meditation, drinking calming teas, or brushing your teeth. They can also include waking up and falling asleep around the same time each day. Even on the weekends!
When choosing a relaxing technique, pick one that fits your needs, preferences, and stress reaction. For example, if you have a ‘fight’ response - such as becoming agitated - you may want to try a deep breathing technique. On the other hand, if you have a ‘flight’ response - like becoming withdrawn - you may want to seek rhythmic exercise.
Relaxation techniques can be as simple as getting a massage, finding something to laugh at, listening to music, doing art therapy, or getting engrossed in something you enjoy.
Deep Breathing is a powerful tool of relaxation that can be used by itself or with other practices. Practice taking a deep breath through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. One breathing technique involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds.
Muscle relaxation is the process of tensing and relaxing different muscle groups of the body. Practice by slowly tensing a muscle group to as tight as you can, hold for 10 seconds, then release. *If you have a history of muscle spasms or other serious muscle injuries, please consult your doctor first.
Body Scan Meditation
Similar to muscle relaxation, body scan meditation is the process of focusing on how each part of your body feels. Sit in a quiet, relaxing space. As you ‘scan’ your body, note any sensation felt, whether good or bad.
Visualization is also called visual imagery. It is a technique that involves imagining a happy or relaxing scene. Imagine your ideal place. Think about what you hear, smell, feel, taste, and see.
Yoga and Tai Chi are both used to reduce stress and anxiety through poses and deep breathing. Movements are slow and steady. They allow for concentration, deep relaxation, and energy flow through the body. Tai Chi is low-impact, whereas yoga can be more intense and fitness based. *If you have a history of muscle spasms or other serious muscle injuries, please consult your doctor first.
Talking to Others
Don’t go through stress alone. Remember it is ok to ask for help. Talk to family members and your closest friends about what you are going through. Even small interactions with those closest to us can aid in decreasing a stress response. These connections can help you build resilience to future stressful events. Find people who are calming to be around, good listeners, and those you can trust on a bad day.
If you find yourself not conquering your stress despite trying many relaxing techniques, talk with a professional. Go to your doctor and discuss a healthy lifestyle that’s right for you. Physicians can prescribe medications to help treat anxiety and depression, or they can provide a referral to a mental health specialist. Specialists can teach you strategies to deal with stress and provide various therapies to reduce stress or anxiety.
Weber State University provides many of these resources for students to utilize. Below are only a few locations that can help when you are feeling stressed.
- Stress Relief Center
- Counseling & Psychological Services Center
- Student Health Center
- Stromberg Complex
Come back for our next post on Mindset & Positive Affirmations. Try one of the techniques above and let us know how it's working! We meet with students individually for free. See our website for how to sign up online or by phone. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!
Brown, A., BSc. (2020, October). 62 Stress Management Techniques, Strategies & Activities. Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/stress-management-techniques-tips-burn-out/
Disaster Responder Stress Management. (2020, April). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/dtac/dbhis-collections/disaster-response-template-toolkit/disaster-responder-stress-management
Managing Stress. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Individuals-with-Mental-Illness/Taking-Care-of-Your-Body/Managing-Stress
Olpin, M., Ph.D. (n.d.). Stress Relief Center. Retrieved from https://www.weber.edu/relax
Robinson, L., Smith, M., M.A., & Segal, R., M.A. (2020, September). Stress Management. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm
Robinson, L., Smith, M., M.A., Segal, R., M.A. (2011, March). Stress Management: How to Reduce, Prevent, and Cope with Stress. Retrieved from https://www.brainline.org/article/stress-management-how-reduce-prevent-and-cope-stress
Segal, J., Ph.D., Smith, M., M.A., Robinson, L., & Segal, R., M.A. (2020, March). Stress at Work. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-in-the-workplace.htm
Segal, J., Ph.D., Smith, M., M.A., Segal, R., M.A., & Robinson, L. (2020, May). Stress Symptoms, Signs, and Causes. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-signs-and-causes.htm
Stress. (n.d.). Counseling & Psychological Services Center. Retrieved from https://www.weber.edu/CounselingCenter/stress.html
Stress management: Stress basics. (2020, March). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/basics/stress-basics/hlv-20049495 Urich, A. (n.d.). Methods for Stress Management. Retrieved under CC BY 4.0 License from https://psu.pb.unizin.org/kines082/
About The Author
Alexis (she/her/s) is an Academic Peer Coach and a recent WSU alumnus with Bachelor's Degrees in Microbiology and Zoology.
Back to Blog