by Bronwyn Ison

Are your shoulders in your ears by the end of the day?  Do your neck and shoulders feel tense?  Have you been clinching your jaw all day? We’ve all experienced stress.  A little bit of stress (eustress or acute) keeps us motivated, creative, stimulated and excited.  Episodic Acute Stress is a way of life for some and generally typical of everyday life.  The unhealthy stress (chronic) is everyone’s silent killer.  Clearly the chronic stress can reap havoc on you mentally and physically. Chronic stress can render and leave you feeling out of control and helpless.  Your body goes into a “fight and flight” mode.  You may feel stressed when you notice the bills are mounting, gasoline is at $4 a gallon, the mortgage is due, and the kids are out of school with nothing to do.  Rest assured you are not alone.  There are many remedies but breathing alone can and will help you with stress.  Take a moment and test if you are breathing with fluidity.  It’s likely your breaths are shallow, not rhythmic, too fast, or you are holding your breath.  Most of us hold our breath when the going gets tough. Research shows by utilizing breathing exercises you can decrease your stress.  Breathing may not cure your stress but can be used as a coping mechanism.

Call it meditation, a moment of silence, or your breathing time.  By performing some simple breathing techniques you will notice a sense of relief and calmness. Breathing is powerful, relaxing, won’t take a lot of your time, and is free. Stress related diseases and symptoms include: heart disease, depression, poor immune function, anxiety attacks, alcoholism, peptic ulcers, mood swings, viruses, colds, flu, and more.  Often one symptom or ailment leads to a more intensified illness.

Those who practice Yoga use breathing or certain breathing techniques in their practice.  The flow of the breath assists in calming the central nervous system.  If you do not have a Yoga practice you can still utilize the following tips.  Find a quiet space. Sit tall and comfortably in a chair.  You may also sit on the floor with your back against a wall.  Allow the tops of your hands to rest on your knees.  Inhale a deep breath and exhale deeply.  Repeat this 8 to 10 times.  With each inhale and exhale try and deepen the breath each time.  You should notice a sense of relief midway through this exercise. Try lying down, one hand on your heart and the other on your abdomen.  Inhale/exhale 8 to 10 times.  Lastly, try my favorite, legs up the wall.  Position your buttocks against the wall closest to the baseboard and extend your legs of the wall.  Your body should mirror that of the letter “L.” Connect with your breath and stay in this position for 8 to 10 minutes. Breathe smoothly.  This exercise calms the central nervous system, reverses the blood flood, is excellent for circulation, and assist in relieving insomnia.  There are many other breathing exercises but these are simple and will give you relief from stress.

Stress is a part of life but can be dealt with if you are willing to take the time to help yourself.  The above short and effective exercises will clear your mind, help you think more clearly, leave your shoulders a little less tense, and bring a smile to your face.

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