We've all been there. Finding ourselves mindlessly scrolling on our phones, grabbing for that third snack from the fridge, procrastinating that phone call we really should be making, or perhaps having recurring anxious thoughts about the past or the future. If I could guess, I don't think anyone particularly enjoys this state of mind or feeling. Personally, I tend to fall into these behaviors when I feel... a little overwhelmed with life, or with another word "stressed".
[ STRESS ] The word of the 21st century. Actually, stress has tended to get quite a bad wrap. But is stress actually bad for you?
Stress is defined as "the mental and physical response and adaptation by our bodies to the real or perceived changes and challenges in our lives."* In other words, it's our body's unique response to external challenges.
When our mind and body prepares to meet a challenge or demand, we activate all our capabilities so that we can successfully rise to the challenge, whether at work, school, in a relationship, sport-related or similar. This is where good stress comes in. Good stress helps you to grow and become more skilled, confident and competent. However, even when facing good stress, it's as important to give our bodies the time to relax and recover.
If there's too much external stimulation, our brain will go into fight or flight mode. This response is designed to help you flee away or fight an approaching threat. This is not a place where we want to stay in the long-term.
When experiencing high-levels of stress, it's important to look for signs on how the stress is affecting you. Some signs that good stress is turning bad include:
- Feeling anxious about future or past experiences
- Lack of motivation
- Emotionally exhausted
- Poor sleep
- Tension in the body (especially neck and shoulders)
- A racing mind
The key here is to be aware of these symptoms and gather up some tools to help balance your stress levels.
There are many things that you could try in order to relax and release stress. A bath, meditation, a walk in nature, baking, or yoga. I say: do what makes you feel good. There's no one way that will work for everyone.
When I feel stressed, or engage in behaviors that I know could be stress-related, I usually turn to meditation. If my mind is wandering or racing more intensely, I often go for a walk or try a few yoga poses. By engaging my body, I can give my mind a break by moving out of the mind and into my physical body.
Here are some yoga poses that I find amazing for finding a calm healthy state of mind.
Sukhasana - Easy pose
Find a cross-legged position and breathe slowly in and out through the nose. You can also sit up on a blanket if you find it a bit more comfortable. Stay for at least 10 rounds of breath.
Bakasana - Child's pose
Come to all fours, separate your knees wide and sink your hips back down to your heels. Walk your hands out in front and rest your forehead on the mat. Breathe deeply.
Malasana variation - Yogi's squat
Come to a yogi's squat with your feet together. Separate your knees out to the sides and slowly walk your hands forward. Rest your head down and let your hips be really heavy. Keep your gaze on your toes or look down on your mat. Lengthen your neck and breathe into your upper back.
Uttanasana - Forward fold
1. From your squat, walk your hands in and slowly straighten your legs. Feel free to keep a slight bend in your knees here. Hold on to your elbows with your hands. Let your neck be long and see if you can let go for just a moment. I like to imagine that all my thoughts are "falling out through the top of my head". Let go.
2. Interlace your fingers behind your back to stretch out your shoulders by pulling the hands towards the front of the room.
Viparita Karani - Legs-up-the-wall
Lie down on your back with your hips facing a wall or perhaps a sofa. Gently slide your legs up the wall. Rest here. Open up your arms or place them along your sides. Feel the firm support under your head, back, and shoulders.
Supta Baddha Konasana - Reclining Bound Angle
Gently bring your legs down and come to lie on your back once more. Bend your knees out to the sides and let the soles of your feet meet. Place your right hand on your belly and let your left hand rest on your heart. Connect to your breath and heart center. Notice how your belly rises and releases with each breath. Breathe calmly. Stay here as long as you want.
I'd love to know if you try any of these poses and how you felt before and after in the comments. Happy practice!
Love & Namaste,
* R.J. Donatelle, Health - The Basics. Ch 3
* 1 Giant Mind Meditation App - Good stress vs. Bad Stress