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Fight stress with stretching, exercise, deep breathing

Have you ever thought of having a de-stressing plan? Stress seems to attack all of us in some shape or form, whether it's work deadlines, family issues or just dealing with traffic. Most of the stress we deal with is short-lived, but when it continues to hang around and develop into chronic stress, those stress hormones can negatively impact our physical health. The continual "hanging around" feelings can bring on high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, insomnia and muscle tightness, and they can even lower your immune system.

Here are a few ways to help you avoid or deal with those nasty stress encounters:

Shake it off: One of the best and quickest ways to relieve stress is by activating those endorphins through movement. And here you have many choices, one of which is simply self-expression through dancing, often called meditation in motion. You don't follow any programmed routine, you just turn on some music, relax your knees and begin to move your whole body for five or 10 minutes. Stop and be aware of your breathing, then repeat for another "session." And remember: All forms of exercise will help to relieve tension and anxiety, even a quick walk around the block.

Breathe: While we do it every day, be aware that taking time out to breathe slowly and deeply offers stress-relieving benefits by slowing the heart rate and lowering the blood pressure. Any form of deep breathing can help you relax and lead you into the calm zone, so take a five-minute break, sit up straight, close your eyes and inhale through your nose, then slowly exhale through your mouth or nose. You might want to try inhaling while you are counting upward and exhaling while counting downward.

Stretch it out: When the body feels the impact of tension, generally the shoulders, lower back and neck seem to be targeted. Stretching a tight muscle for 20 or 30 seconds can relieve that tension by increasing the circulation, which helps the muscle to relax. Stretching also slows you down, enabling you to be in the moment, which helps you to focus and concentrate.

Yoga and tai chi: While yoga and tai chi may differ in some ways, they both have stress-releasing benefits by offering meditation, exercise and breathing techniques.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at slafit@tampabay.rr.com.

Stationary bike riding: The repetitive motion of pedaling can block out the stresses you may be facing. You will also be strengthening the glutes, thighs, hip flexors and calf muscles.

Adjust the seat so that the top of the seat is in alignment with your hipbone.

When you are sitting on the bike, you should have a slight bend in the knees.

Keep your arms slightly bent while holding the handlebars.

Do not round your back. Hinge forward from the hips slightly, keeping ears over shoulders.

Child's pose: This relaxing pose helps quiet the mind while offering a great stretch for the back.

Sit back on your heels with knees about as wide as your hips.

Hinge forward from the hips until your chest is resting between your thighs and forehead on the floor.

Arms can be extended forward on the floor. You may also rest your arms back by your sides, with palms facing up.

Hold the pose for three to five slow, deep breaths.

To release the pose, use your hands to walk your torso back into an upright position.

Tip: If your neck is uncomfortable when your forehead is on the floor, place a soft pillow under your head.

Tree pose: This is a calming-of-the-mind stretch that strengthens legs, ankles and hips and stretches the back and arms. It also helps with concentration and balance.

Stand tall with arms by your sides.

Standing on one leg, place the other foot on your inner thigh.

When you feel you are balanced, raise your arms over your head, bringing your palms together.

Contracting abdominals and focusing on a distant object will help with balance. Take three to four long, deep breaths.

With a slow exhale, bring your hands down to your sides, releasing the leg.

Repeat the pose, standing on the opposite leg.

Tip: If this is too difficult, place your foot on the inside of your lower leg and, if you need support, place your hand on a steady chair.

Fight stress with stretching, exercise, deep breathing 07/25/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 25, 2017 12:32pm]
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