Holistic Remedies for Anxiety and Stress Relief
There are many ways that stress can show up in our bodies. Stiffness, tension, or pain are some of the most common complaints I see with my patients. While addressing the pain does offer temporary relief, I find that better long-term results are more often found by getting to the root cause of the problem. Finding a constructive way to reduce and manage stress that includes the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of existence is key in ensuring that the pain and discomfort doesn’t return. Research supports a holistic plan of action that incorporates mindfulness and meditation techniques such as breath work, journaling, and yoga are especially helpful with pain and tension reduction.
Meditation and Mindful Breathing
Meditation can sound really intimidating for those who have never tried it, but it doesn’t have to be! You don’t need fancy equipment, relaxing sounds, or chants (although these can certainly help). Rather, just taking some time to sit somewhere comfortably, closing your eyes, and doing some deep belly breathing can be just as effective.
Breathing from the belly is an easy tool to incorporate into our daily routines. It not only helps ease stress, but can also help keep core muscles aligned and strong. Deep belly breathing involves inhaling deeply, down into the abdominal region. When feeling stressed or anxious, we tend to breathe shallowly into the chest, without activating the diaphragm, which can cause tightness in the chest, upper back, and neck. And instead of using our breathing muscles, we inadvertently rely on muscles in the neck, called the accessory muscles of breathing, which causes those muscles to tense up, sometimes leading to neck pain and headaches.
To prevent this, check your breathing by placing one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. As you breathe, the hand on your chest shouldn’t really move but the one on your belly will visibly rise and fall. You can also do this lying down on your back.
My favourite breathing method is called “box breathing,” which consists of four parts. It’s easy to do and can be done anywhere! To box breathe, simply inhale deeply into your belly for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and repeat!
Yoga can also be extremely helpful. If you are in a lot of pain, something gentle like a yin flow or restorative yoga may be a good option. I love using yoga for both the breathing and relaxing aspects but it’s also great for stretching, strengthening, and moving well through the joints to improve range of motion. Breathing through the discomfort and tension can be really helpful and your yoga instructor should also be able to provide modifications for any poses that may be too painful or uncomfortable to hold.
Keeping a Journal
You don’t have to be an avid writer to reap the benefits of journaling. Penning a few thoughts at the end of the day can be a helpful way to relieve stress, even if it’s just point-form jotted notes. Write down the things that happened, who you were with, how you felt, and where you feel pain and tension. Understanding what issues, events, or situations may be connected to the discomfort in your body can be a useful tool to manage it.
The next time you are feeling stressed-out, make a note of where you feel it in your body and give one of these techniques a try to see if it helps. Contact your healthcare professional if the stress or pain is too difficult to manage on your own.
You may also enjoy: How Can You Tell The Difference Between Stress and Anxiety, 6 Adaptogens That Help With Stress, Immunity, and Much More, and Ashwagandha: Essential in Your Parental Toolbox for Managing Stress.