Try These 6 Best Stretches for Stress Relief
When you think about stress, you might not think about stretches for stress relief, but you should. Studies show that stretching is even better than just resting if you want to reduce stress and feel refreshed.
What Happens When You Get Stressed?
While some stress is good, too much stress can wreak havoc on your body, both physically and mentally. When you encounter a stressful situation, your body reacts by releasing the hormones cortisol, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), and norepinephrine. These cause your heart rate, as well as your blood pressure, to increase and can even raise blood sugar levels. Why does this happen? It’s in preparation for your body to flee from danger or to stay and fight it.
While this type of reaction is great when you’re occasionally in a tough spot, the problem most folks encounter with stress these days is that it is not just the infrequent episode. Instead, modern life brings with it a constant level of high stress, which, when unaddressed, can spawn myriad health issues.
How Can You Destress?
Clearly, you want to avoid persistent states of stress, but how can you accomplish this? Well, you do have a lot of tools at your disposal, like meditation, exercise, therapy, rest, time off, laughter, etc. But, one of the best ways you can handle it is with stretches for stress relief.
Stretching stimulates your vagus nerve, which is a long nerve that traverses your brain, face and throat, heart and lungs, and goes all the way to your pelvis. Stretching and lengthening your body sends the signal to this nerve that it’s time to relax. In turn, the vagus nerve tells your body to improve digestion, lower heart rate, boost your immune system, and even lighten your mood.
Also, when stretching, you can take advantage of controlled breathing, which helps provide stress relief. Take in a deep breath, hold it momentarily, and then fully release your breath and repeat as you go through the various stretches.
Stretching, in fact, is one of the best activities you can do for yourself as its benefits extend way beyond just the physical.
Benefits of Stretching
Studies show that stretching can help reduce:
How does this happen? When you engage in this low-intensity, gentle form of exercise, your body relaxes and releases feel-good hormones like endorphins and serotonin, which help boost your mood, ease anxiety, and reduce hostility and depression.
Stretching also allows you time to tune into your body and focus on how stretching makes it feel. And as you stretch and breathe deeply, you’ll often find the chatter in your mind and the stressors of your day gently floating away.
Try These Best Stretches for Stress Relief
Are you ready to get started with some easy stress-relief stretches?
1. Overhead Stretch and Fold
This yoga-based pose will help awaken your body, get your circulation flowing, and help you connect with your body. Start with your feet together or hip-width apart and your arms hanging by your sides. Lift your arms up, out to the sides, and then overhead. Tilt your head back to look up at your hands as you spread your fingers and reach them toward the sky.
Next, fold forward at the waist, keeping your legs straight, and bring your arms down in front of you to touch the floor (if you can). Allow your body to hang in this position for a minute as you feel relief through your back, hamstrings, shoulders, and neck. Bring yourself back up to a standing position and repeat.
2. Corner Neck Stretches
Many of us hold stress in our necks, shoulders, and trapezius muscles. An easy fix for this is to stand next to a doorway or the corner of the wall. Stand about a foot away from the wall and place your right palm and forearm on the edge of the wall. Lean forward until you feel a good stretch through your chest and shoulder. Next, turn your head to the left (away from the wall) and let it hang forward until you feel a stretch through the back of your neck. Repeat the process on the opposite side.
3. Cat-Cow Stretch
This stretch is fantastic for loosening up tense muscles in your back, neck, arms, and hands. Begin on your knees with your arms straight and your hands directly under your shoulders, palms down. Next, drop your head down and round your back, tucking your tailbone. Get a good stretch here and then move in the opposite direction by arching your back, bringing your stomach and chest toward the floor. Look up toward the ceiling. Feel a good stretch here and then repeat.
4. Tension Stretch
These stretches for stress relief can be done anywhere at any time. The premise of the stretch is the same for any area of the body, but for extra stress relief, releasing the tension in your neck and shoulders can work wonders. Start by shrugging your shoulders upward and hold this tenseness for a count of five (as hard as you can) and then release. Repeat.
5. Lying Twists
Start by lying on the ground, knees bent and feet flat, arms out straight and level with your shoulders. Next, keeping your knees together, tip your legs all the way to the right while keeping your torso in a fixed position. Take a few deep breaths here before moving your knees back up to center. Repeat on the opposite side.
6. Malasana Pose
Use this pose to help open up your hips and back. Begin by standing with your feet greater than hip-width apart (a pretty wide stance). Your feet should be pointed outward. Next, squat all the way down until your hips are as low as they will go. Push your knees out with your elbows as you place your palms together. Sit in this position for 60 seconds (or build up to 60 seconds) as all the tension leaves your body.
Using stretches for stress relief is a great way to improve your health across the board. You’ll enjoy extra flexibility, mobility, tension relief, improved energy, and better sleep.