We all deal with mental stress at various points in our lives. Stress can come from almost anything — work, family, relationships, friendships, finances, time, etc. Some people deal with more stress than others, and some are better at dealing with stressful situations. Others become stressed easily while some are slower to feel stress. When we don’t deal with stress well, it’s possible to experience chronic pain and other physiological symptoms, such as headaches, stomach aches, gastrointestinal issues, nausea, back pain, fatigue, tension, chest pain, urinary symptoms, and more.
When dealing with acute stress many of us make a common mistake: we try to think our way out of it. This usually causes rumination and more stress. In a mind-body relationship, overwhelming mental stress usually means we are neglecting something emotional that is being held by the body, meaning we need to re-distribute energy away from our mind and back into our body — less rumination, and more emotional processing and releasing emotional energy.
There are many ways to re-distribute energy. Physical activity is generally the quickest way to both distract ourselves from a stressor and re-distribute energy when facing acute stress. Next on the chain would be meditation and relaxation techniques — which are highly effective for both acute and chronic stress, especially if practiced consistently.
Here are 10 ways to alleviate acute stress (in no particular order):
1. Racquetball (read-and-react sports are highly effective for re-focusing our minds and getting our bodies involved)
2. Martial Arts/Karate/Jiu-Jitsu/Kung Fu
3. Yoga or Pilates
5. Punching bag (alternatives: Pillow Punching, or Hitting a bed with a pillow).
7. Gym (weight-lifting)
9. Batting Cages (another read-and-react sport)
10. Meditation/Relaxation techniques (deep breathing, emotive imagery)
There are many other options to alleviate acute and chronic stress. Some outlets require the assistance of either professionals (acupuncture, psychotherapy) or a willing partner (sex, tennis, catch, boxing, wrestling). There are certainly more you can add to this list. In fact, it is good to create your own list and keep it handy so when needed you have a stress-relief menu handy.
What’s important is that the activity is not simply physical, but that it also takes mental focus that distracts our minds from the stress. Physical activities like running or walking are good exercise and can help with chronic stress, however they are not necessarily good distractors for acute mental stress since they don’t take as much mental focus (how often are we still thinking about other things while walking or running?).
To be clear, the above suggestions aren’t meant for emotionally processing and working through the underlying causes of chronic stress. If you find yourself experiencing mind or body-related stress on a regular basis, therapy should be sought for professional help to address this.
Contact Nathan Feiles to inquire about therapy.