Sometimes against all my understanding and experience I cannot simply fall asleep. My eyes are too tired to even watch a movie, let alone read. If I turn on music, I only prolong my insomnia while I revel in each song's emotive spectacle. My day already longer than it should be, if I do not get a good night's sleep, tomorrow will find me strung out and likely add to the tension holed up in my sinews. Lately, I stumbled upon a surprising resolution: Stretching. According to Allen R. Miller, Ph.D., "Emotions such as fear, anxiety, resentment, and anger all can cause muscles to contract, knot up, and tighten. Stretching forces these muscles to relax, which can help make you feel relaxed all over," (Miller, 2008, p. 43). While there are disagreements among professionals about the effects and benefits of stretching, my personal results were so helpful I was inspired to share.
I always thought of stretching as something you did before or after exercise, while warming up or cooling down. But I find moderate, careful stretching of relevant muscle groups immediately helpful. Curious why this would be, I did some research. In "Why Does Stretching Relieve Stress", Shoshana Hebshi-Holt says, "Stress can restrict blood flow, according to MD-health.com, leading to 'knots in the muscles in the shoulders and neck.'" She adds, "Stretching, according to the Mayo Clinic, increases blood flow to the muscle and aids circulation. Improving circulation allows muscles to relax, leading to greater heart health and cardiovascular function." Television's Dr. Mehmet Oz goes even further and says, "Stretching stimulates receptors in the nervous system that decrease the production of stress hormones," (The Dr. Oz Show, 2012). Obviously, there is more to stretching than I knew.
A quick search of the Internet will bring up stretches that relieve anxiety, tension, and stress in the neck and back. However, I have linked two articles with stretches that include the back, hips, and legs. These seem to help me fall asleep:
Fitness Magazine: "Stretches To Help You Sleep Better Tonight"
Prevention Magazine: "Stretches That Make For a Deep Sleep"
Fitness Magazine. (n.d.). Stretches to help you sleep better tonight. Retrieved from http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/stretch/stretches-to-help-you-sleep/
Hebshi-Holt, S. (n.d.). Why does stretching release stress. Retrieved from http://stress.lovetoknow.com/Why_Does_Stretching_Release_Stress
Miller, A. R. (2008). Living with anxiety disorders. New York, NY: Facts On File.
Shy, L., & Fitsugar. (2012, September 7). Best stretches to do at night to help you sleep. Retrieved from http://www.prevention.com/fitness/yoga/best-stretches-do-night-help-you-sleep
The Dr. Oz Show. (2012, May 9). Ultimate stress blasters. Retrieved from http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/ultimate-stress-blasters
Some Alternative Anxiety Treatments
If you say you have never experienced anxiety, you will be thought to be either lying, or extraordinary. Each and every one of us will feel anxious at some time or another, the only difference being that the cause of anxiety will differ, and the extent will vary. Most often, we do not give a second thought to the anxiety we endure, mainly because it is second nature to us and we know it will pass as suddenly as it came, leaving us none the worse for having experienced it. When the frequency and intensity is harder to bear, the condition should not be ignored, and for a start, natural anxiety treatments can be commenced.
Anxiety that is severe enough to be accompanied by the inability to concentrate, with feelings of restlessness, impatience and irritability, should make us pause and try to think why it is happening. If the sensations are caused by unusually heavy workloads, family or financial difficulties, you may feel tired and listless, but you will not experience the discomfort of a fast beating heart, rapid and shallow breathing, a feeling of confusion, accompanied by tummy cramps.
These are in no way symptoms of ordinary stress. When we go through all these sensations at the same time, we will need to acknowledge them for what they are, and try to get the condition under control, before it takes control of us, in an unstoppable grip. Ideally, we should visit a doctor as a precautionary measure, but if that is not possible, there is a need to start taking things easy. Then, try out these simple and uncomplicated methods of reducing stress and anxiety - most of which are inexpensive, but the returns are invaluable.
what can you do?
Firstly, remembering that prevention is better than cure, reach for your shoes - both, your walking shoes, as well as your dancing ones! Then enroll for dancing lessons, if you don't already know how to dance - and if you'd rather not, search the internet, or find some easily explained dance steps on YouTube.Try to enroll for Yoga and, or, Tai Chi classes, and meditation.Try to concentrate on your breathing when life gets too hectic - it draws your attention away from the stress around you.
Take your walking shoes to work, and go for a walk during you lunch break, if you don't have time to walk in the early mornings or after work in the evenings. Walking is simple but good exercise.All these activities pump up the production of your feel good hormones, while at the same time keeping you flexible, controlling your weight, and filling you with the sense of wellbeing.
Try aromatherapy, using essential oils from flowers and delicate plants for massages and baths, as well as putting a few drops of sweet smelling oil like geranium, lavender jasmine, etc, either in infusers, or through use of scented candles.The sweet and gentle scent that fills the surrounding atmosphere is soothing and calms the spirit.
Further, different people manage to find their own way of handling anxiety and panic attacks when they start to come on. Some people have found that trying to whistle a tune or humming their favorite song can help a lot. While it is not easy at first, practice will make one perfect - as they go along trying, they suddenly find that without even realizing it, the sensation has passed.Some try to breathe into a paper bag, or search their handbags for candy to suck on - actions that draw their attention away from the immediate situation.
When one learns to either control one's anxiety, or the symptoms that accompany it, the sensation can leave one feeling so confident and so much in control, that the recurrence and the severity of subsequent attacks are felt with lower intensity.
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