There are many ways to let off steam. Not all of them work for everyone but everyone can find one or two or three that can help them stay fit and healthy! Here are two that work for us pretty consistently.
Take a Walk—or a Swim or a Bike Ride
We don’t mean to turn your back on stressful situations. That’s not particularly helpful. But our point is that walking, running, bicycling, swimming, dancing, and other physical activities are some of the best stress busters around. They are a great way to unwind and blow off steam. And brief periods of movement can be equally beneficial. In a moment that you are aware your body has become tense with irritation, your belly churning with anxiousness, or your heart hurting with loss, it’s a good idea to get up and move with the feelings. Dance a bit, open and close your arms around your torso in a self-hug, move the tight and tense places on your body in gentle shimmies. This helps the feelings and sensations move through your body and any stuck thoughts move through your brain. You will come out the other side often with greater clarity of mind for any choice you need to make and action you need to take.
Physical activity also has other, long-lasting benefits. Consistent moderate to vigorous physical activity, for example, can lower your heart rate. Studies of people who have lowered their heart rates have found that these individuals have lower heart rate responses during and after mental stress than people who have not been consistently active. (Remember from our last blog that “consistently active” means moving for 30 minutes a day most days of the week). In addition to reducing the physical response to stress, physical activity can improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Have a Laugh
Anything that makes you laugh also reduces stress. A good laugh relaxes muscles and stimulates the production of stress-relieving chemicals in the brain. Watch a favorite movie comedy or television show that is usually good for a laugh, or schedule to get together for conversation with friends you find entertaining. In a study at Loma Linda University researchers divided volunteers into two groups. One group viewed a 60-minute humor video and the other group did not. Blood tests to measure biochemical changes in hormones involved in a person’s response to stress, showed that the video watchers had improved levels of the hormones. This suggests that laughter may help reduce the harmful ways in which our body naturally responds to stress. Even in a highly charge crisis, a good laugh can reset everything for making choices that lead to positive outcomes. We recently read an example of this. A woman facing a life threatening illness described her experience hearing something about herself and her condition that struck her as absolutely ludicrous. She started laughing and fell off the bed she was sitting on which led to her relaxing and clearly knowing what her next action needed to be.
These two ways of busting the harmful responses to stress are can be fun, will make you feel good, and can make the rest of your life, the best of your life. Do it!
From: Suzanne and Steve