Author: Brittany Winfrey
We all have stress — at work, at home, and on the road. Sometimes, we can feel especially stressed because of a bad interaction with someone, too much work, or everyday hassles like getting stuck in traffic. Adrenaline rushes through your body as you try and deal with life’s demands. Here at Noom, we believe stress is normal and is a cue from our body that it’s trying to keep us safe. At the same time, finding ways to relieve these feelings can play a big role in your weight loss and well-being.
When we encounter a stressful situation, our body reacts with an automatic “fight or flight” response. This response originally evolved to handle life-threatening situations where an extreme level of physical and psychological performance would be necessary to survive. Because our bodies can’t discern when a situation is actually life-threatening, psychological stressors easily can activitate that fight-or-flight response as much as a real live bear. To help you calm down this response and relieve stress, we’ve compiled a list of 5 evidence-based strategies that will bring more ease into your life:
Meditation is a technique that allows you to focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress.
Forms of meditation include mindfulness, loving-compassion, prayer, or even focusing on a calming word (like “Calm” or “Relax”). Being mindful is simply being aware and conscious of the present moment. There are many apps that offer guided meditations. Such as “Headspace” and “Ten Percent Happier”.
To get started, commit to just 5 minutes. Keep in mind that it’s common for your mind to wander during meditation, no matter how long you’ve been practicing meditation. If you’re meditating to calm your mind and your attention wanders, slowly return to the object, sensation or movement you’re focusing on.
2. Body Scan
When stress strikes, it’s common to carry stress in the form of tension in the body. We often feel this tension so commonly that we fail to realize when we are experiencing it and carry tension indefinitely.
A simple way to work on connecting with the physical being is a body scan, which is a technique that focuses on different parts of your body, and changes your attention from body part to body part until you have gone through your entire physical body. This helps to bring your awareness and attention to the physical sensations inside of you.
To perform a body scan:
Sitting comfortably, take a deep breath in through your nose, and out through your mouth. As you breathe out, close your eyes. Notice how your body feels right now. Starting at the top of your head, gently scan down through your body, noticing what feels comfortable and what feels uncomfortable. Remember, you’re not trying to change anything, just noticing how your body feels as you scan down evenly and notice each and every part of your body, all the way down to your toes.
3. Yoga and Tai Chi
Workouts with slow, flowing movements can also help you slow down your breathing and breathe more deeply. These workouts can also help you to connect with your breath, get centered in your body, and calm your mind. This 5-minute flow consists of 5 one-minute series consisting of 2 poses each. You’ll alternate back and forth in each pose for 45 seconds (holding each for 2-3 seconds), resting 15 seconds between duos.
- Child’s pose → Upward dog
- Child’s pose → Downward Dog
- Mountain pose → Forward fold
- Forward fold → Plank
- Plank → Downward Dog
This article will walk you through the different types of yoga so you can find the style that works best for you!
4. Breathing Exercises
Breathing for most of us in an ‘automated’ activity — it happens without conscious thought to keep us alive. However, we can also actively control our breath and use it as a tool for relaxation. The key is to actively notice your breath and the sensations in your body as you inhale and exhale. There are many different breathing exercises, all of which actively help bring our minds back to the present. One helpful strategy is to breath in on a count of 4, hold your breath for 4 counts and then slowly exhale for a count of 7. Take your time with each breath. Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.
5. Get outside or earthing
Nature presents scenes that gently capture your attention instead of suddenly snatching it, calming your nerves instead of frazzling them. Here are some great things to notice when bringing mindfulness to your time outside:
- The buzzing of bees and barking of dogs
- The smell of fresh cut grass, flowers, and nature
- The architecture of homes, apartment complexes, restaurants, and stores
- The sensation of fresh air filling your lungs
If you are wanting to take it up a notch further, try earthing. This technique of bringing your bare feet to the earth’s surface can help switch your autonomic nervous system from a sympathetic state of fight or flight mode to a parasympathetic state of relaxation. In other words, it helps de-stress your body and allow for it to begin repairing and restoring any imbalances.
Stress is inevitable in life, but you control how you respond to it. Start exploring what works for you, and focus on doing what feels good to you in your body and mind. Start your Noom trial to improve your health and manage your stress today!