FROM MINOR CHALLENGES TO A MAJOR CRISIS, stress is an integral part of life. The most common causes of stress involve work pressure, finance, health, relationships, and more. Stress when not managed well and when it becomes chronic starts taking a heavy toll on your well-being.
No one is immune to stress, and most of us get a regular dose of stressors on a daily basis. So, while you can’t control events and circumstances, you can control how you respond to them. That’s why it is important to have simple and effective stress relievers that can immediately invoke a relaxation response that can calm your mind and body.
Are you feeling stressed?
Let me share some science-baked and backed go-to strategies to beat stress.
Understand the Power of Yawning.
What is Yawning?
In scientific terms, yawning is an involuntary action consisting of opening the mouth widely, accompanied by deep inhalation via mouth and nose, followed by a slow exhalation. Have you observed that it causes muscles of the head, face, and neck to contract and stretching or relaxing of other muscles, leading to a sense of comfort?
Studies have proposed that yawning plays a crucial role in thermoregulation. It regulates the temperature of the brain, assuming that it cools the brain when its temperature increases.
As per Andrew Gallup, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York, yawning helps keep the brain at its optimal 98.6-degree temperature. He believes this is quite important as our brains hate being hot.
In an interesting 2010 study, he implanted probes in the brains of rats to observe the impact of yawning on brain temperature. He observed that even a small rise in temperature of 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit resulted in yawning. And when the rats finished their cute yawns their brain temperature fell immediately by 0.7 degrees. We all know the side-effects of a so-called hot head: slower reaction times to poor memory performance. He believes that our human brains react similarly.
As we know that facial muscles contract and stretch during a yawn, this increases the facial blood flow which results in lowering the heat through veins. The action of opening the mouth and inhaling air deeply also changes the blood temperature flowing from the lungs to the brain effectively forcing warm blood out of the brain and bringing cooler air from the lungs. This cools down the brain. Also, the action of yawning which involves deep inhalation through the mouth and nose brings a flood of air cooling the cranial arteries. Many studies now support this idea. In fact, studies have shown that we yawn more in summer than in winter. Thus, temperature plays a decisive role in yawning.
In an old study published in the leading journal Evolutionary Psychology, researchers observed that participants who cooled their brains by proven brain-cooling strategies including putting cold packs on their foreheads — were less likely to yawn when shown videos of other people yawning.
It’s an undisputed fact that Stress and anxiety cause our brain to heat up and yawn may be a powerful natural way to counter the effect. Thus, yawning helps cool down the overactive and heated brain by regulating its temperature.
In short, the next time you feel the urge to yawn don’t feel guilty and conscious about it. Don’t stifle or suppress it. Rather feel good about yawning. Trust your body’s intelligence and let it work the way it wants to. Your body knows how to calibrate itself.
So, feeling stressed, just yawn as it is the body’s primary way to release stress.
I hope you have yawned few times while reading this article.
You are now alert, so let’s move on!
Chew the Cute and Colorful Bubble Gum.
For the last 90 years, there has been constant research on the behavioral effects of chewing gum. Well, you might think that chewing gum is a century-old habit, but a peep into history pages reveals that our ancestors have been chewing on different things for ages. Though the first “chewing gum” was made in the early 19th century, the ancient Greeks and American Mayans chewed on tree resins to bring relaxation, reduce fatigue and stomach problems. Maybe that was just one of the reasons why our oldies felt less stressed than today’s youngies.
Though most of the research was concerned with understanding the relationship between chewing gum and an increase in alertness, attention, and focus, another area that has received a lot of attention is chewing gum and stress reduction.
Do you know chewing gum is a part of the ration of the US Army since World War I, as they recognized the power of the gum in reducing stress and anxiety in deadly combat situations? Chewing bubble gum is a common occurrence in highly competitive situations. Just look at some tightly contested sports and you’ll see some coaches, players, or even managers vigorously chewing gum to release their anxiety and tension. Can you recall such scenes?
The Next time when stress and anxiety raise their ugly head, try munching on a piece of sugar-free bubble gum to help you go cool: without becoming addicted to it.
Though the scientific research on the relationship between chewing gum and reduction of stress is in its nascent stages and still a great deal of questions need to be answered, it is a simple and cost-effective way to reduce stress and enhance the quality of life. A simple piece of small bubble gum has more power than you think.
I’ll cover in detail, the various interesting research on the relationship between chewing gum and health benefits in another exclusive blog. So, keep reading!
Please Read : Hot Water Bath – How It Can Cure Depression.
Self-Talk as if you’re a Third Person.
Are you nervous, anxious, or stressed about an upcoming job interview, public presentation, or personal event? Don’t worry, let me offer you a simple but very effective way to calm your nerves: talk to yourself silently in the third person.
Yes, you read it right! Though it might sound a bit odd, an interesting one-of-its-kind study published in the journal “Scientific Reports” found that talking to yourself in the third person relieves stress and anxiety.
A team of scientists and researchers from Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, conducted two neuroscientific experiments to examine the neurological and psychological effect of talking to self in the third person.
In the first experiment, 37 participants were exposed to both neutral and emotionally frightening and disturbing images. They were then asked to react to the images in both conditions inside their head: the first-person condition, and the third-person condition.
For example: say they were shown an image of an angry person. The volunteers were asked to describe it in the first person, that is, using “I”: “Why am I angry.” Sowing the same image, the second time they were now asked to react in the third person, that is, using his own name: “Why is Shishir (my name) angry.” In both scenarios, their brain activities were monitored using an electroencephalograph (EEG).
In the same way, the second experiment involved participants recalling and reflecting on painful memories and experiences of the past, again using the same process. Another difference was the brain activity this time was monitored using fMRI.
Amazingly both the studies revealed the same pattern, that is referring to themselves in the third person led to a reduction in the brain activity across regions that are known to be involved in emotional control and regulation of painful emotional events. In fact, brain activity decreased quickly in less than a second.
Amazing Read: Anger management – 6 Scientific Ways to Tame The Temper.
Though the researchers say that further study is required, the initial signs are good. “There are lots of important implications these findings have for our basic understanding of how self-control works, said Ethan Kross, a researcher, “and for how to help people control their emotions in daily life.”
The findings make a lot of sense. When you put the event, problem, or negative situation into the third person, it allows us to create a psychological gap between our emotions and thought.
“Why is Shishir angry?” will cause a less emotional reaction than “Why am I angry,” and this will allow you to deal with your emotions rationally.
Also, this method of self-talk is absolutely free, requires no training, tool, or a doctor’s prescription. And the best part is that we need to use our own name, which is the sweetest sound for our ears. Isn’t it?
The take-home message: Whenever feeling stressed, self-talk in the third person. You may feel a little silly, but you have nothing to lose.
Also Read:- The 24 Hour Wait Rule for Anger Management.
The Power of Opposite Action.
Stress and anxiety happen when we are overwhelmed by our emotions. When you find yourself experiencing an emotion like fear, anger, shame, guilt, lethargy, or sadness, taking the opposite action can be an incredibly powerful tool in your emotional regulation toolkit. Have you ever tried this approach of doing exactly the opposite of the emotions you’re facing? If not, try it!
In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) there is a technique called opposite action. Each and every emotion triggers a particular reaction. In this approach, you deliberately act the opposite of what you’d normally do in that emotional situation. DBT encourages the use of opposite action when your current emotions are doing more harm than good. The idea here is not to ignore the reality, but merely transform your emotional experience into something positive to better control and regulate.
The term “Opposite Action” was coined by Marsha Linehan, one of the leading researchers in the area of emotional regulation. According to her study opposite action turns down the volume and intensity of your emotion.
In Psychotherapy one of the best methods to treat mental health problems is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Also called talk therapy, CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts and actions impact our feelings and emotions. So, changing the way we think and act can make us feel better. DBT is a type of CBT, like several other types.
Marsha Linehan, one of the foremost researchers in the area of treating emotional dysregulation, coined the term “opposite action,” short for opposite-to-emotion action, to refer to a behavioral approach to modulating emotions.
In a nutshell, opposite action is using a behavior opposite to your emotional urge to turn down the volume on your emotion.
What are the steps for practicing opposite action?
The first step is to identify the emotion itself.
The second step is to determine the urge associated with your emotion.
The third step is to check if that action would be effective or not.
If not, the final step is to engage in the opposite behavior.
For example, if you’re feeling angry and the normal behavior is to react aggressively or attack, then the opposite action would be to remove yourself from the situation, deep breathe, develop more sympathy or empathy for the person, let go of tension in your body or see if you can learn something from that experience to make you better.
The same process you can adopt for other emotions too. Use opposite words, thoughts, facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. Do it wholeheartedly. Repeat the process till your emotion changes for the good.
Now, if you’ve never done it before and just want to start, then just make sure you begin with less intense emotions. You’ll also feel a bit awkward at first but still, do it. Like any skill, the more you do it, the better you get at it. And once you master the whole process, then move slowly to more deep and intense emotions.
In my later post, I’ll explore in more detail this approach and also share some interesting practical examples of opposite action. So, keep reading and remain connected!
Interesting Read:- Change Your Mind Through Power of Meditation.
Guided Imagery or Visualization.
Just recall a past incident when you found yourself in the middle of a stressful situation. In those moments did you not wish what if you could be somewhere else- like in the lap of nature, on a beautiful beach or in a hill station. Guided imagery is a scientifically proven effective stress management technique that helps you use your imagination and visualization to take you to a positive and peaceful place.
It has the power to quickly relieve you from stress, calm your body and relax your mind. Want scientific proof? Here it is:
In one study conducted in 2014, few women suffering from fibromyalgia were divided into two groups. One group was asked to practice guided imagery daily for a period of 10 weeks. The other group continued with their routine care program. It was observed that the group who did guided imagery experienced a significant decrease in stress, pain, and fatigue.
In another interesting study in 2017, a comparative analysis was done on stress-relieving benefits between guided imagery and clinical massage. The participants included some 288 patients on 2 floors of a progressive care unit. The first-floor patients were offered daily a 15-minute clinical massage, whereas the 2nd-floor patients were guided to daily 30-minute guided imagery.
This study included 288 inpatients on 2 floors of a progressive care unit. On 1 floor, each patient was offered daily a 15-minute complimentary clinical massage, whereas the patients on the other floor were provided access to a 30-minute guided imagery recording. Amazingly it was observed that 30 minutes of guided imagery had a similar positive effect to a 15-minute massage.
So, the next time whenever you are stressed just close your eyes, take few deep breaths and imagine or visualize a peaceful scene like a beautiful beach, a breath-taking mountain, a majestic waterfall, or a lush green forest. When you’re deep into the scene breathe slowly and feel the calm and tranquillity. After 10-15 minutes, count to five and open your eyes.
Practice Deep Breathing.
Our Autonomic Nervous System controls all the major functions of our body. It has two main parts: the Sympathetic nervous system and the Parasympathetic nervous system. The SNS is about stimulation and when switched on triggers the famous, “Fight or Flight” response. The PNS is about inhibition and triggers the phenomenon of “Rest and Digest.” Here enters the Vagus nerve, which acts as remote control of PNS helping to calm and tone down.
Interesting Read: Trendiest Vagus Nerve – Your Secret Weapon to Boost Immunity.
One of the most powerful ways to stimulate the vagus nerve is deep and slow breathing. Christopher Bergland, author of the book, “Athlete’s Way; Sweat and the Biology of Bliss” writes that deep breathing with long exhales results in the release of acetylcholine which acts as a natural tranquilizer.
When your exhale is even a few counts longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve sends a signal to your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system
Now, do you need any more reason to breathe deep and slow? Next time when you’re in any stressful situation anytime and anywhere and just don’t know how to respond- the best way is to slow down you’re breathing just for one to two minutes. Immediately you will put yourself in a calmer state which will allow you to think and feel better.
Next time when you’re in a stressful situation, whether you are heading for a job interview, your flight is delayed or going on for your first date, these six go-to techniques can help you during any stressful situation.
Start with the technique that feels best to you, or use a customized combination to find the sense of calm that feels right for you.
Please connect with me by sharing your viewpoint on the techniques in the comments box below!