It turns out you’ve got an instant stress-reliever right at your fingertips. It’s free, doesn’t require a prescription, and is pretty effective at calming the nerves.
We’re talking about stretching—an age-old, natural approach to quelling anxiety. According to experts at UCLA, there’s a growing body of research touting the many benefits of stretching away your stress. For one thing, it curbs blood pressure and heart rate, reduces muscle tightness, improves brain function, and sharpens our ability to concentrate.
Don’t believe it? Try these simple stretches for stress relief the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Yoga international celebrates this simple stretch for its stress-easing benefits—it also appears to stave off tension headaches. Sit up straight, tilt your head to one side, then elongate your neck as much as possible. Hold for a few breaths before repeating on the other side.
Chest Stretch with Clasped Hands Behind Back
According to Elite Daily, this extensive back stretch has the power to bring down stress on the spot. Clasp your hands behind you and then straighten the arms. Inhale deeply, then arch spine backwards, using your arms as a balance of sorts. Keep your feet planted and focus on feeling a sense of openness as you lean backward.
Figure 4 Hip Stretch
Many of us carry our stress in our hips, which is why doing stretches that externally rotate the hips can feel oh-so-good. The figure 4 does just that. Stand up straight, then raise the right knee so that the foot hangs downward. Take your right ankle and gently bring it upwards so that your knee “opens” away from your body. Rest your right leg on a flat surface and feel the stretch in your hip.
This is a great stress relief hack because you can do it virtually anywhere. While in a seated position, keep the spine erect and slowly roll your shoulders backward for 10 sets. Repeat with forward motion, really focusing on each individual roll.
The Smile Stretch
You read that right. Trainer Jillian Michaels is a fan of this simple jaw stretch to help counteract stress and anxiety. It works by easing tension in the jaw while opening the throat and relaxing the muscles in the face. The instructions couldn’t be easier: grin as big as you can while opening the jaw a couple of inches as you do so. Take several deep, cleansing breaths through the mouth and repeat a few times.
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