Natural Stress Relief: Link Body and Mind

Consider one of these mind-body approaches to managing your stress.

| March/April 2000

Mention stress relief, and many people think of meditation. It works, of course, but it’s just one of many body-mind approaches to stress management, among them: yoga, sleep, aerobic exercise, and sex.

1. Breathe. The body-mind therapies all begin with deep breathing. The reason, stress expert Cooper explains, is that the respiratory system links the mind and body. Stress causes shallow breathing, which limits oxygenation of blood. To keep blood oxygen levels up, the heart strains to pump extra blood. The brain reacts to this with anxiety. “But when you breathe deeply,” Cooper says, “your blood becomes well oxygenated without straining your heart, and your mind and body relax.”

2. Meditate. Meditation simply involves twenty minutes of deep breathing, with the focus on the rhythm of your breathing or a word or phrase, your “mantra.”

3. Exercise. Stress-relieving regimens combine deep breathing with physical movement, from light workouts (strolling, stretching, tai chi, qigong) to moderate activity (brisk walking, yoga, gardening) to strenuous exercise (race walking, jogging, aerobics).

4. Walk. Walking is the easiest body-mind approach to try. You don’t need a class, or special shoes or clothing. Just put one foot in front of the other. Walking deepens breathing, lowers blood pressure, and stretches the arms and legs. In addition, you go from one place to another, which provides perspective. Finally, you’re already good at it, so you don’t have to endure the stress of learning a new skill.

Use your mind

When you’re stuck in traffic, you can’t meditate for twenty minutes or jump out of the car and take a walk. No problem.

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