Taking Control of Stress

Regardless of our age or station in life, we all experience stress. Managed in the right way, stress can be a positive force and a motivator: But managed poorly – or not at all – stress can be harmful, even crippling. Therefore, finding ways to bring a sense of calm into our lives is so important to our mental, emotional and physical health.

Relaxation techniques

Almost everyone has his or her own way of pushing back stress. It could be the time-tested “take a deep breath and count to ten” method. But there are many others, including: yoga, listening to music, exercise, meditation, prayer; massage and more.

An article published in May of 2009 from the Mayo Clinic suggested that practicing relaxation techniques was able to reduce physical symptoms of stress in practitioners by slowing their heart rate, lowering their blood pressure, increasing blood flow to major muscles, reducing chronic pain, improving concentration and more.

In general, relaxation techniques involve refocusing your attention to something calming and increasing awareness of your body. A few ways to do this are:

1. Autogenic relaxation

Autogenic means “something that comes from within you.” In this technique, you use both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress. You repeat words or suggestions in your mind to help you relax and reduce muscle tension.

2. Progressive muscle relaxation

In this technique, you focus slowly increasing and releasing tension in specific muscle groups. One method is to start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head.

3. Visualization 

In this technique, you form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming place or situation. During visualization, try to use as many senses as you can, including smell, sight, sound and touch.

Keys to remember

Techniques to productively ease stress take commitment and practice. In a recent American Psychological Association survey nearly fifty percent of retirement-age respondents reported that they handled the negative stresses in their lives by resorting to unhealthy behaviors that included inactivity and withdrawal from socializing.

Lutheran SeniorLife’s residential communities provide residents with a reduced-stress environment and a structured program of positive ways to process stress as it occurs, including meditation, social activities, exercise and many more.

No matter what your stress level might be, there are things you can do to channel more relaxation into your day and keep stress from controlling your life and affecting your health.