Stretching To Relieve Stress And Anxiety
Exercise has tons of mental health benefits, but sometimes it’s hard to do during this coronavirus pandemic. Enter these stretches.
This articles is from HuffPost.com and written by Kate Bratskeir on April 24, 2020. Click here to read the full article.
Quoted from the article:
“The world is currently very scary and weird. We’re all acutely aware that exercise can help us get out of a mental funk during the coronavirus pandemic, but sometimes nothing sounds worse than a home workout.
But know this: However much or little you are moving, you are doing just fine. There is no guidebook for coping with this endless bombardment of headlines, bad news, sluggishness and disruption in your routine. You are no less worthy if you’re not exercising.
So how can you reap the mental benefit of exercise when you just can’t fathom working up a sweat? There is one move you can do that requires very little effort ― stretching.
Stretching — not even yoga, just stretching — can be a really simple and successful way to move your body and incrementally improve your mood (plus your body aches) while isolating at home.
“Stretching can keep you balanced,” Kelvin Gary, a fitness expert and founder and head coach at Body Space Fitness, told HuffPost, adding that being inside all day and having to look at a computer screen can negatively affect your physical and mental health.
Stretching, he said, “can help you keep better posture and alignment in your spine. It helps you feel physically better, which, in turn, keeps you from getting into a degraded mental space.”
Your mind and your body are intimately connected; there’s evidence that while the brain is in charge of telling the body how and when to move, the body’s movements can affect the way the brain thinks and feels.
“You can definitely hold emotional stress in your [muscle] tissues,” said Karena Wu, a board-certified clinical specialist in orthopedic physical therapy who practices at ActiveCare Physical Therapy.
The Best Kind Of Stretch For Your Body And Mind
Wu said static stretches in particular — the kind where you “take a muscle to its end of available motion and hold it there for a prolonged period of time so you can increase the length of the soft tissue” — can alleviate emotional stresses that often manifest in physical pain.
This exercise can also have a calming effect on your mind. “You’re focusing on a stretching activity and on yourself — you’re living in the present, and you’re not thinking about all the other things you have to do,” Wu said.
Gary also emphasized the benefits of these longer-held stretches, adding that they can have meditative effects, even if you’re not meditating in the traditional sense. With static stretches, he said, it’s crucial to breathe continuously, and especially through those points of tension.
“Having the focus on the breath gets your nervous system to chill out and become focused,” Gary said, adding that the process can relax your entire system.
Rather than holding a stretch for 30 seconds, Gary advises his clients to perform five long inhales and exhales while holding the stretch. He suggests slowly counting up to five with every inhale and slowly counting down to one with every exhale.
“This deepens the stretch and works the component of meditation that helps with focus,” he said — the exact type of “present moment” exercise that Wu described.
When you hit an especially tough point in a stretch, the breathing component will also help by relaxing the body even further, Gary added.
Put Stretching On The Calendar
Gary, who was formerly in corporate finance, learned the painful effects of a sedentary lifestyle firsthand. When he first committed to moving more throughout his day, he set up calendar reminders for every two hours.
If you’re struggling to get your movements in, he suggests giving scheduling a try. Stretching can be possible no matter how your day looks, especially because you don’t have to break a sweat to reap its benefits.
“You can talk on the phone and still be stretching, you can turn the camera off on Zoom for a second and stretch, too,” he said.
There’s plenty of evidence that taking breaks throughout the day actually improves your productivity and sense of well-being. Making those breaks stretch breaks only increases those benefits.