The two-step cure for chronic stress is to feel it and clear it. Feeling it involves embodied mindful awareness, with open curiosity and the self-kindness to take action to clear it through mindful science-based movement.
Part of the reason we get stuck in a stress state is that it's not convenient to calm stress when you are busy. Yes, you know all the tips for managing stress; meditating, exercising, and quality sleep but when you are stressed usually you are short on time.
Having an in-the-moment way to clear stress is key to curing chronic stress
Taking a deep breath or counting to ten are some in-the-moment tips for stress reduction but they are incomplete. Your body is still ready to move.
The power of stretching to calm stress
Stretching is the low-hanging fruit for clearing stress from the body in three ways:
Releasing the ready-to-move muscle tension. The stretch sensation you feel is really a muscle contraction. Stretching releases muscle tension in areas other everyday movements don’t, like in your hands, neck, and shoulders.
Reducing inflammation. That muscle contraction squeezes the lymphatic system to move lymph-carrying inflammation to be processed in your body. Again, stretching helps do this in those little areas where inflammation can build up like the legs.
Restoring comfort in your body. When holding tension and feeling stiff, your body is telling your brain there is still a threat. Connective tissue becomes stiffer when not moving, making your body feel tense. Stretching temporarily relieves this stiffness by restoring elasticity in connective tissue that connects every cell in your body.
As you can imagine, these benefits not only have in-the-moment benefits but long-term health protection as well.
Does stretching release or cause tension?
The key is though, not all stretching has this wonderful stress-clearing effect.
If you are not flexible, have difficulty getting up and down from the floor, or 'just do' and distract to get it over with, it can be a cause of chronic stress by perpetuating distraction and discomfort in your body.
For stretching to clear the stress state, it needs to be done:
Mindfully: with presence because only you can feel these sensations as you move.
Aligned with movement science: moving the way you are designed so you don't increase tension and strain but restore the freedom of movement in your body. When you know how to do that, it can be done anywhere any time. No need to be on the floor or force your body to be more bendy.
As self-care: when stretching is done as an act of kindness, you are willing to listen to and respond to what your body is telling you moment by moment rather than distract to 'just do it'.
A time-efficient way to clear stress
The word stretching can have a lot of meanings and applications. When using it for clearing stress, do Mindful Mobility Moments. This reminds you to do it in moments throughout your day, mindfully, aligned with movement science, and as an act of kindness.
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