Want to know how to deal with stress in the course of everyday life? Buffering your body and brain from stress isn’t always easy, especially when you live in the urban jungle, but getting great stress relief doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.
The fastest way to deal with stress is actually to focus on taking deep breaths. This works for a few reasons. First of all, if you’re taking short, shallow breaths, it sends a danger signal to the brain, so your brain thinks you’re being chased by a tiger and puts all systems on red alert. That means that it tells all your muscles to tighten up in preparation for fight or flight.
Second, your diaphragm, the large, dome-shaped muscle spanning the base of your rib cage, is deeply intertwined with your psoas (pictured on the right). Whenever you feel threatened, the psoas will shorten and become tight or rigid. There are numerous theories about why this happens. On one hand, the psoas is a primary hip flexor, so it pulls your knees to your chest in the fetal position, protecting your internal organs. Because it flexes the hip, it’s also a muscle that’s important if you’re going to run away from danger. In any case, this muscle shortens and tightens when you’re stressed.
If you never let go of this tension, your body continually feels threatened. Stretching the psoas can be very difficult, but you can easily get some relaxation just by taking deeper breaths and easing the tension in your diaphragm (we like to think that muscles have a “start” and a “finish” but in reality, the are a continuum inside your body…your diaphragm is just an extension of your psoas).
So, how do you use your breath to get some instant stress relief? Start by placing your hands on the sides of your rib cage, just above your waist. Take a deep breath, using the air in your lungs to expand your rib cage, pushing your ribs out into your hands. If this is difficult for you, you’ve got a tight diaphragm and should practice this a few times a day. Just the exercise of expanding your lower ribs will pull air deep into your lungs and relax your diaphragm.
So, now you know how to easily deal with stress on the go. Go practice this, and come on over to the Facebook group to report your results!