Chronic stress is “the silent killer” because it wreaks havoc on our immune system and contributes to diseases like heart disease, obesity, Alzheimer’s, depression, cancer and more. And these days it’s almost impossible to avoid excess and even chronic stress. As a result, we gain weight, become anxious and even experience physical pain. So, if excess stress is impossible to avoid, then the only solution — find out where we store it and then release it.
Where stress lives
Stress tends to build up in six areas. And depending on how you handle your response to stress (i.e. jaw clenching) it can create further problems. Of course, some stress can be positive. It keeps you alert and prepared. But when you’re continually faced with stressful situations and there’s no relief in sight, it can be dangerous for your health.
And guess what? Women are more likely to experience high stress than men, suggests the American Psychological Association. In fact, almost half of all women surveyed said their stress increased over the past five years. If you’re in that group — and there’s a good chance you are — then you need to know where stress lives in your body and what you can do to alleviate it. The five areas where your body stores stress are:
Massage to release jaw tension
Are you a teeth clencher? Or do you grind your teeth? Then you likely store stress in the jaw. The masseter muscle is your primary chewing muscle that covers the sides of the jaw just behind the cheeks. It’s also the muscle that clenches your jaw and grinds your teeth during times of stress. Stress in this area can lead to tension headaches and occasionally earaches and toothaches. But it’s actually quite easy to massage stress pain away from this area according to painscience.com. The masseter muscle hangs from the underside of the cheekbone on the side of the face.
First, locate a notch in the cheekbone, about one inch in front of your ears. Press with your thumb firmly inward and upwards in the cheekbone notch. You should feel a slight ache. Now with firm pressure, gently massage. You can also open your mouth wide to release tension.
Yoga for neck and shoulder tension
Yoga is an ideal way to relieve stress from the neck and shoulders. Begin by sitting in a traditional seated position on the floor or in a chair. First drop your chin down towards your chest. Now interlace your hands behind your head and let your elbows fall in towards each other. Don’t pull or force your elbows together. Simply breathe deeply and release any clenching from your jaw or brows. Now, on your next inhale lift your chin and open your elbows — your back should be straight. As you exhale drop the chin and close the elbows. So basically, a long inhale to lift and open and a slow exhale to drop and close.
Now interlace your hands behind your lower back. Bend both elbows and pull your hands to your left waist. Inhale and sit up tall. As you exhale drop your left ear to your left shoulder. Breathe easy and deep. Now lift your head and turn your neck towards the same left shoulder. Continue a relaxed breathing. Repeat all moves on the right side.
Acupuncture for the shoulders and back stress
Stress plays a role in both shoulder and back pain. Chronic stress over-activates the sympathetic system, thus causing pain and tension along the spinal cord and up into the neck and shoulder areas. This constriction prevents the free-flow of what’s called ‘qi’ (pronounced chi) in Chinese medicine according to the Acupuncture Council of Ireland. qi is the life force that flows freely throughout the body.
Whenever there is pain in the body, like the shoulders and back, it means that the qi is “stuck.” Acupuncture can help the qi flow freely again, says spineuniverse by restoring balance in the body. It also promotes better circulation of blood, lymph and oxygen. Additionally, it can help reduce inflammation and relax tense muscles.
Release stress from the chest with deep breathing
When your chest is tight you’re holding onto to stress. As a result, you’re filled with anxiety. Your breath becomes shallow and your heart begins to race. Sometimes stress may lead to panic attacks. To release stress from the chest try some deep breathing.
Deep breathing is one of the best treatments for chest tightness. Breathe deeply through your nostrils, while focusing on your breath. Don’t focus on the tightness or discomfort in your chest, suggests HealthGuidance.
- Inhale slowly for five seconds.
- Exhale slowly for two seconds.
- Inhale for five seconds.
- Exhale for four seconds.
- Inhale for five seconds.
- Exhale for six seconds.
Continue to breathe this way until you are exhaling very slowly for 12 seconds. By the end, you’ll be much more relaxed. Deep breathing should be your first action in dealing with chest tightness that leads to anxiety.
Peppermint Tea for stomach stress
Peppermint (Mentha piperita L.) tea is an aromatic tea that works well to reduce stress and relieve anxiety from the tummy area. It’s one of the most widely consumed single ingredient herbal teas. The compounds of the leaves include rosmarinic acid and several flavonoids. The main volatile components of the essential oil are menthol and menthone. A study from Tufts University found that drinking peppermint tea has a relaxing effect on gastrointestinal tissue.
Drinking peppermint tea will not only help gut stress, but will also provide you with an overall calm. And since peppermint tea is generally caffeine free, you can enjoy it before going to bed. So, next time you need to unwind, put your feet up and pour yourself a cup.
— Katherine Marko