For most of us, it’s probably unavoidable to experience at least some stress on any given day, whether it’s from a busy work schedule, a stack of chores to get done at home, or a health or relational problem, as noted by Jessica Migala with Everyday Health. Not only that, but if we aim for a stress-free life, we’ll only be left feeling more frustrated and discouraged. But if we learn how to manage inevitable stress in healthy ways, we will experience greater capacity for coping with life’s stressors. One simple way to reduce stress is by stretching.
According to Colorado State University’s Columbine Health Systems Center for Healthy Aging, stretching has many benefits for both our physical and mental health, including that it can increase our range of motion and increase blood flow, which helps deliver nutrients to muscles and alleviates muscle soreness. Additionally, a study published in the American Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that stretching can help the body relax as it increases parasympathetic nerve activity and can also lower one’s heartrate.
Thankfully, in addition to releasing muscle tension, stretching exercises can help release mental tension as we relax our minds as noted by Harvard Health Publishing. Stretching can be a great way to calm your heart and mind by letting go of any worries you’ve been carrying around.
While a yoga class or a great massage can help work out tight muscles, having a couple of go-to stretches you can do wherever you can sit or stand is handy as well. Breathing deeply and slowly in and out while doing a stretch gives maximum benefit. Repeat two to four times each. Check out these three stretches to help your body and mind relax:
1. Seated Spinal Twist
Sit toward the edge of your seat, and place your feet flat on the floor. Place your right hand on your left thigh, or hold the back of your chair. Take a deep breath in, sit up straight, and exhale as you rotate your torso to the left and look over your left shoulder. Repeat on your right side.
2. Chest Opener Stretch
Hold your hands behind your back, squeeze your shoulder blades toward each other, and push your chest outward.
3. Rotational Neck Stretch
Lower your chin to your chest and turn your chin toward one shoulder. For a greater stretch, you can place your hand on the side of your head, pushing it gently closer to your shoulder. Repeat, turning your chin to the other shoulder.
Next time you feel all bent out of shape or tightened up like a corkscrew, give these stretches a try, and see if you don’t feel some needed relief!