Alternative Stress Therapies
There are many different methods of relaxation and reducing stress, some more scientific than others. There are thousands of different techniques which we are unable to cover here, but some of the more popular ones are outlined, below0.
Reiki and Stress Management Techniques
Reiki is a technique developed in Japan for stress reduction, relaxation and healing. It involves the “laying on hands”. It is based on the idea that there is an unseen life force energy flowing through us, that keeps us alive. If our life force energy is low, then we may feel sick or stressed. If it is high, then we are more likely to be healthy and happy. Reiki comes from two Japanese words – Rei meaning higher power or God’s wisdom and Ki meaning life force. So Reiki actually means “spiritually guided life force energy.”
Reiki treats the whole person – their body, emotions, mind and spirit to create beneficial effects, such as relaxation, peace, well-being and security. Reiki is simple and natural. It can be used to treat illness and stress management. Reiki can help on emotional and physical levels. It can teach the body to relax and when we are fully relaxed our stress diminishes. It can also help the body to function at an optimum level, which can reduce the risk of developing illness.
Reiki can help people to gain more clarity and faith in themselves. People often fear failure and get wrapped up in thinking what others expect of them rather than how they want to live. Reiki can help people to trust their intuition.
Breathing is thought to be one of the most effective techniques for reducing stress, as it affects the tension in your muscles, oxygenates your body and influences feelings and thoughts. For breathing exercises to be effective, a person must –
- Find a suitable location, away from distractions where they can sit comfortably.
- The body must be positioned so it is free from any strains, particularly in the back and neck.
- The person must breathe slowly and deeply. Deep breathing means that the air should be taken down into the abdomen.
- Air should be taken in through the nose and blown out through the mouth.
- Breathe slowly in to the count of five, then exhale to the count of six.
- Continue for two or more minutes.
You may find it useful to consider what changes you feel in your body after doing this or to ask the person you are helping to consider how they feel afterwards.
This may sound strange, but crying is actually a good form of stress management. Crying is a natural bodily function that can help to reduce stress. In modern society, we are often discouraged from crying, particularly in public. Most of us are told –“don’t cry”. Crying is often considered weak, particularly in some cultures and more for men than women. Crying has been seen as something that should be kept private. Crying is actually, though, our body’s natural way of trying to relieve emotional build ups and stress. Sometimes, we are not able to stop ourselves crying, our body will override our attempts to stop ourselves. If we try to hold back our tears, it can increase the emotions and stress that our body is trying to release by crying!
The University of Minnesota found that chemicals that build up in our bodies during emotional stress can be removed when we cry. Unreleased stress can increase our risk of a heart and have other effects on our bodies, as we have already discussed. So crying is actually therapeutic and healthy.
There are three types of tears –
- Reflex tears – these are tears that occur when something irritates our eyes, e.g. a foreign object gets into our eye, like sand.
- Basal tears – these are the permanent tears that protect and moisten our eyes. They contain fats, water, proteins and compounds to protect against infection.
- Emotional tears – these include encephalin, which is an endorphin and natural painkiller.
“Emotional tears contain higher concentrations of proteins, manganese, and the hormone prolactin, which is produced during stress-induced danger or arousal”
(Dr Carrie Lane, University of Texas)
Research has shown that generally crying improves the mood of people who cry. But in some cases, it doesn't for those who find it difficult to get go of their emotions.
Some practitioners argue that crystals are good at helping us to adapt to energy frequency changes caused by stressful situations. Different crystals can help with different forms of stress. Having a large crystal in a room is thought to –
- Reduce stress.
- Reduce negative energy.
- Harmonize imbalanced energy patterns.
Wearing a crystal is thought to affect areas of imbalance in the body, restoring the body to a positive state.
Sex to Reduce Stress
Sex and stress are linked in some ways. Often people under stress experienced a reduced sex drive. But sex can actually be a good way to reduce stress. A study by Arizona State University found that women who experienced sexual behaviour or physical affection with a partner had a significant effect on lowering stress and increasing a positive mood the following day. This wasn't found to be the case when women experienced an orgasm without a partner.
Sexual intercourse is also thought to lead to reduced blood pressure in some studies. This is related to positive physical contact. The same result was not found when there was positive mental effect alone.
Why should this be the case?
- Sex often involves deep breathing, which can lead to relaxation, oxygenation of the blood and reduced stress.
- Social Support – people with social support tend to cope better with stress. So emotional intimacy during sex can help.
- Physical workout – Calories can be burnt during sex and stress management can be helped by exercise.
- Endorphins – sex can release endorphins and other hormones that make us feel good.
- Touch – sexual intercourse involves touch, which can be a great stress reliever.
Humour and Stress Relief
Research has shown that laughter can have health benefits from reducing food cravings, increasing our threshold for pain, strengthening the immune system, healing and reducing stress.
Why does laughter reduce stress?
- Physical release – Laughter can lead to an emotional and physical release, as does crying. Sometimes we can cry and laugh at the same time – “cry with laughter”. This helps release emotions.
- Hormones – laughter can help reduce stress hormones like epinephrine/adrenaline and cortisol, dopamine and growth hormones. It can increase levels of positive hormones like endorphins. Laughter can increase antibody producing cells that can increase the effectiveness of T-cells, which improve our immune system.
- Distraction – laughter us to focus away from our stress, anger and negative emotions.
- Internal workout – Laughter makes use of our diaphragm, abdominal muscles, shoulders and leads to relaxed muscles after.
- Social benefits – laughter can help us to interact with others, reduce our stress, reduce their stress, improve our interactions with others.
- Perspective – people can sometimes see things as a threat or challenge. Humour can make us see things in a different way – in a humorous way, so making it more positive and less threatening.
Using laughter to reduce stress
We can reduce our stress through laughter in a range of ways. These may include –
- Watching funny films and TV programmes.
- Laughing with friends and family.
- Fake it! Studies have shown that even a fake smile or laugh can have positive effects, so the more we smile the more we feel positive.
- Try to have more fun in your life.
- Try to see more humour in your life.
Shouting loudly can reduce stress. This can help you to feel a lot better, shouting out your frustrations and anger. You should be careful where you do this and to avoid shouting at people! We have to be careful we are not shouting in anger, as anger can be stress-increasing.
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