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Coping with Chronic Stress

Stress triggers physical reactions in the body designed to help you take on a potential danger or difficulty. A mix of chemicals and hormones are released that prepare us to quickly respond to the situation. The stress response increases your heart rate, quickens breathing, tightens muscle, and raises blood pressure. Small doses of stress are a normal part of life and can actually help you accomplish tasks and keep you safe. However, if your stress levels remain perpetually elevated, keeping your body in a constant state of high alert, you may develop stress-related symptoms. These stress symptoms can affect your body, mood, and behavior.

Some common symptoms of chronic stress include:

  • Muscle tension or pain. Chronic stress causes the muscles in the body to be in a prolonged state of tension. Tight muscles may cause headaches, back, shoulder, and neck pain, and body aches.
  • High blood pressure. Stress hormones – adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol – increase heart rate and constrict blood vessels, driving up blood pressure.
  • Sleeping problems. Stress makes it difficult for the mind and body to relax to the point where it can get a full and restful night’s sleep.

Stress also is thought to aggravate underlying painful conditions such as herniated discs, fibromyalgia and repetitive strain injury (RSI). Furthermore, most migraine sufferers say that stress contributes to their headaches, which can last for days.

Relaxation techniques effectively reduce stress, easing stress-related symptoms like muscle tension, and increasing an overall sense of well-being. One of the easiest relaxation techniques is deep breathing. You take your breath with you wherever you go, so it’s a free and easy way to achieve a relaxed state of being anywhere, anytime.

4-7-8 Breathing Exercise

Try the 4-7-8 relaxing breath exercise.

  1. Place your tongue behind your upper front teeth and keep it there for the duration of the exercise.
  2. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  3. Close your mouth and inhale deeply through your nose for four seconds.
  4. Hold your breath for seven seconds.
  5. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound for 8 seconds.
  6. Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four cycles.

Practice this exercise a few times of day, and use it as a tool to cope whenever you’re aware of internal tension or stress. Use it if you’re having trouble staying asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

Relaxation techniques relieve tension and stress, but if you have persistent pain in your back or neck, it may be time to consult a specialist. Our physicians and physical therapists work with patients like you to develop a personalized treatment plan to ease your pain. Call 303-327-5511 for an appointment.

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