Stress can cause a litany of problems with the body and mind of a person from high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack, as well as, increase pain levels.

What can you do about stress?

Remove as much unnecessary stress from your life as possible and practice simple breathing and stretching exercises to help reduce what cannot be removed.

How stress works on the body

Stress can cause a vicious cycle of the body dumping adrenaline and then hormones to combat the adrenaline each time stress levels rise. The body that is under constant stress the cycle is continuous which can cause the blood pressure to rise.

As the blood pressure rises so do the risk of stroke and heart attack. Along with the amount of pain that is felt from injuries.

Studies on breathing and stretching exercise benefits can be found at the National Institute for Health.

Using breathing and stretching

How to use breathing and stretching to reduce stress and pain is simple.

Start with breathing techniques that can be employed are simple and basic. There are three methods that can be used.

First, there is the equal time in and out, in which you breathe in and then breathe out for the same count. The steps are;

  1. Sit comfortably either in a chair or on the floor
  2. Breathe in slowly through the nose as you count to five
  3. Breathe out slowly through the nose as you again count to five
  4. Repeat several times in a row and throughout the day if possible

As you are more comfortable with doing the breathing increase the count up to ten.

Second, called progressive muscle relaxation can help you relax both physically and mentally. The steps are;

  1. Lay comfortably on a mat on the floor
  2. Take a couple deep breathes
  3. As you breathe, in tense the muscles of your feet
  4. As you breathe out, relax the tension in your feet
  5. Continue working up the body, tense a group of muscles as you breathe in and relaxing the tension as you breathe out. Each muscle group from feet to head should be done.

Third, the lion’s breath in which you imagine you’re a lion as you breathe out through a wide open mouth. The steps are;

  1. Sit comfortably on a chair or the floor
  2. Breathe in all the air you can through your nose so that you fill your belly
  3. As you breathe out through a wide-open mouth say “aah”
  4. Repeat several times

Stretching can help reduce stiffness and pain in sore muscles and joints. It also improves circulation increasing blood flow to parts of the body that have become stiff and hurt. It also aids better posture which can help reduce the risk of back injury.

These are some basic stretch exercises; at the end of the list, there will be a link to a slideshow of the exercises. Be sure to speak to your physician first before starting any exercise program including stretching.

Standing side stretch
              
The standing side stretch is done by standing with your feet together, raise your arms over your head and clasp your hands together with the index fingers making a steeple, breathing in as reach upward. Exhale as you bend your trunk to the right, take 5 slow breaths and then slowly returns to center, repeat this movement to the left side. Do several repetitions.

Forward hang

        Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Place your arms behind you and clasp your hands or use a towel. Breathe in and straighten your arms so your chest expands. Breathe out and bend forward at the waist allowing your stretch toward your head and hold for five deep breaths. Repeat several times.

Seated back twist

        The seated back twist can help improve back pain and increase mobility. However, if you have any disk or spinal problems that may worsen with twisting, speak to your doctor before doing this exercise.  

The exercise slideshows from Healthline and RealSimple provide instructions on these stretching exercise and several others; again, do speak to your primary doctor first before doing any exercise program.

Practicing simple breathing and stretching exercises can help you reduce stress, anxiety, and pain levels, aid in better posture and circulation, and prolong your life.