How to Release Built-Up Stress & Anxiety


| LAST UPDATE 07/10/2022

By Lia Thomson
stretch neck stress release
@tashafranken via Instagram

For those who may not know, our emotions and body are intertwined. When you feel angry, your face gets hotter - you tense up and frown. And when you're happy, your shoulders feel relaxed, and your face naturally smiles. But sometimes, these physical manifestations aren't so obvious. For example, we tend to hold stress and anxiety in our chest area. Here's the best way to release these negative energies.

The reason our emotions affect our body is because of the mind-body connection. "When our mind is in a state of stress and fight or flight, our bodies are in preparation mode to respond to what it perceives might be potentially even a life or death situation," explained licensed clinical and forensic neuropsychologist Judy Ho. "This causes the sympathetic nervous system to activate, your heart rate increases, and your body tenses up in preparation to act. Chronically, this can cause muscle tension and soreness throughout the body." Similarly, other ways anxiety can show up is through migraines, sore jaws, and constant teeth grinding. So how can we let go of this energy?

meditation stress anxiety relief
@monavand via Instagram
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The first thing is box breathing. While it may sound intuitive and simple, we often forget to take deep long breaths. This technique will immensely help slow the sympathetic stress response from occurring. Breathing lets the body know that you are okay and there's no need to enter fight or flight. "Take a breath in and count to four while drawing one of the vertical sides of a square in front of your face with your finger," Dr. Ho instructed. "Then hold for four while drawing the top of the box horizontally, then breathe out for four drawing the other vertical side of the box, and hold for four while completing the box by drawing the bottom horizontal line." Do it 10 times to feel its full calming effects. 

Second, try a body scan in times of stress. Essentially this form of meditation brings awareness to each part of your body - all you have to do is sit down comfortably and breathe into each section, starting from your head all the way to the toes. Bringing awareness to yourself will reduce anxieties occurring in your head. For those who prefer to move around and release that energy, try doing a few yoga poses to help release the stress. Especially stretches focused on the neck, shoulders, and chest area! Check out some of our favorites - and remember, you got this. 

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