It’s long been known that stress causes illness in people. Psychosomatic illness is rampant and prevalent at a worldwide level but fortunately, there are healthy ways to deal with and sometimes even eliminate stress. There are three things I do to relieve stress: exercise; write; and listen to music. Throughout my life, all three activities have helped me to deal with stress in a healthy and positive way, and oftentimes assisted me in coming up with solutions.
For twenty five years, I’ve sworn by the benefits of exercise not only for the body, but for the mind. In fact, exercise has been my coping mechanism for many stressful periods in my life as well as for times of calm and peace.
My favorite form of exercise is walking, whether it is on the treadmill or outside. Personally, I find I get a much better workout on the treadmill as I can increase the degree of difficulty by raising the incline and/or speed of the machine.
Exercise is known to release endorphins and other “feel good” chemicals from our brains. It also increases relaxation, helps increase our energy, improves self confidence and self esteem, and it helps us sleep better.
I usually exercise with the goal of shedding a few pounds and improving my muscle tone and general appearance, but no matter what spurs me to walk, I always receive the “side effect” of feeling much better, calmer, and more peaceful. Walking at a fast pace for 45 minutes to an hour helps clear the cobwebs out of my head, induces relaxation, and makes problems and/or stress in my life much more manageable.
Along with exercise, writing is an extremely effective and therapeutic stress reducer. A psychology professor by the name of James Pennebaker has done extensive work on how writing is therapeutic. Pennebaker conducted an experiment with American students and had them write for three consecutive days on highly traumatizing events that had taken place in their lives. He had another group write about trivial matters for three straight days that had occurred to them.
In the group that had self-disclosed on paper their personal traumatic events a marked improvement was seen in their immune systems along with decreased visits to the doctors and improved psychological feelings. No particular affect was seen in those writing about everyday or common events.
I’ve written a journal since I was 13 years old. As I’ve aged, I have come to find that writing down my feelings, especially during a tumultuous or stressful period in my life, has been the “cure” for me. Writing something down takes it out of mind (where it can often run amuck) and puts it on paper (where more order and possible solutions emerge).
Listening to Music
I’ve listened to all kinds of music my entire life, but have a special affinity for classical music. To reduce stress, I will simply put on my headphones, connect it to my iPod with my favorite pieces, and I will “rest” on the couch while I listen.
It’s important that you listen to music that you like in order to receive benefits. Play music from your childhood that you enjoyed, or your favorite music from today. It really doesn’t matter what you select except it must be pleasing to you.
It has been found that listening to music increases our ability to take deeper breaths. In doing so, we become calmer and more at peace.
Many work environments play music in the background which has been shown to reduce stress. Just think about your dentist’s office who will use music to help reduce pain. My dentist plays easy rock.
One of my favorite things to do is exercise with my headphones on and listen to my favorite music. As corny as it sounds, the faster the tempo of the music, the faster I walk. I will use slower-paced music to help me warm down toward the end of my workout. I get the double measure of relief from exercising and listening to music.