(pictured: adjunct professor Mark Clair of Victor Valley College – M.A. Psychology)
Stress is one of the hardest things we will go through in life. Stress can be our constant companion. When you seem to feel stress or anxiety, it has the possibility to halt your progress and paralyze you. In order to get by, we all need to learn about stress management.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the high desert, all of us had to go through change and adaptation. A change of this magnitude was stressful for all of us.
There was a study conducted at the National Institute of Health where195 random students were interviewed and were given surveys of their stress levels and mental health. Of the 195, 138 of the students or 71% had an increase of stress and anxiety due to the pandemic. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7473764/)
Adjunct professor Mark Clair of Victor Valley College (M.A. Psychology) said we need to be aware of what is going on in our bodies as well as our minds. Otherwise, the negative aspects of stress will hurt us.
There is a stress hormone called cortisol that increases our cholesterol levels, suppresses our immune system, and can make us light-headed and increases muscle tension in our neck and shoulders, explained Clair. When we are aware of what is going on in our body, we can take the steps to calm down and decrease this muscle tension.
Professor Clair recommended the following techniques for reducing stress:
- Diaphragmatic breathing: Diaphragmatic breathing, or “belly breathing,” involves fully engaging the stomach, abdominal muscles, and diaphragm when breathing. This means actively pulling the diaphragm down with each inward breath. In this way, diaphragmatic breathing helps the lungs fill more efficiently.This tells our bodies to stop stressing and signals the body to calm down.
- Box breathing: Also known as square breathing, is a technique used when taking slow, deep breaths. It can heighten performance and concentration while also being a powerful stress reliever. This technique can also help us stay calm in the long run.
- Yoga: If you look on youtube on this link you can find the article from Harvard Medical School on the benefits of Yoga for long term stress relief.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation is a method that helps relieve that tension. In progressive muscle relaxation, you tense a group of muscles as you breathe in, and you relax them as you breathe out. You work on your muscle groups in a certain order. This helps the body relax and when the body is relaxed, there are no tensions or spasms of the muscles in your body (University of Michigan Stress Management https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2225)
I usually get very stressed out and panicky when I am taking tests. Sometimes when the stress is very intense and I would be on the border of a panic attack, box breathing has really helped me out. I start the box breathing which acts as a distraction or diversion for me. I forget about the stress for a while and I feel myself calm down. I also have noticed that when I breathe like this, not only does my brain receive more oxygen, but it helps me figure out what the best answer is.
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