I’m so stressed! While this is a common refrain these days, reducing stress is important to one’s overall health. Built up tension can manifest into physical symptoms like hypertension, heart issues, disrupted sleep, and negatively affect your quality of life. Stress can be either chronic or acute. Chronic stress when you find yourself in a constant state of tension. This can arise from challenges that cannot be overcome easily and take long periods of time to resolve. Activities such as yoga, meditation, and patterned breathing all work to calm the nervous system and help when dealing with long-term stress. (See page 40 for tips on patterned breathing.) If you are finding it difficult to deal with chronic stress, you should seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
Alternatively, acute stress is more short-term. This is the type of stress we most often encounter in day-to-day life, for example traffic causing you to be late for an appointment.
Acute stress can also be handled by calming practices, or you can try a different direction. Here are some activities that will increase your heart rate, release endorphins, exhaust your mind and body, and enable you to let go of built-up tension and emotions.
Smash into Relaxation
“Smash Rooms” are believed to have originated in Japan in the early 2000’s. While some people partake as a form of entertainment, they can also be an effective method for acute stress release. Also called “wreck rooms,” they have risen in popularity. Facilities like Smash Room CT, LLC in Watertown have controlled rooms set up set up to let the participants break, smash, and pulverize furniture, electronics, and other random items. Tools are available to assist in the demolition. When you enter one of these rooms, there are lots of rules, waivers to sign and protective apparel to help keep the participants safe while they throw, hit, and smash.
Participants experience a wide rage of emotions from exhileration to exhaustion, but hopefully they let go of everything that was on their mind before they entered. “Don’t break that, don’t hit that, be careful!!” All these norms fly across the room and are “smashed” once the first object is thrown.
People often find themselves bonded with their fellow smashers and report a clear head – creating the ability to accept new ideas. Many say that after participating in a smash room, they have the best night sleep they have had in a long time.
Scream like you mean it
A more primordial type of stress release can be found in Scream Therapy. Screaming your heart out or your head off can be used to help release emotions or trauma. This method of therapy, developed by Dr. Arthur Janov in the 1960s, was based on the concept that highly expressive activities like crying, screaming, or making sounds could help patients recover.
Scream therapy can be used to release pent up emotions and tension from acute or chronic stress. The effects are immediate, but not long lasting, so should be used together with other techniques for chronic stress. The immediate benefits include the removal of mental blocks, a feeling of empowerment, and increased feelings of being grounded. It can also help people to connect physically to emotions that they have not been able to face.
One suggestion if you feel like you just need to scream it out: don’t hold back. Initially, you might feel self-conscious, but with practice, you can get more comfortable. At first try screaming into a pillow, you can always progress to screaming in your car or outside. Strive to let go of all inhibitions to make the most of your scream. Once you can identify your emotions and feel a connection to what has been creating stress or tension in your life and your body, you are in a better position to help yourself with the underlying issues.
HITT, Punch and Relax
Everyone knows that exercising has many health benefits – including increased endurance, improved heart health and strength, as well as decreased depression and anxiety.
Evidence shows that specific exercises such as high intensity interval training (HIIT) can have immediate results for acute stress. HIIT incorporates a series of intense body weight exercises – like the dreaded burpee – interspersed with short rest periods.
Boxing and kickboxing are other forms of interval training that can have the same benefits. In both of these activities, you are constantly taking your heartrate and activity level very high and then bringing it back down. It is thought that alternating betweeen these two extremes helps decrease anxiety and stress.
Don’t Stress it
When deciding how to handle your stress, the most important thing is to find something that works for you. Don’t try to do something just because someone else says, “do this.” Experiment with several techniques until you find something you can incorporate into your life. The more energy you pour into the activity, the bigger the feeling of relief. Again, if you feel that your level of stress is more than you can deal with on your own, you should seek out professional assistance.
More information on the definitions of stress, can be found in Elizabeth Scott, PhD’s medically reviewed article verywellmind.com.