YOGA POSES FOR STRESS AND ANXIETY
|Table of Contents:|
a) What is stress?
b) I stress bad?
c) Causes of stress
d) Effects of stress
e) Symptoms of stress
f) Measures fro reducing stress
g) 5 yoga poses for stress
2) ANXIETY AND ANXIETY DISORDERS
b) What is anxiety disorder?
d) Types of anxiety disorders
e) 5 yoga poses for anxiety and anxiety disorders
While talking about yoga for mental health, there is a very high chance that we might get lost in the lanes, by-lanes and alleys of the subject.
The subject is vast and walking through it would feel like exploring a whole city by foot; you never know where you would land, and soon you would find yourself feeling lost!
For us, mothers, being short of time and being distracted is a way of life. And so we need to have things at our disposal that is easy to read, understand and remember.
In this article, I have tried to do exactly that – give you a quick fix to deal with two common mental health issues,i.e. stress and anxiety ; and at least to get you started on your journey of improving your mental health.
As a mother myself, I realise how our mental health is of utmost importance to our well- being.
Motherhood is challenging, overwhelming, and most of the times demanding on our thoughts, emotions and feelings. To be entirely responsible for the well-being of little helpless beings can take a toll on our mind and health.
With little or no time to relax, life becomes an unending series of targets that we have to achieve throughout the day. To get a hundred things done in just 24hrs is not an easy thing to do.
Be it a working mom, or a stay-at-home mom, life is about completing the list of chores and taking care of the nitty-gritties.
Working under continuous pressure, our mental health is adversely affected. We become prone to developing different kinds of mental disorders.
And I will also share easy yoga ‘asanas’(postures) that you can do at home to keep your mind in shape.
Stress is the underlying cause for anxiety and depression. In fact, every mental disorder starts with stress.
So, if you have stress in control, you can create a healthy mental state which in turn will help maintain a healthy body as all bodily functions are affected by our mental state.
“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it” – Lou Holtz
WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress is basically our body’s reaction to the physical or emotional demands of a changing situation which requires an adjustment or a response.
When we feel threatened, or that we can’t cope with certain demands or events in life, our body’s coping mechanism sets into motion.
This mechanism, which is also called our ‘defence- mechanism’ or the ‘fight-or-flight mechanism’, helps our body to take stock of the situation and then decide its reaction.
While facing a sudden challenge or threat, our bodies are flooded with hormones that prepare its systems to either face the situation or evade it.
IS STRESS BAD?
No, stress is not always bad for the body. In fact our bodies are designed to experience stress and react to it.
When we experience stress in short bursts, it can have a positive effect.
Positive stress can help us stay focused, alert, and energetic. It can also help avoid danger or meet day-to-day challenges at work or at home.
Just imagine us not bothering about our little one coming down a slide for the first time. We would be so unprepared for any unwanted consequences. In contrast, due to the stress created by the anticipation of an accident, we remain alert and focused. As a result, we may actually be able to avoid an accident.
However, experiencing stress for a prolonged amount of time can adversely affect our bodies and minds. Our nervous system remains on high alert all the time and it causes wear and tear of the body- both physically and mentally. Chronic stress disrupts our body systems and is the source of mental disorders as well as many physical health issues.
WHAT CAUSES STRESS?
For mothers, when it comes to stress, it can be caused by many factors.
Positive stress can be caused when a mommy is trying to cook a meal perfectly for her family, or while she is playing with her child in the park, or maybe she is bathing her new born. It helps her stay alert and focused.
On the other hand, negative stress which results in chronic stress, may be caused due to staying in an abusive relationship or an unhappy marriage, or in a stressful financial condition or due to certain irreversible health conditions, etc. The body loses its internal balance or equilibrium and soon manifests into different kinds of illnesses.
Causes of stress can be external or internal:-
- Common external causes of stress include:-
- Sudden major life changes
- Relationship issues
- Financial problems
- Too much work
- Children and family
Common internal causes of stress include:-
- Negative mind set
- Inability to accept uncertainty
- Rigid thinking( lack of flexibility)
- Negative self-talk
- Unrealistic expectations
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF STRESS?
In today’s demanding environment, when mothers not only have to take care of the home, but might also have to work to support the family, mothers live in a heightened state of stress throughout the day. Living in stress for a prolonged period of time gives rise to many health issues like:
- Depression and anxiety disorders
- Muscular aches
- Sleep problems
- Autoimmune diseases
- Digestive problems
- Skin conditions, such as eczema or acne
- Heart disease
- Weight problems
- Reproductive issues
- Thinking and memory problems
- High blood pressure
- PTSD(post- traumatic stress disorder)
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF STRESS?
Stress makes its presence known through a number of symptoms. Sometimes, you may not realize these symptoms are caused by stress. If you have the following symptoms, know that you might be suffering from chronic stress and need to take up immediate measures to de-stress. The symptoms to look out for, are:
1) Cognitive symptoms:
- Lack of focus
- Poor judgment
- Negative mind set
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Constantly worrying about even the unimportant things
2) Emotional symptoms:
- Anxiety and agitation
- irritability, or anger
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Loneliness and isolation
3) Physical symptoms:
- Aches and pains
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Muscle tension in jaw, neck or shoulders
- Nausea, dizziness
- Chest pain, rapid heart rate
- Loss of sex drive
- Lack of energy
- Frequent colds or flu
- Trembling or shaking
4) Behavioral symptoms:
- Eating more or less
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Withdrawing from company of others
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
- Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
WHAT ARE THE MEASURES FOR REDUCING STRESS?
Since I have discussed stress in general, I would mention some of the measures that you can take to reduce or remove it. Some of the measures that you can adopt to live a stress-free life are:
- Acknowledging that you have stress. This is the first and the most important step towards stress – management
- Talk it out with a friend
- Talk it through with yourself
- Be mindful of every activity you do.
- Try keeping a positive attitude.
- Move your body. Any activity that moves your body like walking, exercising or dance, can reduce stress to a large extent. But you have to make sure that you do it every day.
- You have to accept that there are events that you cannot control.
- Instead of becoming angry, defensive, or passive about expressing feelings, opinions, or beliefs, learn to assert them positively.
- Relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or tai-chi can be helpful in stress management.
- Eating healthy, well-balanced meals goes a long way in managing stress
- Learning to manage time is essential.
- Make time for hobbies and interests.
- Journal your feelings.
- Sleep and rest is an essential ingredient in managing stress.
- Do remember, alcohol, drugs, or any other compulsive behaviours do not help in stress management. On the contrary they aggravate stress.
- Allow your loved ones to help you out. Approach them for help. They can be the best people to support you on your journey.
- You may also take professional help. Visiting a psychologist or any other mental health professional can give you a different perspective and in the process help you deal with stress.
YOGA POSES FOR REDUCING STRESS
Since my blog is about how yoga contributes to managing stress, let me share with you 5 easy yoga poses that will help you in stress- management particularly.
- Start by sitting down with your spine straight
- Extend your legs in front of you.
- Now, bend your knees and bring you left foot under your right knee and your right foot under your left knee.
- Keep your palms on your knees.
- Keep your head, neck and spine in alignment.
- Look ahead
- Pay attention to your breathing.
- Stay in this position for 60 seconds and then change the crossed legs
- How does it help?
- BALASANA(CHILD POSE)
- Start by kneeling down and sitting on your heels.
- Bend forward till your chest touches your thighs.
- Let your hands rest on the side.
- Hold this position for at least a minute and breathe deeply.
- How does it help?
-it quiets the brain and reduces stre -It also benefits our lymphatic and nervous system-It releases our anxiety along with stress
- ANANDA BALASANA( HAPPY CHILD’S POSE)
- Lie down on your back with your legs extended and arms on your side.
- Bend your knees towards your belly.
- Stretch your hands and hold your feet.
- Open your knees wide and stay in this position for 60 seconds.
- How does it help?
- It enhances our mood and improves our sleep
- It helps us to become calm
- It reduces stress and fatigue
- VIPARIT KARANI (LEG UP THE WALL POSE)
- Lie of the floor near a wall
- Inhale… exhale…
- swing your legs up onto the wall.
- Keep your spine straight, and bend your knees a little so your kneecaps won’t knock.
- How does it help? – a)It boosts blood circulation b)mproves sleep c) Regulates our mood d) It helps reduce stress
- MARJARYASANA(CAT POSE)
- Get on your fours.
- Now, as you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and raise your back towards the ceiling.
- Slowly release the crown of your head toward the floor.
- Stay in this position for 30sec
- How does it help?
- It soothes and stretches your back
- It relieves stress
- It helps our body to cool down
These five yoga poses are a great start to your stress management process. Doing them regularly can help you to feel less stressed and also help you regain your health.
Now that I have covered the topic of STRESS, let me move on to the next section where I talk about a common mental disorder that is caused when stress remains unchecked.
ANXIETY AND ANXIETY DISORDER
Stress and anxiety are quite similar. Like stress, anxiety is normal. It has the same causes, symptoms and effects on our body and mind. And like stress, it can be either positive or negative.
When an individual faces potentially harmful or worrying triggers, feelings of anxiety are not only normal but necessary for survival.
While the early humans had to survive in dangerous environment, fearing attacks by predators, in the current scenario anxieties now revolve around work, money, family life, health, and other crucial issues that demand a person’s attention without necessarily requiring the ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction. Anxiety can still be essential to survival – being anxious about your child(who has just learnt to walk)hurting herself, you may try to keep a your hands in a protective circle around her to catch her when she stumbles.
Like stress, anxiety for a short duration will not harm much. However, if the duration or severity of an anxious feeling grows out of proportion, our bodies respond with increased blood pressure and nausea. These responses move beyond anxiety into an anxiety disorder.
Stress is the result of demands on your brain or body caused by an event or activity that makes you nervous or worrisome.
Anxiety is also a normal emotion. It’s your brain’s way of reacting to stress and alerting you of potential danger ahead.
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
The APA describes a person with anxiety disorder as “having recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns.” Once anxiety reaches the stage of a disorder, it can interfere with daily function.
In other words, a person with anxiety disorder will feel intense fear all the time. Normal activities like entering an elevator, crossing the street, or even leaving your home start being avoided. If anxiety is left untreated, it will get worse.
It has been found that women are more affected by anxiety disorder than men. So it is essential for us, especially the mothers, to be aware of this and take immediate necessary measures.
While a number of different diagnoses constitute anxiety disorders, the symptoms of anxiety disorder will often include the following:
1)Emotional and cognitive
- persistent worries, fears, and concerns that you may find difficult to control
- finding it very hard to deal with future uncertainties
- trying to plan everything excessively
- finding it difficult to take decisions and fearing a wrong decision
- problems focusing and concentrating on activities
- being unable to relax
2) Physical symptoms
- tense or tight muscles
- muscle aches and pains
- extreme fatigue
- feeling restless
- heart palpitations
- digestive problems
- being easily startled
- sweating excessively
- needing to urinate more frequently than usual
- unable to spend time by yourself
- unable to speak when required
- spending excessive amounts of time completing simple tasks or switching between tasks due to lack of focus
- looking for perfection in your work and so doing things again and again
- avoiding socializing with others and speaking in public as they trigger anxiety
- missing work due to fatigue, fear, or other symptoms
- looking for reassurance and approval from others
If you notice any of the above mentioned symptoms being present in you, I would suggest, you do not take them lightly and take immediate actions.
TYPES OF ANXIETY DISORDERS
- Generalized anxiety disorder( GAD): in this form of disorder, the person feels a constant sense of anxiety about events or situations, however unimportant they may be. This is the most common form of disorder.
- Panic disorder: people with this kind of disorder experience brief or sudden attacks of intense terror and apprehension. These attacks are characterized by shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and breathing difficulties. Panic attacks tend to occur and escalate rapidly, peaking after 10 minutes. However, a panic attack might last for hours.
- Specific phobia: This is an irrational fear and avoidance of a particular object or situation.
- Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia: This is a fear of negative judgment from others in social situations or of public embarrassment.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder: recurring irrational thoughts that lead you to perform specific, repeated behaviors
- Separation anxiety disorder: fear of being away from home or loved ones
- Illness anxiety disorder: anxiety about your health (formerly called hypochondria)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): anxiety following a traumatic event
YOGA POSES FOR ANXIETY AND ANXIETY DISORDER
There are lots of ways to treat anxiety and anxiety disorder. Some of them have been mentioned the stress management section. But, I would like to help you with 5 yoga poses that are going to help you with your anxiety.
- Butterfly pose (Titli asana)
- From a seated position, bring the soles of your feet together, close to your pelvis, allowing your knees to fall out to the sides.
- You may use a cushion or a folded blanket to sit on, to make your pelvis tilt forward
- Ground your sitting bones and lengthen your spine
- Hold onto the outsides of your feet and press the soles of your feet towards each other.
- If your body allows it, fold forward from the hips, keeping your spine long and your collar bones spread
- Stay for 5 to 10 breathes
- To come out of the pose, sit up straight again, lift your knees and straighten your legs
- Benefits : it has a meditative effect and grounds you in the moment when you are feeling anxious
- Precautions: if you are suffering from knee or groin injury, then you should avoid doing this pose.
- Staff pose
- Sit on a yoga mat.
- Stretch the legs in front of you.
- If you find your torso leaning back, it it might be due to tight hamstrings. In this condition, sitting on a blanket is helpful.
- Keep the spine as straight as possible. You can practice the pose against the wall with the shoulder blades touching it to get the proper alignment.
- Firm the thighs and flex the ankles towards you.
- Hold the pose for 60 seconds or longer.
- Benefits: if you practice the posture regularly, you will be able to decrease the stress hormones to a large extent.
- Precautions: if you have high blood pressure or suffering from wrist or lower back injury, you should avoid this pose
- Seated Forward Bends(Paschimottasana)
- From Staff pose( sitting with your spine straight and your legs in front of you), inhale while you take the arms up over the head and lift and lengthen up through the fingers and crown of the head.
- Exhale and hinging at the hips, slowly lower the torso towards the legs. Reach the hands to the toes, feet or ankles.
- Breathe in and out for almost 8 breaths
- To release: A) Slowly roll up the spine back into Staff pose. B) Inhale the arms back over your head as you lift the torso back into Staff pose.
- Benefits: this pose helps to relieve feelings of anxiety and stress. It also reduces symptoms such as tiredness and headaches.
- Precautions: if you have lower back pain, do not stretch yourself too much. Bend as much as your back would allow
- Child pose(Balasana)
• Start by kneeling down and sitting on your heels.
• Bend forward till your chest touches your thighs.
• Let your hands rest on the side.
• Hold this position for at least a minute and breathe deeply.
• Benefits:it quiets the brain and reduces stress
- Corpse pose(Savasana)
- Lying flat on your back, preferably without any props or cushions, close your eyes.
- Keep your legs comfortable apart and let your feet and knees relax completely, toes facing to the sides.
- Place your arms alongside your body , but they should not touch your body.
- Leave your palms open, facing upward.
- Taking your attention to different body parts one by one, slowly relax your entire body.
- Make sure you don’t fall asleep!
- After some time, about 10-20minutes when you feel fully relaxed, keeping your eyes closed, slowly roll onto your right side. Lie in that position for a minute or so.
- Then, taking the support of your right hand, gently sit up.
- Keeping your eyes closed, take a few deep breaths in and out
- When you feel complete aware of your surroundings, slowly and gently open your eyes.
- Benefits: it takes you to a meditative state and will relieve you of stress and anxiety
- Precautions: if for some reason your doctor has advised you not to lie on your back, then you can lie on the sides and do this pose.
With the busy schedule it is not always possible for us to head to the gym or yoga centres, although that would be a very good investment towards our well-being.
Till you do that, you can start with these easy poses and keep your stress and anxiety under check .
Apart from yoga, you can adopt any or all of the measures that I have mentioned earlier.
I hope you remember, that although as a mother you are responsible for a your family and your home and also may be for your job, but the most important thing to take care of would be to keep yourself happy and healthy. You are the pillar of strength for your family, so unless you are doing well in your mind and body, you will not be able to take care of others. Your well-being should be of utmost importance to you. And so should be self- love.
So if you don’t know where you should start, my advice would be to start taking a decision that you will make your health your priority. Now, go on to the next step where you invest in a good yoga mat. And then create the change in your life by starting with the yoga asanas.
Self- care starts with a decision and the result in a happy body and mind.