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Tap Into Your Senses to Relieve Stress

Tap Into Your Senses to Relieve Stress

Stress is an undeniable part of life, but do you ever feel like it’s getting the upper hand and taking control?

Does it sometimes feel like everyone wants a piece of your time and you have nothing left for yourself?

Maybe worries about money or relationships are keeping you up at night. Stress can be a good thing when it gives you the energy to overcome obstacles. When it becomes a constant state of mind, it can rob you of the ability to think clearly and enjoy life. Since stress is a fact of life in the modern world, each of us needs a strategy to reduce stress before it throws us out of balance.

The Biology of Stress

Our nervous systems are designed to react when an emergency is perceived. Adrenaline and other hormones are released into the bloodstream. The heart rate and breathing accelerate due to what’s known as the fight-or-flight response and the body is put into a state of alertness. This response is perfect when we’re faced with a life-threatening physical challenge, but in the modern world, most of us don’t face this type of challenge on a daily basis.

When daily stresses activate the fight-or-flight response, the effects can cause serious damage. Physically, the immune system can become suppressed and leave the body open to infection. Symptoms such as headaches, tightness in the chest, and digestive problems are common. Long-term stress can also lead to conditions as serious as hypertension, heart problems, and substance abuse.

Mentally, stress makes it difficult to think clearly. Relationships suffer because you can’t recognize the needs of others when stress takes over. It’s also difficult to recognize your own needs. Communication becomes a challenge. It’s hard to avoid conflict when you’re in a persistent state of stress.

Use your Senses to Fight Stress

One of the best ways to reduce stress is to recognize it and then manage it before it builds.
Being able to manage stress from moment to moment helps you stay calm, focused, and clear-headed. By dealing with stress before it builds, you’ll have the energy to devote to the things that matter the most to you, including your goals and relationships. You’ll be able to pay more attention to your needs and the needs of others.

When you’re under stress, you can use your senses to calm yourself down and get your emotions back in balance. You can re-energize yourself by focusing on things that you can hear, see, smell, taste, and touch. Since the effects on your mental and physical health are completely positive, this is one of the most effective ways to deal with stress. The key is to identify simple things that are readily available and that have a calming effect on you. Here are some suggestions:

  • Listen to your favorite music, or hum a song you love. Take a walk in a park or along the beach and enjoy the sounds of nature. Learning to play an instrument is a great way to use your sense of hearing to reduce stress.
  • Visualize images that bring you pleasure and make you feel relaxed. Look at some artwork or photos that you enjoy, or visit a place with beautiful scenery. If you’re at work and feel stressed, take a break, close your eyes, and visualize things or people that make you happy.
  • Breathe in smells that make you feel good. It may be perfume, flowers, clean laundry, coffee – the sense of smell is very personal. Each of us has happy memories that are triggered by certain smells. Seek out the scents that have special meaning for you.
  • Have a small taste of the food you love. Savor some fruit, a small piece of chocolate or a favorite beverage. This is different from binge eating to relieve stress. The key is to use your sense of taste to fully experience the rich flavor.
  • Indulge your sense of touch by holding something soft or textured against your skin. Take a hot bath or shower, curl up under an afghan, or enjoy the feeling of silk or satin clothing. You can also take a walk in nature and make a point of touching the earth, plants, and trees.

Each person is sensitive to some senses more than the others are. What are yours?
Experiment with different types of sensory input and learn what’s the most calming for you. Look for stress-relieving activities that combine more than one sensory experience. While working in a garden, you can enjoy the sight and smell of flowers as well as the feeling of digging in the dirt. Cooking is another activity that can engage several senses at once.

Strategies for Defusing Stress

Another way to fight the negative physical and mental effects of stress is to defuse it before it starts. For centuries, different cultures in the world have used relaxation techniques to focus the mind and escape from the stresses of the world.  Deep breathing and muscle relaxation can be used to reverse the fight-or-flight response.

If you make a daily practice out of these techniques, you can eliminate a great deal of stress before it builds and increases your overall sense of well being. Meditation, deep breathing and muscle relaxation is something you can practice on your own, or you can join a yoga or tai chi class.
Another way to defuse stress is to identify the people in your life who are in control of stress and spend more time with them. Some people are able to adapt to change and take on challenges without letting stress overwhelm them. They recover from setbacks more quickly and are more resilient.  Because their emotions aren’t controlled by stress, they’re able to maintain healthy relationships and are involved in less conflict. 
Seek out this type of person and learn what you can from them about keeping a positive attitude and sense of serenity through all of life’s challenges.

Try taking time daily to actually feel your emotions. Many of us simply neglect them or simply “think” about how we feel instead of actually becoming aware and simply feeling things such as anger, sadness, anxiety, etc. When we can take time out many times a day to simply FEEL our emotions, our body can relax and not “bottle” our stress which then leads to health issues.

How to Tap Into Your Senses and Emotions:

Get still and simply ask yourself what are you feeling emotional. What physical sensations are you feeling? A tight stomach, shallow breathing, or maybe shoulder tension? Once you tap into your senses, you will find areas of constriction. Simply allow these areas to be tight, tense, or uncomfortable. Breathe deep into them and instead of trying to focus on the feeling of the pain or tension, focus on the emotions that may be under the surface. 
At first, you may not feel any emotions but keep at it. In time, those emotions will bubble up to the surface. You may laugh, you may cry, you may have waves of anger or other sensations. Simply keep at it.