Exercise and Fitness, Stress Management

4 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress

Riikka LamminenContent Specialist

Stress is not just a vague feeling of being overwhelmed, anxious, or exhausted. It’s a physiological phenomenon that can be observed and measured.

Shortly, stress is physical response when sympathetic activity dominates the autonomic nervous system and parasympathetic activation is low. Consequently, a complex mix of hormones and chemicals is released, which in turn causes several reactions like increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension. By analyzing beat-to-beat changes in your heart rate, Firstbeat makes it possible to monitor your All-day Stress and Recovery.

Good stress, bad stress

It’s important to keep in mind that stress is not necessarily a bad thing. Positive stress helps you to focus on work and accomplish tasks. High stress levels may also indicate that there is something exciting and thrilling going on in your life. Negative stress instead causes anxiety and discomfort. It makes you feel powerless and decreases your performance.

Both types of stress are an unavoidable part of life. The goal is not to eliminate stress but to manage it and find the balance.

You don’t need do avoid stress, but it’s good to keep eye on it during the day and find the balance between stress and recovery. (Click to enlarge)

You don’t always need long mindfulness exercises or a yoga retreat to relieve stress. There are a myriad of simple techniques you can use to relax. With Firstbeat’s Quick Stress Level Test you are also able to witness the stress level of your body and get immediate feedback if your relaxation was successful or not.

Learn simple ways to relieve stress with these 4 simple tips:

1. Keep fit

The way exercise reduces stress is slightly paradoxical. When you exercise, your sympathetic activity increases and parasympathetic decreases, which leads to the release of stress hormones and other physiological responses. Thus, exercise is actually a stressor for your body.

Regular exercise produces physiological adaptations that improves body’s ability to adjust to stress.

However, it has been shown that regular exercise and good fitness produce physiological adaptations that improves your body’s ability to adjust to stress. A study, that used Firstbeat’s Bodyguard measurement, shows that physical activity is associated with lower objective stress on workdays.

If you train regularly, not only your Fitness Level increases, but also your stress tolerance improves!

2. Avoid alcohol

Enjoying a glass of wine, a few beers, or more is a common response to stress. But just because you feel relaxed doesn’t mean you are off the hook, physiologically speaking. Alcohol is a huge stressor for your body. It induces the stress response by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn releases stress hormones and increases blood pressure and heart rate.

Alcohol also reduces the effectiveness of your sleep – which can make feelings of stress and anxiety even worse. A scientific study, based on the Firstbeat’s database, shows that even a single drink can be enough to reduce the restorative quality of sleep.

3. Just breathe

Breathing is probably the easiest way to de-stress. The method is based on the vagus nerve, which oversees a vast range of crucial functions like heart rate, food digestion and breathing.

Although autonomous nervous system is largely out of our control, you can impact the vagus nerve by breathing. Deep and slow abdominal respiration activates the vagal nerve and triggers the relaxation response. (Wang et al. 2010).

4. Hugging helps

Several studies have documented positive physiological and biochemical effects of touching. Benefits include decreases in blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormone levels. So, if you feel exhausted after a busy workday, don’t hesitate to hug your friend or spouse.

It’s also a good to have a massage, which is one of the most effective forms of touch. It has been shown that the activation of vagus nerve increases immediately after massage session. (Field, 2011.)

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  • All-day Stress & Recovery

    Reveal how your body responds to the challenges of life and environment.

    Read more
  • Quick Stress Level Test

    Gain access to the level of physiological stress in your body.

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Riikka Lamminen

Content Specialist

Riikka is an Exercise Physiologist (M.Sc.) who has worked for several years in the fields of communication and journalism. Now, at Firstbeat she combines those two pathways in a great way. General wellness and healthy living have always inspired Riikka and now she is able to spread the word via her Firstbeat blogs. Physical activity is an inseparable part of Riikka’s life. She rides a bicycle everywhere, relaxes by paddling at the sea and challenges herself with some acrobatics.

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