Written By: Todd Kuslikis
September 26, 2011



There are six powerful tools in your arsenal that can be effectively used for battling stress. These six tools can be implemented at a moments notice and can have a profound effect on eliminating stress. When combined together, these tools create a fortress of protection against the onslaught of stress.


Tool #1: Breathing

The first tool in your Stress Relief Tool Belt is breathing. Breathing is one of the most important elements of stress relief. As stated previously, breathing should be done from your lower belly. Take a moment to watch how a sleeping baby breathes. The baby breathes deeply from the low belly. This is known as diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is a muscle used to control breathing. When you become stressed, tension usually builds up around the ribcage which makes it more difficult for the diaphragm to work. As the muscles in between the ribcage tighten it makes it more difficult for the lungs to expand. This decreases the amount of oxygen you are breathing in. The body then tries to compensate by expanding the chest to bring more room into the ribcage for the lungs to expand. This allows the lungs to expand more. However, it is not conducive to proper breathing. The reason is that you start to rely upon “chest breathing”.


The most effective way to breathe is through your low belly. One way to understand proper breathing is to practice the following technique. Place your left hand on your belly just below your navel. Then place your right hand over your left hand. Begin to breathe so that your lower belly expands in a way that lifts your hands. While you breathe in, your hands will be coming out. While you breathe out, your hands will come back in. This is the proper way to breathe. Your chest and shoulders should not rise while you perform this exercise. Only your belly and hands will be moving. During your stretching routines, you should place your attention on this type of breathing. It will help you relax into a stretch as well as calm your thoughts.


Tool #2: Relaxation

Relaxation is the next tool used to manage stress. It is important to remember that a muscle will only stretch when it is relaxed. If you try to force a muscle to lengthen it will cause micro-tears in the muscle tissue. This is counterproductive to stress management. The level of relaxation of a muscle is under your conscious control. Breathing and relaxation are closely tied together. You can use the above breathing technique to relax your body. For example, the exhalation part of a breath is a great time to let all your muscles relax. The important thing to realize is that you can not force a muscle to relax and stretch. Use effective breathing and let your muscles relax in a natural way.


Tool #3: Focus

Most people’s minds have many distractions running through it on a constant basis. In order to maximize your efforts in managing your stress you must focus your mind. Keeping your mind in the present moment helps to eliminate mental distractions. When you go through your daily stretching routines take this time to keep your mind focused on the movements. There is no need to think about your work or laundry or any other activity. When you are breathing in, focus on breathing in. When you are breathing out, keep your mind centered on breathing out. This will help facilitate the stretches to give you the greatest benefit.

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Think about a samurai for a moment. Samurais are masters of using weapons like the sword. However, they have had to practice for long periods of time before they became proficient with it. While doing your stretches, think of your self as a samurai. You are a samurai and your ability to focus is your sword. If you consciously control your mind and center it on your breathing, or relaxation, or the act of stretching, you are sharpening your sword. If you let your mind wander around to whatever it wants to think about you are making your sword dull and getting very little benefit out of the stretching routines. The more you practice the ability to focus, the better you will be at it. And the better you get at focusing, the better you will be at managing and eliminating stress.


Tool #4: Positive Thinking

Remember that your body does not recognize the difference between real and imagined stress. The thoughts that go through your mind dramatically affect your physical body. Your mind and the thoughts that you think can turn the most beautiful day into a terrible nightmare. One of the most effective ways to become aware of how you are thinking is to do a seven day negative thinking fast. For seven days write down every negative thought that passes through your mind. Negative thoughts are statements like “I can’t do this,” “I wish I was better looking (more athletic, skinnier, etc.)”, “I will never have enough…”. These thoughts cause tension and stress in our physical body. Think of it this way; when your mind thinks in a way that makes the body want to escape the situation, it will cause stress. It is fine to have ambitions, goals and dreams. However, negative thinking is counter-productive to your dreams. Negative thinking cuts off your creative energy. So during your seven day negative thinking fast only allow positive thoughts to enter your mind. If a negative thought enters your mind, write it down and eliminate it from your mind. Throughout the seven days you will probably begin to notice that you think in patterns. Patterned thinking means that the same negative thoughts enter into your mind almost every day. Sometimes the same thought even enters your mind at the same time of the day, day after day. Most often this can occur for years without you even knowing it. The problem is that this negative thinking is not helpful and is actually harmful to your physical and emotional health. Taking part in a seven day negative thinking fast helps you become aware of your thinking patterns so that you can begin to control your thoughts and manage your stress effectively.


Tool #5: Stretching

Stretching is the overall vehicle that brings everything together. Stretching is the most effective tool to manage stress. It can be done anywhere and at anytime. Remember that you must make stretching a daily routine in order to see long term benefits in your overall stress levels. While it is true that immediately after a stretching session you will notice significant reductions in your stress levels, the most benefit will be achieved from regular stretching routines.


Tool #6: Triggers

A trigger is a cue that reminds you to do your stretches. If you are at work and you frequently get up to get a drink of water you can set this as a trigger. Before you get up to get a drink of water, go through your complete stretching routine. The thought of getting a drink of water is your trigger. This can be done at home too. For example, if you are watching an hour of television you can consciously set up the commercials to be your stretching triggers. If there are six commercials totaling three minutes, that gives you three minutes to go through your stretches. In an hour you may be able to do 13-15 minutes of stretching without missing your favorite shows. Setting up stretching triggers can be fun and easy. Think of something that you do regularly on a daily basis. These can include; using the restroom, waking up, going to bed, eating a meal, or even finishing a telephone conversation. All of these events can be set up as triggers.

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