Stretching to Reduce Stress
Professionals in the fitness and health industries have noticed the correlation between stretching and relieving stress. Chronic pain arises in these places where tension is held, such as in the shoulders, lower back, neck and head. Stretching, interrupts that defensive response and provides relief to the tense body.
Stress can restrict blood flow, according to MD-health.com, leading to “knots in the muscles in the shoulders and neck.” Stretching, according to the Mayo Clinic, increases blood flow to the muscle and aids circulation. Improving circulation allows muscles to relax, leading to greater heart health and cardiovascular function. Stretching also promotes circulation of new blood to the brain, which can result in mood elevation, allowing any stress to roll off your body and mind, according to wellness expert Peggy Hall.
When bodies are tight, people are more susceptible to pain and injury. Muscles tense up, and people don’t move as freely, or might not want to move at all.
Restriction of movement or painful movement can bring on stress simply because it’s harder to get around. It can cause you to miss work or social engagements, adding to stress and decreasing quality of life. Taking time to loosen the muscles, especially those in areas that notoriously collect tightness (such as the lower back, hips and neck) will make you feel more mobile, and your overall quality of life will see improvement. Over time, stretching will ease “fatigue, impatience, lack of sleep, and disability while improving function and assist in eliminating the need for medications used for treatment.”
When holding a stretch, people tend to allow the breath to stretch out as well. Harvard researchers discuss the benefits of deep breathing to soothe the body and release stress. While deep breathing might seem unnatural, they say, it promotes full oxygen exchange, which can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure, inducing a more relaxed state of being.