Negative emotions basically equate to stress – when any one individual feels a negative emotion about a person, place or situation, they are experiencing stress to some degree or other. While a certain amount of stress (eustress) is necessary for continued development, too much stress (distress) is perceived as negative in the emotional/mental/physical body. Therefore, the solution to emotional stress lays in stress reduction techniques.
5 Stress Reduction Techniques
Massage therapy has been shown to reduce stress and pain as well as improve mood and the emotional state. Massage can also bring our attention to places in our musculature where we are holding emotional stress, and to become aware of our physical patterns. In fact, massage therapists receive training in how to handle a client who “loses it” during a massage and has an emotional outburst! This is because massage can disrupt and breakdown the physical tension and armoring that goes on when we allow our physical bodies to hold on to our emotions over long periods of time. When this happens there is often an emotional release that can sometimes result in tears.
There are many different massage therapy techniques that address physical restriction that are the result of emotional holding. Almost every massage modality recognizes that there is an emotional and mental aspect of the bodywork.
Meditation has been shown to greatly reduce emotional stress while decreasing physical symptoms of pain and insomnia and increase immune function. Even more impressive is the fact that meditation on feelings of gratitude and love have been shown to be even more effective. One study showed that when individuals meditated on feelings of love and compassion, EKG readings show greater consistency in their heart rates – proof that the body does in fact respond to thought. Meditation done for even three to five minutes a day has been shown to bring on significant improvements in memory, sleep and mood.
Meditation does not need to mean sitting in the full lotus position while chanting OM; it is a practice of focusing the mind on one thought while letting others go. This can be done while walking or sitting comfortably in a chair, or while lying in a comfortable spot listening to music. The practice is simply to control your thoughts and not allow them to control you. Bring your attention to one thought – the feeling of love, the concept and feeling of gratitude, a flame, the feeling of joy. Experience the thought for as long as you have chosen to do so.
Exercise has been shown to release muscle tension, breaking up the armoring patterns before they can become fully entrenched in the body. Exercise also allows the mind to stop focusing on the problem and instead to focus on the activity at hand. It is effective because it simply wears out the muscles and leaves the person too exhausted to remain in a state of emotional upset and physical contraction.
Yoga has been proven as a highly effective stress reducer, but any physical exercise will work. Dance, weight lifting or running all act to move and stretch muscle, which forces it to release a “holding” pattern. Team sports or group activities also give the added benefit of social interaction and relationship building, which offers even more protection against the process of emotional armoring.
Bringing our attention back to a positive statement helps many in changing their mood, enacting a change in the mind/emotion/physical chain of the mind-body connection. The use of a mantra acts as mental disruption to our negative thought pattern, which may act to disrupt the negative emotions that correspond with those negative thoughts and replaces both with positive thoughts and feelings.
Social support goes a long way to successfully manage emotional stress. Talking to others about problems is helpful, but simply having strong relationships with people who are available to support us can combat the effects of stress and give us emotional balance. The biggest key to battling depression in the elderly has proven to be a strong network of social support.
Dealing with physical manifestation of emotional upset can be difficult and sometimes an individual cannot do it alone. If someone is waking up in the middle of the night, having anxiety attacks, weight loss or loss of appetite, has withdrawn or is having thoughts of suicide, it is time to seek outside professional help and refer that person to a physician.
While holding our emotions in our physical bodies is a common occurrence, we do not need to let this process get the better of us. It is possible, through a variety of stress reduction techniques, to intervene in the process of emotional armoring of our physical bodies and return the body to a healthy state.