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Deal with stress by taking time to relax your body

By Joseph Pond

It's natural to feel stressed. I think a big reason why this occurs is that we are prone to over-react. This made sense when tigers were prowling around to eat us but is not so useful in the modern setting. Conversely, our inbuilt relaxation mechanisms respond slowly. That is, it takes time for the liver to break down stress hormones. As long as adrenaline continues to circulate through the bloodstream, feeding the organs and muscles, we are apt to feel the effects of a stressful incident for some time after it's over.

This also makes biological sense. Even after that prowling tiger was chased away, it was probably a good idea for our jungle-dwelling ancestors to be on guard for a while afterwards. Once again, however, this evolutionary benefit is often at odds with our modern lifestyles. It doesn't serve much purpose for an insomniac to lie in bed and nurse a grievance that had occurred hours earlier. Additionally, already being a bit stressed out makes you more likely to 'blow your lid' at the slightest provocation.

So, I'll let you in on a secret that I've only verbalised to myself during the last year or so; although stress occurs unconsciously (that is, it happens whether you want it to or not), relaxation is best achieved consciously. This means that unless you are devoting 10 minutes or so to consciously relaxing your physical body, the stresses of today will probably still be there tomorrow at breakfast. This is a big reason why people say, "I sleep alright, but I still wake up tired".

Just 10 minutes a day of paying attention to your physical body is transformative. Mindfulness instructors tend to emphasis the breath, but it's often of greater benefit to be mindful of, say, a tension in the stomach or a depression in the chest. For many of us, you may not ever know it's there until you tune inwards and start to listen.

Incidentally, I've found that overweight people spend a lot of time ignoring their bodies. Consequently, developing a better relationship with your physical self is one of the first steps to achieving your ideal body weight.

Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and conducts workshops in hypnosis with PowerTrance. Reach him at or at Hypnosis/ ?ref=hl/?ref=hl

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