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Four Ways to Relieve Stress

Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - May 21, 2019

What were you doing the last time you felt calm, comfortable in your body, free of stress, and positive about life? Were you walking in the woods? Playing golf? Skiing? Spending time with a particular person or a particular group of people? Stacy Barrows is a Los Angeles-based physical therapist and Feldenkrais® Pilates instructor who wants you to start paying attention to those pleasant experiences, so you can develop more of them. 
“I see a lot of people with very complex pain problems, and I think what’s compounding it is the speed of information coming in. We’re very overstimulated right now and it’s causing stress,” Barrows says. “I want people to continue to do what makes them feel good so when they move, they enjoy the experience. When people are in that positive state it allows them to flow through the overstimulation and stress that is so common in our culture today,” she adds. 
Here are four things that Barrows recommends doing to relieve stress and calm your mind so you can enjoy more pleasant experiences. 
Deep breathing is an excellent way to lower stress in the body. When you breathe deeply, and with little effort, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. “I don’t tell people how to do the right kind of breathing,” Barrows says. “I help my clients observe how to regulate their breathing through a refined awareness so that it can be a guiding force for how to be in a place of calm,” she adds.  
Walking is one of the best exercises you can do. It strengthens the heart, boosts immune function, eases joint pain, and burns calories in addition to boosting energy and improving mood. “If you can walk comfortably, it’s the ideal form of movement to help decrease stress,” says Barrows. But the main point is to move your body. If another form of exercise is more enjoyable for you – do that. 
Explore nature 
“The benefits of nature can be accessed so simply,” says Barrows. There are so many amazing benefits that spending time outdoors has actually become a form of therapy, known as green therapy or nature therapy, prompting healthcare providers to give their patients “nature prescriptions” because of the regenerative powers of the outdoors, including improving mood, and easing anxiety, stress and depression. 
Listen to your body 
If a practitioner provides guidance about what they think is right for your body, take into consideration what you know about yourself. Listen to yourself and follow your intuition. “One of the worst things a practitioner can do is reduce your confidence in what your body is telling you,” Barrows says. “If a client has a gut reaction to something I’ll ask, ‘What do you think that means?’ This is one way I’m helping my client build intuition and a sense of self-care.”  


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Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer

Amy is a Minneapolis runner, cyclist and yoga enthusiast who enjoys writing about health and wellness, physical therapy and fitness topics.

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