Become Aware of Stress In Your Body
Stress is something we have all experienced. But we generally haven’t stopped to define stress and understand what is really going on. One of the most common definitions of stress is, “a physical, mental, or emotional response to events that causes bodily or mental tension.” However, one of the most compelling definitions of stress was provided by the late psychologist Richard S Lazarus. He defined stress as “a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” (Richard S Lazarus PhD - University of California, Berkeley).

Quite simply, stress is how the mind perceives a situation and how our body then responds to a difficult challenge, obstacle or demand. Stress happens when we believe we do not have the time, experience, or resources to deal with a situation. The next time you are feeling stressed, take a moment and notice your body. Don’t attempt to fix anything, just become aware. How exactly are you doing the experience of stress? Here are some common physical symptoms of stress:

Signs of Stress:

Muscle tension (especially shoulders, neck, and back)

Jaw clenching


Upset stomach



Increased rate of breathing, shallow breathing

Increased heart rate

Mood changes such as irritability, anxiety, depression, or anger

Feeling rushed

Feeling tense


Generally, when people experience stress, their muscles become tense, and they take short, shallow breaths rather than deep, relaxing ones. Breathing is rapid and from high in the chest. Heart rate increases, stomach muscles may contract, and adrenaline is released. The body readies itself for a “fight or flight” response against the stressor. A high level of tension is created in the body to prepare it for motion. Once the stress is removed and the physical body has taken action in some way, everything reverts back to it’s normal state.

The stress we encounter in everyday life tends to be more incessant, and is less likely to require physical action of fighting or running away to escape a harrowing experience. Problems occur because our tension has no release. This creates a prolonged physical body state that is constantly tense and all revved-up with no where to go.

Stress and Eating
It’s no secret that stress and eating often go hand-in-hand. Comfort foods like cookies, ice cream, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, or fried chicken are easily identified as foods that help during times of stress. Soothing, calorie rich comfort foods actually help alter mood and calm the body down. There’s a downside though. Reaching for food to deal with stress can provide a calming effect, but only for a short time. In the long-term, stress eating can quickly become a habit leading to weight-gain, guilt, or even habitual compulsive, binge, or emotional eating. It makes sense that to break the cycle of stress eating, it is essential to first learn new ways of reducing the effects of stress in your body.

One way to alleviate the need to overeat during times of stress is to take the time to learn how your body responds to stress, and then take positive action to relax those tense physical areas. Here are two easy to amazingly simple, easy to implement strategies that you can use anytime, anywhere, to quickly get your body feeling calm again.

Easy Stress Reducing Strategies

1. Progressive Relaxation

Begin by tensing one hand. Clench it into a fist, feel the tension for a few seconds, then release it and notice the contrasting feeling of relaxation. Repeat the procedure with the same hand, holding the tension just a second or two longer this time.

Now tense the other hand into a fist, hold it and feel it, then relax and feel that. And repeat, holding a little longer.

Next tense one arm so that the biceps is flexed, and relax. Repeat, holding a little longer, and then tense the other arm and repeat.

Tense your forehead. Relax and repeat.

Clench your jaws tight. Relax and repeat.

Shrug and tense your shoulders. Relax and repeat.

Tighten your stomach muscles. Relax and repeat.

Finally tense you toes by curling them downwards. Relax and repeat.

As you go through the sequences, concentrate on your sensations as intensely as you can. Completely let go of all tension the instant you relax a previously tightened muscle group. Become completely limp in one area after another and feel the tension draining away.

2. Neck and Shoulder Looseners
Tension often gets stored in the muscles of your neck and shoulders. By freeing off tightness in this region you will feel more relaxed in general. This set of techniques comes from yoga and can be performed easily while you are at work or sitting at your desk.

Start by rolling both shoulders together in circles. Do eight circles forwards and then eight backwards.

Keeping your shoulders down and level (don't hunch) drop your head sideways towards your right shoulder, hold for a count of twenty, slowly straighten and relax. Repeat on the left. Then do three more complete repetitions on both sides.

Again keeping your shoulders well down and loose, gently turn your head to the right as far as possible, and hold it there for a count of three. Return your head to the straight ahead and repeat the turn to the right four times. Then repeat five times, turning to the left.

Sitting nicely straight, drop your head back and look straight up, feeling the muscles at your throat stretching. Hold in that position for a count of five, then lower your chin onto your chest and hold for five again.

Finish by slowly rolling your head in circles to the right three times, and then to the left three times.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Annette Colby, RD can help you take the pain out of life, turn difficult emotions into joy, release stress, end emotional eating, and move beyond depression into an extraordinary life! Annette is the author of Your Highest Potential and has the unique ability to show you how to spark an amazing relationship with your life! Visit
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