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Managing Stress and Anxiety During Recovery

Published Date: 
March 19, 2024
A women doing yoga trying to relieve stress.

Navigating recovery can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. Managing stress and anxiety during recovery is essential for a complete recovery.

Unveiling Mindfulness and Relaxation Tools for a Calmer Recovery

Recovery, whether it's from a physical injury, disease, illness, or emotional trauma, is a challenging experience. Any stress or anxiety that develops during recovery can be a setback for your healing. Managing your emotional health during recovery makes healing easier and a more positive experience.

Understanding the Stress and Anxiety Response

Recognizing the symptoms of increased stress levels and anxiety makes these experiences easier to manage. Symptoms include:

Physical Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety

The physical symptoms of stress and anxiety include:

  • Muscle tension and pain, especially in the back, neck, shoulders, and pelvis
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system
  • Skin problems
  • Hair loss
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Respiratory problems

Emotional Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety

The emotional symptoms of acute stress and anxiety include: 

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anger or irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of isolation
  • Decreased motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Sense of helplessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Cognitive distortions
  • Social withdrawal
  • Increased sensitivity
  • Feelings of guilt or shame

Common Triggers and Healing

Some of the most common triggers of stress and anxiety include:

  • Work-related stress
  • Financial concerns
  • Relationship issues
  • Health concerns
  • Life transitions
  • Traumatic events
  • Environmental factors
  • Social pressure
  • Daily hassles
  • Technology and information overload

These triggers can impact healing by exacerbating existing health conditions, interfering with the body's ability to recover from illness or injury, and increasing the risk of developing chronic health problems. Stress also impacts your diet, sleep, desire to exercise, and self-care in general. People under chronic stress are at a higher risk of abusing substances, overeating, avoiding treatment, and more. Learning to cope with common stress triggers can enhance your body's ability to heal.

How the Mind-Body Connection Plays a Role in Managing Stress

The mind-body connection refers to the intricate relationship between mental and emotional processes and physical health. Managing stress involves recognizing and addressing this connection, as stress can have profound effects on both the mind and the body.

Mind-Body Interventions

Various mind-body interventions are effective in reducing stress and promoting overall well-being. If you're looking for holistic stress management tools, consider the following:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Biofeedback

These practices help you regulate your emotions, calm your mind, and reduce the physiological effects of stress on your body.

Mindfulness Practices for Inner Peace

Mindfulness involves paying deliberate attention to the present moment without judging it. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment with openness and acceptance.

Mindfulness promotes:

  • Increased emotional awareness
  • Non-reactivity
  • Emotional regulation
  • Acceptance
  • Reduced rumination
  • Enhanced emotional resilience

Guided Meditations

Guided meditation is a form of meditation where an individual is led through a structured meditation session by a trained instructor, either in person or through recorded audio or video. Guided meditations include prompts and suggestions to help you relax, focus, and cultivate mindfulness.

How do guided meditations help with anxiety disorders and stress?

Body Scan Techniques

The following body scan meditation helps with managing anxiety disorders and stress:

  • Find a comfortable and quiet place to sit or lie down.
  • Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to relax.
  • Focus your attention on different parts of your body.
  • As you focus on each body part, notice any sensations you experience, such as tension, warmth, or tingling.
  • As you become aware of any areas of discomfort or pain, gently acknowledge them without judgment and bring your attention back to your breath.
  • Continue scanning your body from head to toe, allowing yourself to relax and release tension with each breath.
  • Practice this body scan meditation for 10-15 minutes or longer if desired, allowing yourself to fully immerse in the experience of being present in your body.

Mindfulness Exercises for Everyday Life During Recovery

Mindful walking is another way to use mindfulness during recovery. Tips for mindful walking include:

  • Find a quiet and safe place to walk, such as a park, garden, or even a hallway in your home.
  • Begin by standing still and bringing your attention to your breath. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself.
  • Start walking at a slow and deliberate pace, paying close attention to each step you take.
  • Notice the sensations of your feet making contact with the ground, the movement of your muscles, and the rhythm of your breath as you walk.
  • Stay present in the moment, letting go of any distractions or worries. If your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to the physical sensations of walking.
  • As you continue walking mindfully, allow yourself to fully experience the sights, sounds, and sensations around you without judgment.
  • Practice mindful walking for 10-15 minutes or longer if you're able, savoring the opportunity to connect with your body and surroundings mindfully.

Relaxation Techniques for Calming the Body

You can use several relaxation techniques when you need to calm your body. For example:

Deep Breathing

Different breathing exercises can help with stress relief by activating the body's relaxation response, promoting mindfulness, and reducing physiological arousal. Here's how various breathing techniques can aid in stress reduction:

  • Deep Breathing (Diaphragmatic Breathing): Deep breathing involves inhaling deeply through the nose, allowing the breath to expand the abdomen, and exhaling fully through the mouth.
  • Equal Breathing (Sama Vritti): In equal breathing, also known as square breathing or box breathing, the inhale, exhale, and pauses between breaths are of equal duration.
  • 4-7-8 Breathing (Relaxing Breath): The 4-7-8 breathing technique involves inhaling through the nose for a count of 4, holding the breath for a count of 7, and exhaling slowly through the mouth for a count of 8.
  • Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana): Nadi Shodhana is a yogic breathing technique that involves alternating nostrils during inhalation and exhalation.
  • Belly Breathing (Abdominal Breathing): Belly breathing, also known as abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, involves breathing deeply into the belly rather than the chest.
  • Counted Breathing: Counted breathing involves inhaling for a specific count, holding the breath for a brief pause, and exhaling for the same count.
  • Guided Visualization with Breathing: Guided visualization combines deep breathing with mental imagery to promote relaxation and stress relief. During guided visualization, individuals are guided through a scripted meditation that encourages them to imagine peaceful and calming scenes while synchronizing their breath with the visualization.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a relaxation technique. During the exercise, you alternate between tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body. Typically guided by an instructor or through audio recordings, PMR sessions start with focusing on deep breathing to induce a state of calmness.

Throughout the process, you'll tense individual muscle groups for a few seconds before releasing the tension and allowing the muscles to relax completely. 

Visualization Exercises

Visualization exercises, also known as guided imagery or mental imagery, involve mentally picturing specific scenes, experiences, or sensations to promote relaxation and reduce stress. During visualization, you'll create mental images that evoke feelings of calmness, safety, and well-being. These exercises can be guided by a facilitator or practiced independently using audio recordings or written scripts.

Visualization exercises help with stress by engaging the imagination and activating the body's relaxation response. By focusing on positive and peaceful mental images, individuals can shift their attention away from stressors and intrusive thoughts, promoting a sense of calmness and mental clarity.

Gentle Stretching and Yoga Poses

Stretching and yoga reduce anxiety and stress. Stretching releases tension stored in muscles and promotes relaxation and physical comfort. Yoga combines stretching with mindful breathing and meditation. It calms the nervous system and supports mental clarity.

Benefits include:

  • Increased blood flow
  • Improved oxygen circulation
  • Reduced stress hormone levels

Regular practice of stretching and yoga reduces overall physiological arousal, leading to decreased anxiety levels and improved well-being.

Additional Strategies for Managing Stress and Anxiety

In addition to the tips listed above, the following can help you manage stress and anxiety:

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle with balanced sleep, nutrition, and physical activity.
  • Connect with loved ones and seek social support.
  • Engage in enjoyable activities and practicing self-compassion.
  • Incorporate acupuncture, massage, and other therapies into your routine.
  • Utilize professional help from therapists or counselors when needed.

Overall Benefits of Mindfulness and Relaxation Practices

The overall benefits of these practices include:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety levels, promoting better sleep and overall well-being.
  • Improved emotional regulation and ability to cope with challenging situations.
  • Increased self-awareness and understanding of emotional triggers.
  • Enhanced connection to the present moment and appreciation for small joys.

Dr. Darren Faherty D.C.

In 2004, Dr. Darren Faherty graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology from UWEC - University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Dr. Darren continued education at the highly esteemed University of Western States (formerly Western States Chiropractic College) where he obtained his chiropractic degree in 2007. He has been helping people recover from injuries and return to their normal lifestyles ever since.

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