How do you relax? Are you among the 80% of Sailors who say they use exercise to relieve stress? Or are you in the minority who choose less positive methods such as smoking and drinking more?
Of the 2500 Sailors who responded to the 2009 Quick Poll, the overwhelming majority choose working out, running, going to the gym, and playing sports as their primary mode of stress reduction. Research shows that exercise can reduce stress-producing chemicals in the body like cortisol and can increase the feeling of well-being. Exercise can also provide a distraction to stress and redirect attention away from worry and anger; provide social support through team activities; and actually improve your overall health. Sailors also frequently reported using other productive techniques to relieve tension such as thinking of a plan to solve a problem, talking with a friend or family member, and participating in a hobby.
In addition, Sailors reported relieving tension by playing video games, which can actually be a positive or a negative. When played to the exclusion of other responsibilities and relationships, video game-playing can become the problem rather than a release from the problem. But in moderation, video games and other media entertainment can provide a much needed escape from everyday worries.
Some Sailors said they relieve stress and tension by spending rejuvenating time alone or by praying and meditating. Quieting your mind, focusing on being in the present, and slowing your breathing can all work to aid in your meditation or prayer time. One way to slow your breathing is to sit comfortably and breathe in to the count of four – hold to the count of four – and breathe out to the count of four. Always balance the volume of your inhalation and exhalation and pause for a count of two at the end of each full breath.
Stress is a natural part of everyday life. It can push us to reach our personal best but too much can hurt us. The next time you are worried, tense or just frustrated, take a few moments to think about how you can relieve tension in a way that will make you feel better – in the long run.