Chronic stress takes a huge toll on our lives. In fact, stress-related disorders make up 80 to 90 percent of the diseases from which people suffer.
To manage stress effectively, we need to keep our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems in balance. Our parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “rest and digest” functions of the body while the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “fight or flight” functions. Balance between these two polar states will keep us alert while not letting stress get out of hand.
This balance can be achieved with simple mind-body exercises such as this Body & Brain Yoga Head Stimulation exercise.
- Place your fingertips on your head with your fingers apart. Beginning at the forehead, comb your fingertips backward over your scalp. Repeat 36 times.
- Smile and tap your head with your fingertips for one minute, moving all around your scalp.
- Then laugh as you tap for another minute, releasing all of your tension.
(You can skip this step if you are not in a place where you can laugh out loud.)
- Take three deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
When you’ve finished this exercise you will feel happier and have less tension; smiling and laughing are proven stress management methods. They reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and increase “feel good” hormones such as endorphins.
Whether or not you have a reason to smile or laugh, doing so will send signals to your brain that you are happy and your brain will automatically create this state. So for effective stress management, smile and laugh often and life will suddenly have a silver lining.
Stimulating your scalp with your fingertips is also effective for stress management because it releases any tension around your head to promote relaxation and clear thinking. Focusing on the head is particularly helpful because there tends to be more tension around the head, especially with the sedentary, computer and TV-driven lifestyle most people lead. There are also many acupressure points in the head, so stimulating the scalp can relieve the tension in your whole body.
The combined effect on your hormones of smiling/laughing and scalp stimulation balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system for effective stress management. You can find more exercises for balancing these two crucial systems in Ilchi Lee’s book Meridian Exercises for Self-Healing.