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Stretch Your Stress Away

Army wife Juanita Klemm’s day planner of back-to-back activities reads much like that of a celebrity on tour. Like these dazzling stars, she too makes speeches and appearances all day long. Her audience is just slightly less star-studded.

Her schedule is filled with volunteering in two classrooms at two different schools, assisting with PTA fundraisers, being an FRG Key Caller, meeting with the board of her post’s Spouses’ Club, shuttling both children to dance rehearsals and gymnastics, and volunteering at church.

Did we mention she’s also finishing a business administration degree online?

Check, check and check.

Next on the schedule: headaches on either side of her head, followed by tightness in her neck and shoulders.

“I carry all my tension in my upper body,” Klemm said. “But I know I’ve got limited time each day to finish everything, so I have to keep going.”

The duties of parenting combined with being a student can be taxing and put incredible amounts of stress on our bodies and minds.

When her husband is deployed, Klemm doesn’t start her own schoolwork until her daughters are in bed, meaning she’s busy and sleep deprived the next morning.

There is a way to achieve success, make all the meetings and keep your mind and body running smoothly.

Just breathe. Seriously.

“Breathing correctly is one of the most basic functions that can change everything for a person,” said Jessica Cameron, a yoga instructor.

Cameron said most people go through the entire day breathing in a very shallow manner. In the most stressful situations, we may unknowingly hold our breath.

To see the correct way to breathe, watch an infant. When a baby’s whole belly goes up and down, that, in yoga terms, is belly breathing. It’s exactly the way grown-ups should expand their lungs and diaphragms when they breathe.

Without full breaths, less blood, and oxygen, flows to the organs and extremities, which results in the body working below full capacity. As tension builds in the muscles, toxins can build as well.

Cameron suggests a simple home ritual to work into your daily routine to help get the blood flowing.

First, start your day 15 or 20 minutes earlier than normal. Get out of bed, stand and bend forward at the waist and fold over like a rag doll, holding opposite elbows with opposite hands. Allow your whole body to stretch as you hang there. This brings life back to your limbs after a long night of sleep. She suggests holding the pose for two minutes and no longer than five.

Not only are you increasing your flexibility by doing this daily, but you are making a change in your daily habits, and most importantly, you are doing something for yourself. This simple gift can give you a different outlook on your entire day.

Next, Cameron preaches the importance of posture to help ease aches and tension.

“Standing up or sitting up straight may not feel completely natural to you, but slouching forward puts unnecessary strain on your neck and shoulders,” she said.

When you’re sitting at your desk or even on the couch, writing a paper or studying, Cameron encourages sitting Indian style, with your back relaxed and your chest open to the ceiling.

“Just adjusting your posture changes so much,” she said.

You can also modify this position on the floor for a quick relaxing stretch. Place the soles of your feet together and bend forward at the waist, concentrating on breathing deeply.

No time to stretch at home? Try it in the car during hours of carpool lines and traffic.

During these standstills, we are thinking about where we are going and most likely the million other things we still have left to do that day. Our shoulders and back tighten as we intensely grip the steering wheel.

It’s all about the posture. Cameron suggested pulling the shoulders back and concentrating on breathing to ease the tension.

Stressed while writing that final paper? Cameron has a fix.

While at your desk, place your left hand behind you, reach your right arm toward your left shoulder until you reach either the arm or back of the chair. Hold this pose while you inhale then exhale.

“These aren’t strenuous, and you may not feel like you are doing much, but twists help detoxify your body and are so healthy for your spine,” Cameron said.  

Klemm said stretching is one of her biggest sources of relief when tension and aches get the best of her. She often leans on a tennis ball against a wall and rubs it up and down her back.

Applying some or all of these do-it-yourself methods can ease the pain of having it all on our road to success.


Helpful sites that Cameron likes:

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