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A Therapeutic Approach to Stress

January 9, 2016

Modern-world pressures often cause stress in our daily lives, creating the busy and rushed lifestyle many Americans experience. By setting aside a small portion of the day, anyone can find an activity to enjoy and temporarily relief from their daily struggles.


Horseback Riding

Local organizations such as Good Hope Equestrian Training Center and Whispering Manes Therapeutic Riding Center offer horseback-riding lessons for people with disabilities. The interaction between human and horse, under the supervision of an assistant, helps improve the overall well-being of a person and has been shown to improve mood. The rider focuses on navigating and developing a relationship with the horse as the two learn to trust each other. Although this technique helps those with physical and mental disabilities, riding offers the same benefits for those who simply want to relax and appreciate nature. South Florida offers a variety of riding centers where people can appreciate the warm weather and the gentle relationship between rider and horse.

“A major aspect of riding is purely psychological; one has to be able to sense small changes in behavior and adapt instantly,” sophomore Anna Marchus said. “Whenever I’m on a horse, I need to forget any of my problems out of the saddle [or] the horse will sense my negativity.”



Stressed teens and adults alike can reduce stress using art therapy, a technique that forces the subject to focus on what they most worried about as toddlers: coloring inside the lines. Among the large selection of different types of art therapy, the most common form today can be found in stores nationwide in coloring books, such as Outside the Lines, a coloring book that uses artwork from different artists featuring intricate designs. Teens and adults focus on their creativity, their inner self and integrating colors. The Zentangle Method also helps those interested in this kind of therapy to relax, be mindful and ease out of stress. It takes a pen or pencil, a piece of paper and an individual’s creativity to draw free-form images and designs without the temptation to erase and perfect. One may decide to color in the final result for more relaxing benefits.

“[Art] helps me unwind from any negativity or stress that’s going on,” senior Gaby Fernandez-pla said. “There’s a calming effect that comes with it, along with a sense of focus.”



Amid the stress that accompanies busy schedules, exercise often seems like a time-consuming burden essential to staying fit, but it offers a second benefit: to improve overall wellbeing. The body releases toxins and the chemicals endorphins, serotonin and dopamine while exercising, which makes a person happier, healthier and less stressed. Exercise therapy should be consistent in order to ensure its benefits.

“It takes my mind off of things and it helps me focus on something that’s not stressful,” senior Alice Cardet said. “It’s also healthy. You feel a lot better physically and emotionally.”



Talking in class about the latest gossip may not please teachers and classmates, but interacting with others can help reduce tension. Meeting new people and socially engaging with others provides a verbal way to de-stress. Eye contact, listening and the ability to focus on another’s words during conversation helps to physically relax the body. A research study conducted by Life Extensions, which analyzes factors of mortality, revealed that people who were more socially engaged than others among 300,000 participants had a 50 percent better chance to live a longer life. The relationships people form create a sense of comfort and increase confidence.

“It helps you recognize your problem with someone else as an outlet, and it can help you find an answer to your problem,” sophomore Sebastian Stanham said.



Ever wonder why the candle aisle creates a sense of calm? Aromatherapy uses the sense of smell to send signals to the brain and heal the body. The practice does not always require scented candles; natural oils extracted from plants can affect the body through smell or physical contact if used as a skin applicant. The body absorbs the oils into the bloodstream and naturally heals physical and emotional distress. Some common stress relief scents include lavender, chamomile, citrus and vanilla.

Incense, the burning of herbal products to release its scent, serves as a tool for modern-day meditators and those who wish to relieve stress. This ancient method originally used by priests and spiritual groups to ward off spirits helps increase focus, creativity and energy while relieving headaches, tension and depression.

“I think that the smell of a familiar, pleasing incense helps to bring me into the present moment,” senior Julia Izquierdo said. “It’s just a subtle way of taking my mind off something…just being surrounded by that smell makes me aware of my surroundings and what’s happening right now.”


Pet care

Despite the chores that accompany caring for a pet, the benefits exceed the labor. Every pet needs care and attention, which provides a source of responsibility for owners, ultimately causing mutual affection. Having a loyal companion, be it a dog, cat or chameleon, provides company and helps release the serotonin and dopamine known to calm mind and body.

Sophomore Georman Valdes owns two dogs, a cat, a rabbit and three birds.

“They’re absolutely adorable and they make me feel better about myself,” Valdes said. “It helps me relax and it teaches responsibility.”

Pet therapy used in hospital settings helps uplift patients with trained and certified animals. Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses, a non-profit organization dependent on volunteers, visits patients in hospitals and schools with small ponies that have the charms of a stuffed animal. Gentle Carousel aided the Sandy Hook Elementary School survivors and visits schools for their Reading Is Magic literacy program in northern Florida and other national sites.

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