We all experience stress in our lives and I for one think that a sprinkle of stress can be a good thing as it adds a little spice to life, keeps us on our toes and can help us to learn new things and develop ourselves in positive ways.
However, as we all know, too much stress and for too long becomes problematic in many different ways - mentally, emotionally and physically. Basically it isn't good for you. I think it's a good idea to head this off at the pass, to do something about it before it becomes a problem but this is sometimes easier said than done. Either way, it’s a good idea to do something about stress, earlier or later. This is where Tai Chi can help.
Tai Chi helps to relieve stress to two different ways that are very helpful - both earlier and later. The first is how it has an immediate effect and the second is in enhancing your ability to deal with and improve your response to stressors over the long-term.
The immediate effect
The immediate effect of Tai Chi on stress is that it gets you out of your head as part of the warm up exercises. To do Tai Chi you've got to focus on different sets of movements. Whilst these movement are simple, you have to concentrate on what you're doing. In a gentle way, this takes you away from you day-to-day business. Both your mind and body love doing soft movements in a relaxed and fluid way, which not only distracts your mind, it also helps to clear it even further.
As a beginner, you will start to feel relief from your daily stresses and strains during and after the classes. Some people experience this at their first class, for others it will start to happen within 2 or 3 classes.
The long term effect
Unfortunately, if you've found yourself stressed for some time, your mind and body will have learned some patterns, which are in part due to long-term agitation of your nervous system and elevated levels of stress hormones.
Tai Chi practise settles the nervous system in positive ways which gets us out of long-term stress patterns. It does this by settling the sympathetic nervous system which is agitated in stress while activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms both body and mind and promotes a recovery state. This helps to improve clarity of thinking, relaxation, strengthens the immune system and improves digestion, for example.
Tai Chi practise also helps to develop new, better ways of responding to the stresses we experience in daily life and to become more resilient.
The long-term effects do take some time to turn around, but they begin at your very first class and build from there.
There are now plenty of studies to show these positive effects of Tai Chi on both mind and body to reduce stress.
I can certainly attest to this through my own experience. I have found that I respond very differently to stresses that I experience in my life. Many things that used to bother me or cause me difficulties, just don't have that effect on me any more.
It's a much nicer place to be.