3 Practices for Building Resilience to Stress

Three practices for putting your body into a safely stressful situation, and using your breath to strengthen your resilience.

Lexy Rose, Co-Founder, Partner & Head of Mobility Education
 min read
August 4, 2023
Three practices for putting your body into a safely stressful situation, and using your breath to strengthen your resilience.

Life is stressful, and stress is an inevitable part of life.

Stress is also a leading cause of a number of major health conditions and diseases.

Our daily responsibilities are governed by the demands of our jobs, families, homes, and health. There will always be bills to be paid, calls to be returned, mail to be opened, messages to acknowledge, and to-do lists to complete and reconfigure. 

On top of it all, our culture is one of high speed and productivity, with the expectation that everyone has the ability to deliver at this pace.

If in reading this you feel a slight uptick in your heart and breathing rate, this is your body physicalizing stress, and chances are good that this won’t be the only time today your physiology is shifted into survival mode.

In knowing that our bodies’ are highly responsive to mental and emotional stress, we can anticipate this cycle and train our nervous systems to become more resilient and adept at dealing with stressful stimuli in a safe and controlled situation.

Upswell is your home for not only recovering from the stress of life and exercise, but learning how to endure it.

*Spoiler alert: one of the secrets to enduring stress, be it physical or mental, is to use your breath.

Here are three practices for putting your body into a safely stressful situation, and using your breath to strengthen your resilience.

Cold Plunging

Immersing oneself into cold water is an age-old practice dating as far back as 3500 BC, and has always been accredited with the outcome of good health and longevity. 

A body of research that has grown over the last half century proves short and long-term benefits that cold water immersion provides to the endocrine, metabolic, and cardiovascular systems.

The experience of immersing oneself in water initially stimulates a stress response of fight or flight, but if parasympathetic breathing techniques are applied — box breathing or slower exhalations than inhalations — the cold water bather can control their bodies’ response to the shock of the temperature.

By focusing the mind on slow exhalations, the cold water bather is exposing themselves to physiological stress while using their focus to control their bodies’ response to the experience.

Ball and Foam Rolling

Anyone who has practiced self-myofascial rolling with balls or rollers can attest to the fact that it elicits a response of physical resistance to discomfort, and mental aversion to the intensity of this sensation.

One of the reasons that this practice can be painful is because of the protective mechanisms located within muscles, causing a contraction against the pressure of a self-massage device, especially when the muscles are particularly tight. Some typical stress responses to foam and ball rolling include perspiration, holding one’s breath, and an increase in heart rate.

While maintaining pressure on painful trigger points and focusing the mind on the task of slowing the breath, not only does the sustained compression cause the eventual relaxation of the muscle, it is also a mental exercise in calmly observing pain without stressfully reacting to it.

Challenging Mindful Movement

What most people don’t realize about exercise is that the body interprets it as stress. This is a necessary component of exercise — overloading the cardiovascular or musculoskeletal system with stress causes the adaptive response of enhanced efficiency and strength.

When going on a difficult run, holding heavy weights, or stabilizing a hard yoga pose, the narrative of the human mind is initially avoidant to difficulty. The body responds correspondingly, trying to find the easiest way of completing the task at hand with the least amount of effort possible, even if it means that the outcome is less beneficial to the exerciser.

If the exerciser mindfully succumbs to the challenge of the exercise at hand and breathes into the workload, this increases the bodies’ tolerance to healthy discomfort. While the heart and breathing rate might increase with the movement, the mind can be retrained to remain calm and grounded while under stress.

Stress is unavoidable in exercise and life, and what is in our control is how we respond to it. By practicing breathwork that down-regulates our nervous system while in the face of stress, we mentally and physically become more resilient to the challenge.

The Upswell cold plunge and classes are the perfect environment for practicing breathwork, and building physical and mental resilience to stress.

For more information about our cold PLUNGE, REVIVE recovery equipment, restorative class programming, and anything else related to building resilience to stress in order to live your most vibrant life, visit our website here or email us at hello@upswell.com.

Lexy Rose is a Colorado native who began teaching exercise and personal training in 2008.