In addition to understanding how exercise can help manage stress and the types of exercise to recommend for stress management, it is important to understand common barriers that might affect exercise participation in high-stress clients. Lack of time is the most commonly reported exercise barrier for individuals in general. A lack of motivation, fatigue, poor sleep habits, and poor dietary habits are factors associated with stress that can negatively impact exercise compliance and adherence (4). Common exercise barriers and stress-related health problems should be taken into consideration when developing an exercise prescription for high-stress individuals.
Meditation builds on deep breathing and takes it a step further. When you meditate, your brain enters an area of functioning that’s similar to sleep, but carries some added benefits you can’t achieve as well in any other state, and meditation actually allows you to build greater resilience toward stress over time. Also, the focus on the present moment keeps your mind from working overtime and increasing your stress levels, and from engaging in destructive mental habits such as rumination. Here's an article on different types of meditation to help you get started.
In one study, researchers had a group of participants relax alone in a quiet, low-light environment following an exercise session. They split the group in two — one spent 20 minutes listening to theta-frequency binaural beats while the other listened to a carrier tone and monitored their parasympathetic (rest and relaxation) and sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system activity. Researchers found the group that listened to binaural beats experienced an increase in parasympathetic activity and a decrease in sympathetic activity, along with higher rates of self-reported relaxation.
All brainwave frequencies are useful and beneficial at certain times – there is no brainwave that is intrinsically better than another. However, by deliberately choosing to attain a particular brainwave state, a corresponding mental state can be brought about at the same time. For example, a working person who has been in an overly alert beta brainwave pattern for many hours can quickly shift their mind and body into a relaxed state by listening to a few minutes of brainwave entrainment music for inducing alpha or theta brainwaves.
Brainwave entrainment is a simple concept. It’s simply causing your brainwave frequency to align with some intended frequency in order to produce some intended result. It’s a way of modulating your brainwaves to resonate at a certain frequency. Being that there are certain dominant frequencies associated with different states of consciousness, this is being researched as a quick and effective way to induce states such as sleep, alertness, concentration, and even meditative and deep sleep states.
However, with this integration will come upheavals as the mind is forced to integrate areas of the brain that were previously sequestered. Repressed memories and unpleasant emotions from the past will often rise to the surface of the mind to be processed and healed. This is sometimes referred to as "processing the shadow" within one's mind and emotions.
Group exercise or encouraging stressed clients to find a workout partner is an excellent idea because it can provide a support network and accountability. However, there might be clients who find a group setting intimidating or competitive, which could be counterproductive in managing stress. In addition, those who report stress because of work or family obligations might enjoy the solitude of exercising alone. Using a variety of exercises or nontraditional exercises (e.g., exergaming, dance classes, yard work, or rock climbing) is a way to plan activities that are enjoyable to maximize adherence. Knowing your clients’ exercise barriers and stressors will help with planning an exercise program that can address these variables to maximize the benefits for health and stress management.
Researchers advise that people who suffer from epilepsy or seizures should ask for professional insight first before using binaural beats. Pregnant women are also advised to seek the advice of their physicians. However, I haven’t heard anything about binaural beats impacting those who have had heart attacks negatively. That being said, I encourage you to do extra research.
Participants in the included studies were children and adults, either healthy or with conditions such as learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, migraine, stress, anxiety and myofascial pain. Interventions included single, alternating, ascending or descending frequencies of photic or auditory stimulation or audiovisual entrainment selected either by the participant or by the investigator. Nearly half the studies used single sessions and the rest used multiple sessions ranging from nine to 100. Length of session varied from 0.5 seconds to 60 minutes. Frequency of session varied from twice daily to weekly. Outcomes reported in the review included cognition (including verbal skills, performance skills, attention, memory and overall intelligence/achievement), short- and long-term stress, pain, headache/migraine, mood, behavioural problems and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
The activity of neurons generate electric currents; and the synchronous action of neural ensembles in the cerebral cortex, comprising large numbers of neurons, produce macroscopic oscillations. These phenomena can be monitored and graphically documented by an electroencephalogram (EEG). The electroencephalographic representations of those oscillations are typically denoted by the term 'brainwaves' in common parlance.