Do You Know the Difference Between “Good” and “Bad” Stress? Here’s Why It’s Important

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You know what stress feels like: That tight-shouldered, mind-racing sensation that often follows a marathon work session, unexpected argument, or even a too-intense workout. But did you know that there's such a thing as good stress—and that there's a breathing exercise to help you manage both?

Lissa Bankston, director of human performance at Theragun and personal trainer to celeb clients like Nina Dobrev, enlightened us at our latest Wellness Collective event—and it was a full-body experience.

"Our body and brain are responding to stimuli throughout our day—including intense workouts," says Bankston. "The accumulation of this stimuli will add up to good or bad stress for your body. If you have less build up of bad stimuli, you will have less holding you back from wanting to go do that workout after work. Your energy will be better managed and it will create a ripple effect in your life."

Bankston counts positive obstacles, like a fun and challenging new job, in the good stress column—and you can likely guess what goes in the bad stress one (attendees shouted out their own ideas at the event, including hectic subway rides and that feeling when you can't "turn off" from work mode).

"Your ability to understand your body at any given moment will also be your ability to manage stress," explains Bankston. On that powerful note, follow her five tips below to stay balanced, whether it's good or bad stress throwing you for a loop.

To counteract stress, try a breathing exercise or grounding practice below.

1. Diaphragmatic breathing exercise

Sit cross-legged on the ground, lay your hands palm up in your lap, and roll your shoulders back. Place your right hand over your heart and your left hand on your belly. Normally, when we breathe we inhale through our mouth, expanding our chest—but for this exercise, you should inhale through your nose from your belly, feeling your stomach expand.

Inhale for six seconds, hold for four, and exhale quickly through your mouth. Repeat the process as many times as you feel necessary to reconnect with yourself. This type of breathing helps to spark energy and re-oxygenate your body, so it's a great exercise for the morning.

2. Relaxation breathing exercise

Situate yourself in the same seated position as above. Inhale for six seconds, expanding your stomach, hold for four seconds, and exhale for 10. This type of breathing requires more focus and intention, so it's ideal to calm yourself if you're feeling stressed or to utilize before bed.

3. Posture-training exercise

Stand against a wall with your heels touching the wall, feet shoulder-width apart. Roll your shoulders up and back against the wall with your palms face-forward. This position helps your body align properly, allowing you to release tension. Hold while you feel stress melt away.

4. Full-body exercise

Lie on your back, palms up, with your feet about shoulder width apart and your heels in line with your hips. Roll your shoulders back, pull your abs in, and drive down on your heels to push your hips up in the air until your hips and shoulders are in a straight line.

While you hold this position, inhale for six seconds and hold your breath for four. Bring your hips down and exhale, helping to breathe out tension and stress from your body.

5. Back exercise

To ease back pain, kneel on one knee and pull your other knee up in front of you. Squeeze your back butt cheek, and place the arm opposite your front knee across your body, palm out and resting against your front knee. Place your other arm back behind you, turning your head to look behind your body and stretching your back. Hold this position for a few seconds, and switch to the other side, repeating to stretch out your lower back and let go of stress.

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