Stress can age you and it can even kill you. Ongoing stress leads to increased cortisol and inflammation in the body that triggers a whole cascade of damaging effects.
Lower your stress now. Your life depends on it.
Our top ten stress busters:
1: A quick and simple method is to close your eyes and breathe deeply and slowly for two minutes.
It’s easy but it can do amazing things to your stress levels right here in the moment. Don’t underestimate the benefits of doing this a couple times a day.
According to NPR.org deep breathing can:
• Alter the PH of the blood
• Drop blood pressure
• Train your body to react better in future stressful situations
Herbert Benson in the famous book on meditation and deep breathing, “Relaxation Response” claimed:
…research shows that breathing can even change the expression of genes. He says that by using your breath, you can alter the basic activity of your cells with your mind.
“It does away with the whole mind-body separation,” Benson says. “Here you can use the mind to change the body, and the genes we’re changing were the very genes acting in an opposite fashion when people are under stress.”
Norman Cousins wrote a whole book “Anatomy of an Illness” on how he cured his illness by laughter. Sick and in the hospital, Mr. Cousins told everyone to bring him books and videos that would make him laugh. He belly laughed his way to good health.
Recently the University of Maryland had participants watch the drama movie “Saving Private Ryan” or the comedy “Kingpin”. After 15 minutes of the intense war scenes of “Saving Private Ryan” blood flood was restricted in most of the participants whereas most who saw the comedy had greatly increased blood flow much like what you would see after doing aerobic exercise.
Hate the treadmill? Go watch a funny movie.
What do I do to lighten up the day? Listen to funny podcasts or Youtube videos.
3: Exercise and yoga
Get moving now! Many studies have shown the physical and mental benefits of stress.
According to Harvard Medical School:
The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the “runner’s high” and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts — or, at least, the hot shower after your exercise is over.
Behavioral factors also contribute to the emotional benefits of exercise. As your waistline shrinks and your strength and stamina increase, your self-image will improve. You’ll earn a sense of mastery and control, of pride and self-confidence. Your renewed vigor and energy will help you succeed in many tasks, and the discipline of regular exercise will help you achieve other important lifestyle goals.
The LA Times describes the benefits of yoga:
Yoga “gives some sense of sanity,” says Sat Bir Khalsa, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “You’re no longer washed away by the avalanche of your emotions. You are more in control.”
Yoga practice can also lower heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure, and may make people less sensitive to pain.
4: Take a bath
In our busy lives it’s a real good thing to give yourself the permission and the time to do absolutely nothing. Pour some hot water, light some candles, sit and relax. Adding some lavender is great for reducing anxiety. You could also add Epsom Salts which also help the body detox.
Similar to #1 except with and added emphasis on quieting the mind from its constant chatter and negative thoughts.
Unlike a lot of alternative therapies, meditation has been researched quite extensively and without a doubt it helps to calm the mind and relax the body. However the benefits go beyond relaxation. It has been shown to help with anxiety, high blood pressure, sleep issues, headaches, and it also helps you maintain a relaxed state in future situations that would normally set off your stress alarm bells.
Many see meditation as some mysterious, mystical practice from the East based on some esoteric rituals. Let me help you. Meditation is simply relaxing in a chair, deep breathing and calming the mind. That’s all folks.
Step 1: Get relaxed and comfortable. Wear comfy clothes and sit in a comfortable chair or couch.
Step 2: Start taking deep breaths that you can feel all the way down into your belly. Hold the breath for a couple of seconds and then exhale. When you finish the exhale hold for a second or two. Repeat the process.
Step 3: Quiet the mind. This is the most challenging aspect of mediation with all of its chatter and negative thoughts. Trying to not think is not easy since the mind wants to keep busy. What you want to do is to give the mind a mundane task to focus on.
- One method is to put all of your focus on your breathing.
- Another method is to slowly count from 1 to a 100 and back to 1.
- You can also chant an affirmation or phrase over and over.
6: Take a day off
Pick a day, any day. Saturday or Sunday tends to work best for most people. On that day do not do any work or anything that feels like work. No email, no errands, no working on the yard. The only thing allowed on your day off is pleasure, fun, joy, laughter.
Listen to music, see a movie, have, sex, take a bike ride, hang out with friends….
The key is to take a full day off. Nothing recharges the batteries than a full day off but if you do some errands or other work during parts of the day then you bring back all the work stress and anxiety and that slows your recovery. Relaxation builds and gains momentum over time. Having a full day of play is many times more effective than 2-3 hours of play.
Hey, I know you are busy with family, work obligations, fix it stuff around the house, etc., however you will find that you are much more productive on the other six days of the week because you took the time to recharge and flush the stress out of your system. I find my productivity goes way up with my day off and paradoxically I get much more done in less time.
7: Get out of stressful situations
If something stresses you out then get out of the situation if you can. If you hate your job then get a new one. If your car keeps breaking down then get a new one. Yes I realize that there may be reasons you can’t switch jobs or get a car but if you have the means then do it.
Your health is too important. Get out of toxic situations.
8: Stop eating and drinking stimulants
There is mental stress and there is physical stress. Food can stress the body. Don’t believe me then go drink five cups of coffee before you go to bed and see how relaxed you are.
Stay clear of sugar and caffeine.
9: Get a massage
Nothing like a good massage to relax the body and help the circulation. Studies have shown the healing power of touch. Humans are social beings wired to touch, hug, caress, hold hands and kiss. Go out and give a bunch of hugs.
10: Get professional help
Some issues can’t be tackled alone and may need to be worked out with a trained professional. Any big unresolved trauma like a divorce, PTSD from war or childhood abuse will likely need help from some form of therapy.
The idea of sitting on a couch and talking about my problems week after week with some expensive therapist sounds like torture to me. Good news! A new type of therapy called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is growing in popularity because it is quick and effective. Many issues can be resolved in one or two sessions.
EFT works on the same energy meridians used in acupuncture and acupressure. Instead of using needles on the meridians, you simply tap with your fingers as you verbalize your issue.
When you first see this in action, frankly, it will look goofy and simplistic but don’t let that stop you from its many benefits. Thousands of therapists, MD’s, and regular people are using this amazing new tool.
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