In our continually changing environment, our bodies and minds are suffering from wear and tear. We call it STRESS. Sometimes it’s family problems, money problems, or problems at work. However, we all have to deal with it from day to day. Having stress in your life is not the issue these days, how you cope with it is more important. Living a healthy lifestyle is one way to reduce the stress levels. When you’re living healthy, you just automatically cope with stress better. Developing ways to deal with your stress makes you more resilient, more energetic, with concentration that is more effective.
The first step to determining how you handle stress is knowing what causes it. Many find keeping a stress journal very helpful for understanding not only the causes, but also for giving you insight as to how you react. Use it to record each event in your life, how you’re feeling, exactly what causes you to feel stressed and out of control, or in other words, the patterns of stress in your life.
Once you’ve determined the cause or causes of stress in your life, you can then go about finding ways to de-stress, or decompress, bringing harmony back into your life.
1) Relaxation techniques, such as music are very effective in calming your harried mind. Music helps by calming you down, giving your mind a chance to relax if only for a few minutes. Find a quiet place, where you can be alone, pop in a CD of soft sounds, such as ocean waves or falling rain. Experiment until you determine which sound makes you feel relaxed and calm. Turn on the CD, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Focus on the sound, push everything else from your mind. Let your muscles relax, one at a time. Let yourself just get lost in the sound.
2) Breathing techniques are very helpful and can be used almost anywhere, even at work. Once again, find a quiet place to sit down. Close your eyes and take a deep breath, then let it out. Take the next breath slowly, counting to five, hold that breath to the count of four, then release it very slowly. This works particularly well if you feel a bit panicky. When in panic mode, the body tends to breathe very fast and shallow, intensifying the feeling of fight-or-flight. Doing this breathing technique for fifteen or twenty minutes will be very calming.
3) Sleep is so important, especially during extremely stressful times, but stress often makes getting to sleep very difficult. The thoughts keep swirling around in your mind, keeping you awake. Let your body get used to a routine by keeping the same bedtime each night, even on weekends. In addition, several hours before bedtime, give your brain a chance to wind down. Avoid any mentally demanding work and agitation. Cutting back on alcohol and caffeine will help you fall asleep more easily. Instead of watching television, find a nice relaxing, book. Before you know it, your body will relax, your eyes will close, and you’ll drift off for a great night’s sleep.
4) Exercise is another great way to de-stress your body and your mind. It improves blood flow to the brain, bringing it more oxygen. Believe it or not, long hours of sitting and thinking cause the neurons of your brain to build up toxic waste products. If you’ve ever experienced that foggy feeling, that feeling that your brain has turned to mush, this is why. Exercise releases chemicals called endorphins, into your blood stream. These endorphins are what give you that happy feeling, a feeling of well-being. When the pressure is on, it’s the more physically fit people who are able to fight off illness. You’ll stay healthier and suffer less from burnout. Please remember to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. In addition, keep in mind that exercise should be fun. If it stops being fun, you’ll stop exercising.
5) Try and spend time with your loved ones. Relaxing with family and friends is a great stress reliever. Finding fun activities will make you feel happy, relaxed, and more able to handle the day-to-day stress. They say laughter is the best medicine, so laugh and enjoy life whenever you can. Take regular vacations. Not only will you enjoy the break from work and home duties, but just the act of planning and looking forward to the vacation will improve your state of mind. Sometimes, anticipation is half the fun.
6) Find a hobby or a sport that you enjoy. If your work is very competitive, try and find something that will allow you to relax and enjoy yourself. Reading, gardening, sewing, etc. allows your mind to focus on something besides the worries. Moreover, working with your hands and being creative is very freeing.
7) Try a little positive thinking. Use your imagination to conjure up positive images and thoughts of your desired outcome. It’s a fact that optimists enjoy increased health and long life, have less stress, and are able to move forward and succeed where others might quit. We all have to expect some failures, some sorrow and frustration, but we don’t have to let them rule our lives. Find some like-minded friends who will remind you of your successes now and then. Focus on realistic goals and remember that failure isn’t fatal. And don’t be so hard on yourself. Tomorrow is another day.
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