Stress. All of us experience some kind of stress throughout our daily lives and stress is unavoidable. Some stress can be good; provide motivation, encourage collaboration, or even push you to try new things. However, excessive stress that isn’t managed can be quite damaging to your health. Chronic, unmanaged stress is associated with weight gain, inflammation, decreased immunity, and even heart conditions over time. These health issues make stress reduction crucial for achieving ideal health.
You can’t eliminate stress, but you can manage it! The following stress reduction practices are proven to work:
Exercise. Exercise is one of the most effective and beneficial stress reduction methods. How does exercise reduce stress? One of the ways exercise reduces stress is by reducing the levels of cortisol and adrenaline, two hormones that cause stress, while increasing levels of endorphins, which are mood elevators. This causes the aptly named “runner’s high” that you may have heard of before. Another way that exercise can reduce stress is through the benefits that you gain. Exercise allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment as you hit your fitness goals and can also reduce stress by reducing your waist-line and improving self image. Tasks, such as heavy lifting, become easier as you become fit making those stressful tasks look a little more manageable. Exercises like yoga, tai chi, walking and running, as well as others are great stress relievers. Click here to learn about 8 great stress relieving exercises
Breathing exercises. Rapid, shallow breathing is commonly associated with stress while relaxed, deep breathing is associated with relaxation. Breath yourself into a state of relaxation with these easy steps:
- Breath in slowly and deeply using your diaphragm fully.
- Hold your breath briefly
- Release your breath slowly, thinking “relax”
- Repeat these steps, 5 to 10 times
This is a great relaxation technique because it can be used at any time and any place, as needed. To learn more, Dr. Weil offers some wonderful breathing exercises
Meditation. With elevated stress also comes elevated blood pressure and heart rate. You can relieve your stress and its physiological effects using meditation techniques. Studies of Indian yoga masters have shown that meditation can decrease blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and blood adrenaline levels. Meditation is a useful and effective way to relieve your stress in the comfort of your own home.
Harvard physician, Dr. Herbert Benson gives this quick guide to meditation
- Select a time and place that will be free of distractions and interruption. A semi-darkened room is often best; it should be quiet and private. If possible, wait two hours after you eat before you meditate and empty your bladder before you get started.
- Get comfortable. Find a body position that will allow your body to relax so that physical signals of discomfort will not intrude on your mental processes. Breathe slowly and deeply, allowing your mind to become aware of your rhythmic respirations.
- Achieve a relaxed, passive mental attitude. Close your eyes to block out visual stimuli. Try to let your mind go blank, blocking out thoughts and worries.
- Concentrate on a mental device. Most people use a mantra, a simple word or syllable that is repeated over and over again in a rhythmic, chant-like fashion. You can repeat your mantra silently or say it aloud. It’s the act of repetition that counts, not the content of the phrase; even the word “one” will do nicely. Some meditators prefer to stare at a fixed object instead of repeating a mantra. In either case, the goal is to focus your attention on a neutral object, thus blocking out ordinary thoughts and sensations.
Acupuncture. Acupuncture may sound a little scary when you think of needles being placed in your face and back, however individuals and research have found it is truly a safe and an effective way to relieve stress and anxiety. According to Dr. Daniel Hsu, acupuncture works through placement of a needle about half a millimeter from a nerve. Depending on where the needle is placed, it can cause the release of pain killing chemicals from the nervous system, stimulate the body’s natural healing ability, or excite the part of the brain controlling emotion (leading to decreased anxiety and stress). Those who have received acupuncture, often see results after just one session with improved results upon continuous treatment. I can personally vouch for the benefits of Acupuncture, and look forward to my ongoing sessions with Aaron Cashman, L.OM
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