"Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances."
What is Stress?
Stress is the body’s reaction to a real or perceived threat.
Research suggests that stress can actually be beneficial and increase our performance. Stress responses are one of our body's best defense systems against danger.
But stress in excess if not good. There is a direct relationship between stress and illness. It has been estimated that 75 to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems. Stress can cause migraines, hypertension, depression, strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, ulcers, neck or low back pain and other "Diseases of Civilization”.
The first step is to become aware of the stressors in your life and understand how you react to them. Then you can develop a plan to avoid the most stressful situations and look at lifestyle changes that will make you become less reactive to stress. A few tips:
- Exercise for cardiovascular fitness three to four times a week (moderate, prolonged rhythmic exercise is best, such as walking, swimming, cycling, or jogging)
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet
- Moderate reactions to stress via relaxation techniques and slow deep breathing
- Avoid nicotine, excessive caffeine, and other stimulants.
- Get enough sleep. Be as consistent with your sleep schedule as possible
- Develop a tolerance for diversity
- Expect some frustrations, failures, and sorrows. Be a friend to yourself.
- Experience humour, lightness, fun and joy every day
Stress is a choice: Change your thinking… Be in the here and now.
- Spend more time focusing on the positive things in your life.
- Spend less time thinking negatively
- Enjoy each moment
The key to moving on is forgiveness - of self and others. Although it is a waste of energy to worry about future events over which we have no control, it is human nature to do so. Plan and prioritize as best you can, and then be easy on yourself.
Learn to be assertive. Being assertive means standing up for your personal rights and expressing your thoughts, feelings and beliefs directly, honestly and spontaneously in ways that don’t infringe on the rights of others. Expressing negative feelings at the appropriate time avoids the buildup of resentment. This will help you manage your stress more successfully.
Make A List and Prioritize
So many projects, so little time. To beat stress, you have to learn to prioritize. At the start of each day, pick the single most important task to complete, then finish it. If you're a person who makes to-do lists, never write one with more than five items. That way, you're more likely to get all the things done, and you'll feel a greater sense of accomplishment and control. Then you can go ahead and make a second five-item list.
Learn To Say No When Appropriate
Sometimes you have to learn to draw the line. Stressed-out people often can't assert themselves. Instead of saying 'I don't want to do this' or 'I need some help,' they do it all themselves.
Stretching can help you feel more peaceful and relaxed. As you stretch, imagine the tension leaving your back, neck and other muscles.
Walk it off. Walking may be the oldest stress reducer of all. Studies at California State University have shown significant reductions in tension after walks lasting only several minutes.
A study by Florida's State Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services found that participants in an eight week walking program were able to reduce the work-related stress by 30 percent. Walking not only can provide a needed escape from tension, it also may increase the body's production of mood-elevating brain chemicals called endorphins.
Research has shown that physical exercise is the best tension reliever. It is a very important remedy for stress. Nothing eases stress more than exercise. Exercise, when property done, gives your body time to operate in the efficiency mode.
Gardening is a natural, stress-releasing activity. Experts suggest that gardening takes our minds off the unsolvable problems we confront every day. When working in the garden we can see progress from minute to minute. In that sense it works like meditation. It takes your mind away from stressful thoughts.
A well balanced diet is crucial in preserving health and helping to reduce stress. Certain foods and drinks act as powerful stimulants to the body and hence are a direct cause of stress. This stimulation may be quite harmful in the long run. As much as possible avoid manufactured foods, as well as excessive intake of salt, sugar and fats. Focus your diet on green vegetables, legumes and fruits with limited consumption of red meat.
Meditation on Breath
Meditation helps combat stress and revitalize the mind. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, relax your muscles, and allow yourself to breathe slowly and naturally. After doing this for 10 to 20 minutes once or twice a day, you may notice your stress drifting away along with your exhalations.
Deep breathing infuses the blood with extra oxygen and also stimulates the body to release tranquilizing endorphins. It is one of the simplest yet most effective stress management techniques. You can do it anywhere, anytime, and it becomes even more effective with practice.
Nature Walks and Imagery
Take frequent nature walks. Watch the magnificent sunset. Listen to good music and let it transport you to distant realms. Stop and smell the roses and marvel at their beauty. Nature is one of the best soothers of stress. Taking a quiet walk in a park or watching a beautiful sunset can do wonders. Even reminiscing about such a scene from your past, or simply imagining one, allows your stress level to drop.
Prepared by Maurice Lavigne, R.Ac., RMT, Certified Herbalist & Qi Gong Teacher/Healer. Copyright Fredericton Wellness Clinic & Fitness Studio.