April is National Stress Awareness month. Learn how to reduce stress for your mental and physical health in this excellent article reposted from Fitness and Wellness News.
It may sound simple. But, in practice, stress-reduction is challenging. Modernity assists with everything from automatically reloading your Starbucks card to phone apps that schedule your life and track your whereabouts with the touch of a button. You may be at the forefront of convenient living, but where is your state-of-mind?
High-tech living makes a science of multitasking. The result: high-impact on the mind. As we enter the heart of spring, make it your mission to counteract the madness. Although calendars fill up and people emerge from winter’s cocoon, it’s not a race to summer. (Okay, maybe if you’re trying to fit into last year’s summer wardrobe by June.) Slow down. Relieve stress with these time-proven solutions. Hint: You won’t find them on your iPad.
Along with boosting the body’s immunity against illness, studies suggest exercise can help make you resistant to stress. Research reveals a link between physical activity and one’s physiological reactivity to tensions. Consider your workout a stress-desensitizing mechanism.
By improving overall health, fitness minimizes opportunities for illness and all of its secondary effects. The general lack of wellness common in a sedentary lifestyle is an ideal breeding ground for germs and the angst they cause. Missed wages and opportunities both at work and socially can lead to stressful situations, often endured in isolation while recuperating. The simple, yet sometimes debilitating issue of pain, chronic or temporary, also produces stress for self and loved ones.
In the shorter term, a lively sweat session can beat the fire out of stressful emotions. Let loose on the Exercise Floor or in a Group Fitness class. The positively charged atmosphere is a great motivator for releasing frustrations, anger, or any overwhelming mental state. Allow your mind to focus on the tasks at hand (and foot). Distract yourself from daily troubles with mindful movements. The clarity gained during such times of distraction often reveals solutions to the current cause of stress. Leave it all on the floor and breathe more freely when finished.
Transport your mind to a peaceful place, if not your body.
There cannot be a discussion about exercise and stress-relief without mentioning the benefits of yoga. The breathing, meditation, creation of physical and mental balance, and awareness. It’s worked for centuries, poses probably mapped out in hieroglyphics on mountainous cliffs for the earliest yogis. Try it.
Enjoyed among the camaraderie of other members, teammates, or workout buddies, you have the added benefit of social support during your fitness frenzy. Throw in the release of feel-good endorphins and a decrease of stress hormones that occur during exercise. Forget stress-relief, you are on your way to a fitness high.
Keep It Simple
De-stressing doesn’t have to be complicated. Create a stress-relief plan that includes activities you find personally fulfilling. If an activity helps you relax and feel emotionally recharged, include it. For one person, this may mean going to a movie or getting a massage. Another, who is always on the run, could find respite in a hot bath and quiet time at home. What works one day, may exacerbate stress at a different time. This life is complex; we must evolve with it, daily.
If committing to formal meditation overwhelms you, simply sit among nature and relax. Spring is an ideal time for such indulgences, when we can easily become replenished by nature’s surrounding work. For those who suffer the stress of care-giving, research proves gardening to be a positive outlet with its therapeutic tasks. We reap that which we sow. Grow beauty in life’s darker places.
Other proven de-stressors include escaping in a page-turner, mind travel to far-flung locales (Internet assistance optional), listening to uplifting music (not sappy break-up songs), and enjoying a quiet cup of tea/coffee with a piece of dark chocolate. A further bow to chocolate: A study published in the Journal of Proteome Research found eating 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate daily for two consecutive weeks was linked to a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. Sweet relief!
Simple steps to reducing stress work because they create an upward spiral. Wear a smile, even if it’s a frown in disguise, and reflect happiness to you. Walk away from a stressful situation to help you feel in control. View the scene as a spectator and find a new perspective. Or, see it as it is– a moment in time, one that will shift and fade with the ebb and flow of your days. Reducing stress in small ways helps avoid the helpless feeling of being overwhelmed. Give yourself a break, even if only a bunch of small ones.
Instinctively, we all breathe. And, instinctively, our breathing reacts to our physical and emotional state. It speeds up during physical exertion — or when that rude driver cuts you off. It slows during sleep. It’s shallow when rushing through too many tasks in too little time. Pay attention to this amazing life-line. You could learn something about yourself. Consider it a biological version of those silly mood rings. While at it, learn the type of breathing suggested for stress relief:
- Sit or stand comfortably (no special poses required).
- Inhale deeply through your nose. Take your time with this, about five seconds.
- Breathe out through your mouth in an eight-count.
- Repeat about five times. (A note to the cynic: One mindful breath does not do the job. Just ask a huffy-breathed teen.)
Watch your abdomen expand and contract with breaths. Keep shoulders from creeping toward ears. This posture allows a more cleansing breath and deeper relaxation.