Stress relief is available today!
When your muscles are tight as rocks, your heart is racing, you’re holding your breath, “ah”, you need to exhale. You need stress relief now! Most of the time, there is no monster chasing you. Take a breath, all the way down into your belly. Breathe a few times, in through your nose, out of your mouth. Make the sound “ah”, on the exhale. As you do, your body and mind will relax. Look around and notice, in this moment you are safe. Then breathe again.
When a scary event happens, in traffic, in life, in relationships, several systems kick into a state of being on guard, alert, ready to run or fight. One is a part of your brain called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system, which releases a cascade of chemicals-such as adrenaline, steroid hormones, and cortisol-that speed up your heart rate, helps your brain make a quick decision to avoid pain, and increases glucose in the bloodstream to give you a burst of energy to react. You don’t even have to tell it what to do. This is your body’s natural reaction to stress.
That is great when danger is lurking. But what is not natural is continuously facing stressful situations and challenges day after day. This is known as chronic stress and can be detrimental to your health. Forty-three percent of adults say they suffer adverse health effects from stress, and three-quarters of all doctor’s visits are the result of stress-related ailments and complaints. Stress is also linked to several serious diseases and unhealthy situations, such as heart disease, cancer, lung disease, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
It’s important to understand how stress can impact your day-to-day life, as well as your long-term health. Even more importantly, we need to learn how to relieve stress.
Ongoing mind stress can hamper your clear thinking. You may find making simple decisions like what to have for dinner or remembering directions to a restaurant are more difficult than in a non-stressed state. Getting your chores and responsibilities completed may turn into procrastination.
Chronic emotional stress causes people to be easily frustrated and quicker to lose their temper. They may cry more often and spend considerably more time worrying about things, and even feeling depressed.
Stress affects your teeth and gums too. Strange as it may seem, stress may cause you to clench or grind your teeth, often unconsciously or during sleep.
Your hair may fall victim to your stress. When a person is under a great deal of stress, his or her hair may enter the falling-out stage of the hair life cycle. It can occur up to three months after the stressful event, though hair frequently grows back within a year if the stressful situation is diminished.
Stress can increase pressure on your healthy heart function. Stress hormones speed up your heart rate, constrict blood vessels, and set up a pattern that makes the heart and blood vessels more likely to overreact when you encounter future stressful events. Stress is also linked to high blood pressure, blood clots, and in some cases, even stroke.
Your immune system, responsible for fighting disease, is diminished under stress. The thymus gland, one of the key players, gets small, restricted, and tight under stress, and so doesn’t function as well. If it seems you always get sick when you can least afford it, it may be because your stress is suppressing your immune system, making you more susceptible to infection.
Stress inhibits proper breathing, so people with asthma and chronic lung problems often have worsening symptoms during times of chronic stress.
In your stomach, stress takes its toll on digestion, so you may have increased incidence of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, acid reflux, colitis, or ulcer flare ups when you are under chronic stress.
Stress can make skin problems, rashes, eczema, rosacea and acne worse. It is also known to bring on cold sores and fever blisters.
Stress-related tension in your back, neck, and shoulder muscles can lead to pain and inflammation throughout your body.
So what can you do about stress relief?
First, identify the source. Sometimes finding your stressors is easier said than done. In most cases, it will be fairly obvious: a difficult relationship, tight money, needing friends, body pain, a poor work environment, or health concerns, for example.
In other cases, finding the root causes of your anxiety and stress may be more challenging. When you are tired, it’s slowing you down and making you feel down in the dumps, and you need more rest. When there is a lack of positive, healthy communication between you and a friend or you are experiencing conflict in a relationship, it is being able to talk through what each person is needing that will dissolve the stress. When we have financial burdens that are haunting our spending habits now, and when you are stressed over every bill and purchase, that worry, that conflict, that down feeling is stress in action. In that case, seeking acceptance of what is, and finding a balance between being frugal and enjoying small things in life, while your finances recover from previous errors will eventually reduce the sense of stress around your situation.
One thing to keep in mind is: often underneath not feeling well physically, there is unresolved anxiety, anger, tension or frustration that we have not been addressing in a healthy way.
It is useful to gently ask ourselves, is there something I am anxious about? What healthy action can I take to create some amount of resolution?
Is there something I am afraid of in my life right now? What action can I take to feel safer?
Is there something I am angry about in my life? What action can I take on my own behalf today, or this week?
Is there something I am frustrated about in my life? What action steps can I begin today to change that frustrating situation now, or over time?
What can I do to relieve stress in my life?
The answer is, each day focus a bit of time and attention on de-stressing your life. Taking small steps that make you smile, or make you feel a bit more relaxed, or help you get rid of burdens and clutter, all these contribute to your health and well-being.
Choosing what you take into your body, mind and life makes a difference: picking healthy food, water, people, commitments, activities all help support your health, calmness and happiness.
Set priorities each day and each week for your tasks. Delegate what you can. Many of us feel always behind, but we can be realistic about how quickly time flies in a day. We can just be glad we got a few tasks accomplished. Feeling glad for what we did do instead of critical for what we did not do, that is enough.
Enjoying and focusing your attention on small moments of loving our children, listening to birds, seeing flowers in bloom, feeling the shade of a tree, and thinking I am grateful for this moment, will bring more and more of those pleasing, relaxing experiences for you to enjoy.
Take a minute in your day to close your eyes, breathe deep into your belly, and think I am enough. Notice how you feel when you do that.
Ask for help. Talk to your spouse, children, parents, friends, and coworkers. Let them know you’re working to reduce the amount of stress you deal with. Be willing to ask for help when you need it. Be open to receiving help. It’s possible those around you have faced similar situations and have information than can be of benefit to you. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings. Sometimes talking through a problem or a conflict helps you better understand how you can avoid it in the future.
Set limits on your commitments. Even though being involved in activities such as volunteering and socializing can be rewarding and fulfilling, these constant demands in addition to your other responsibilities of family may be more than you can handle without feeling stressed.
Take a break. Mounting stress and pressure may begin to weigh down on your shoulders like a load of bricks. Before you let it get the best of you, take a break. Bend your knees just a little, curl forward toward your toes, letting your arms and head hang. Exhale with the sound, “ah”.
Feeling drained? Instead of reaching for caffeine for low energy, try taking a walk, going outside, and getting some fresh air. Take a few deep breaths, focusing your attention into your back, and exhale with the sound “ah”.
Create your support system among friends, family, and co-workers. This may be your best asset in the fight against overwhelming stress. They can help you identify stressful situations before they’ve become more than you can handle. They can also help you organize your schedule or let you vent frustrations about stressful situations.
Make a List. Think you can multi-task? Think again. When the ideas in our head are overflowing, research suggests we’re not as capable of doing so many things at once as we wish. But where do you start? First, make a list. This helps you see what’s on your plate so you can better recognize what can wait and what needs your attention now. Then prioritize the items and complete them one at a time. That is really enough. You don’t have to be super-mom all the time!
Don’t neglect your health. When pressures are looming, and you’re struggling to stay above water, it’s too easy to let your health fall by the wayside. Get regular sleep, and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Drink plenty of pure water. Choose more often to skip caffeine, alcohol, drugs and tobacco in favor of outdoor stress relievers, like a visit to a mountain, park, pond, garden, creek, or right in your backyard.
Moving your body is great for stress relief. Physical activity of every kind boosts your feel-good endorphins. Moving counteracts the damage stress is doing to your body, and gets your mind off what is stressing you. If you can’t squeeze in 30 minutes each day, Three short ten-minute sessions are great too. Go for a walk, ride your bike, jog, jump rope, bounce on the kids’ trampoline, play tag with your children, put on music and dance, let’s hear your ideas!
Have a flexible plan for the future. It’s easy to get lost in the “what if’s” of the future, but if you have a back up plan for upcoming stressful events, you will be faced with fewer surprises. Thinking through these scenarios allows you to return to the present moment. Ancient words of wisdom suggest: avert the danger that has not yet come, that is think ahead a bit, but most of all live in the present moment.
Practicing Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, stretching, visualization, and massage. These are all great ways to work out the physical and mental effects of chronic stress.
Allow a little time to Focus on what you do like and do want in your life. When you are worried about what you don’t like, your stress level increases, and more of that seems to appear in your life. Whenever you can, inundate yourself with positive thoughts and experiences. Listen to music, watch a funny video online, or call a friend who makes you laugh. Over time you’ll learn to meet negativity with a positive reaction. A positive attitude will keep you from slipping back so easily into feeling overwhelmed. Over time this is one of the best stress relief techniques for your mind and body.