“Persistent, unremitting stress leads to a variety of serious health problems. Anyone who suffers from chronic stress needs to take steps to alleviate it, either by learning simple techniques to relax and calm down, or with the help of qualified therapists.” ~ George Chrousos, M.D., and Philip Gold, MD, National Institutes of Health, 2002.
A healthy lifestyle is an essential companion to any stress-reduction program. General health and stress resistance can be enhanced by regular exercise, a diet rich in a variety of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and by avoiding excessive alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco.
While most of us think of exercise as a way to get in shape or control our weight, did you know that exercise and stress management are also closely linked? Exercise helps relieve feelings of frustration and gives you a lift via endorphins at the same time. Exercise is a great stress-buster, allowing you to physically “burn off” stress. Exercise need not be intense to reduce stress. For example, tai chi is a “moving meditation” aimed at achieving a calm and tranquil mind.
Close your eyes and imagine a pleasant scene. This may be a childhood memory, a favorite vacation spot or anything or place that you associate with relaxation. Visualization is a type of “stop-gap” meditation designed to reduce stress when you notice it building up.
Meditation has been proven to slow heart rates, lower blood pressure and reduce muscle tension. In addition, meditation lowers the body’s response to adrenaline and other stress hormones including cortisol, the stress hormone associated with chronic stress.
Write Down What You’re Feeling
Writing about stressful events and circumstances may help relieve the stress that’s creating them. Write for 10 to 15 minutes a day about stressful events and how you felt. One way to use writing to deal with stress is to keep a journal. This can really help you identify the sources of stress in your life so that you can find better ways to cope with them.
Express Your Feelings
Discussing how you feel with friends, family members, or a counselor is an important way of coping with and relieving stress. Laughing and crying are also natural ways to release tension and frustration.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
By tensing and relaxing all the muscle groups in your body, you can relieve tension and feel much more relaxed in minutes, with no special training or equipment. Start by tensing all the muscles in your face, holding a tight grimace 10 seconds, then completely relaxing for 10 seconds. Repeat this with your neck, followed by your shoulders, etc. You can do this anywhere, and as you practice, you will find you can relax more quickly and easily, reducing tension as quickly as it starts.
Research is revealing how music works to heal the body and mind. When dealing with stress, the right music can actually lower your blood pressure, relax your body and calm your mind.
Yoga is one of the oldest self-improvement practices around, dating back more than 5,000 years. It combines the practices of several other stress management techniques such as breathing, meditation, imagery and movement, giving you a lot of benefit for the amount of time and energy required. Many different types of yoga exist, some more intensive than others. Yoga increases flexibility and strength while reducing stress.