Stress is our body's way of dealing with situations that trigger our basic 'fight/ flight' response. When this response is triggered, stress related hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are dumped into our system, the heart begins to race, the digestion shuts down, shallow breathing speeds up, the immune system is supPressed and our senses become hyper alert and focused.
These responses of our autonomic nervous system have evolved over millennia as a way to protect us from immediate threats such as man-eating tigers and other serious dangers. If we ended up surviving these types of threats, our nervous system would quickly shift back into rest/ digest mode and our bodies and minds would relax. In today's world, our fight/ flight response can be triggered constantly by our current lifestyle. An overly demanding boss, pressing deadlines, rush hour traffic or running around trying to get the kids off to school in the morning are but a few of the stressors we experience in our hustle and bustle lives. Unfortunately, this creates a low level of stress in our system constantly from non life threatening disasters. Although we are generally safe, our bodies are still being exposed to the surges of adrenaline and cortisol that the fight/ flight response creates which can wreak havoc on our health. Here I’m offering you a few ways you can reduce stress, help your body to be in rest/ digest mode most of the time and create good chemicals in your body which promote healing and good health.
1. Try Progressive Relaxation.
Contracting and relaxing each part of the body from the feet, legs, torso all the way up - Once all of the body has been contracted and released, lay quietly for 5-10 minutes and consciously relax your body, your mind and your heart. Keep the mind focused on the breath, repeat a mantra or a positive affirmation and each time the mind wanders, gently draw it back to your focus. This practice can change your day!
2. Breathe Deep
Take 10 deep breaths- inhaling to the count of 4, exhaling to the count of 6. This has been shown to lower cortisol levels, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. Studies suggest that deep breathing can also cause a temporary drop in blood pressure.
3. Release The Tension In Your Shoulders.
Most of us carry a lot of tension in our shoulder blades. Stand up and bring your shoulder blades together by drawing your shoulders back as far as you can. Think of opening the heart while doing this and breath deeply. Hold that position for 3 deep breaths and repeat several times.
4. Use Visualization To Take A Few Short Breaks Throughout The Day.
Close your eyes and center your thoughts on your breathing. Let yourself breathe slowly, deeply, and then exhale fully.
Think of the most relaxing place you have ever been. Pick a place in nature- the beach, a forest, next to a beautiful lake. Visualize yourself in that place and allow yourself to feel the feelings of relaxation you normally feel when you are there. After a couple of minutes, open your eyes and notice that you are relaxed, focused and alert.
5. Eat A Healthy Diet.
When your body is properly nourished, you are better able to handle the stressors in your life. Drink lots of water. A yogic diet includes fresh, organic (if possible) fruits and vegetables in season, beans and legumes and little or no meat (especially red meat). Cut back on caffeine, alcohol and sugar, as the temporary highs they give you are followed by crashes that make handling stress more difficult.
A daily yoga practice, even for 10 minutes, is the best! Aerobic exercise gives you that post-exercise endorphin rush that helps to sharply cut stress. If you feel stressed out...go for a walk, go for a bike ride. Get outside and enjoy nature. This will help you clear your mind and reconnect with yourself.
7. Hug It Out.
Hugging may actually reduce blood pressure and stress levels in adults. And...a good hug just really feels good!
If you find yourself getting stressed over a certain situation, just smile! It is amazing how putting on a smile can help to change your perspective on things.
9. Listen to Music
Research points to multiple ways in which music can help reduce stress, from triggering biochemical stress reducers to assisting in treating stress associated with medical procedures. Find music that makes YOU relax! Avoid music with a violent or depressing message. Listen to uplifting music. Just sit back, tune in and let the music take you over. Or...find music that makes you wanna dance! Get up and let loose! Smile and sing! An impromptu dance party is a great way to relieve stress and raise your mood!
10. Practice Meditation
There are countless studies out there that have shown that meditation is one of the greatest tools to help combat stress. Schedule some time everyday to do just a few minutes of meditation. First thing in the morning is great to start your day off relaxed and centered. It doesn't take much to get started and you will find (very quickly) that you will become happier, more focused and you'll also prevent health problems that are brought on by stress.
Reduce stress…improve your life!
In love and light,