(I’ve been doing some research and collected info from a number of sources regarding stress and how one can begin to reduce it’s effect on our lives. I’m posting it here in the hope that it might prove helpful to others…)
Stress affects everybody every day, and for the most part stress offers the push we need to respond to a pressing situation. Stress is our body’s response to physical, chemical, emotional or environmental factors.
Whenever there’s a sudden need for quick response, our bodies initiate a cascade of chemical reactions that sends our hearts racing and heightens all our senses. In a positive context, stresses can help keep our bodies strong and minds alert, but chronic stress can have devastating effects.
When you have chronic stress, your body produces too much cortisol and adrenalin—two major stress hormones. Cortisol is the worry hormone produced by fear and vigilance, and produces anxiety. Adrenalin is the fight-or-flight hormone which prepares the body to react physically to a threat.
If you fail to adapt to our stresses, your body can produce too much of these hormones for too long. This results in distress, which is literally an overdose of cortisol and adrenalin. The effects can result in physical symptoms and even changes that lead to stress-related illnesses.
Stress can manifest itself in a range of symptoms. You may become more forgetful or find it harder to concentrate. Losing your sense of humor is another sign of an unhealthy amount of stress in your life, as are irritable moods and increased angry outbursts.
Stress can lead to an entirely different set of health problems if you seek relief from it by smoking, drinking alcohol, taking other drugs, or by eating more or less than usual.
Fortunately there are a variety of natural, drug-free approaches to provide stress relief.
• Identify your triggers:
Begin by first identifying all the sources of stress in your daily life. Keep a diary or make simple notes every time an event triggers your stress response. This will help you identify patterns in your perception of stressful events and circumstances that precede them.
• Modify your responses:
We can learn to modify our reactions to make stressful events less so. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
• Setting Boundaries:
Being overscheduled and rushed can be a significant cause of stress. Learn to organize your time. By prioritizing your commitments and saying no to some tasks can help you be more successful with what you find to be really important, and you’ll also have more time to do things that you enjoy in life.
• Practice daily meditation:
The goal in meditation is to quiet the mind by focusing your attention on a repeated sound, called a mantra, or image, without distraction, in order to enter a deeply relaxed state. Regular meditation practice can ease stress by helping you diffuse your triggers and allowing your body to relax. By clearing the mind, you are forced to “let go” of stressful events. Experts suggest practicing meditation for at least 20 minutes once or twice a day, but you can enjoy mini-meditations throughout the day, whenever you feel stress getting a grip on you.
• Surround yourself with positive people:
One of the most important ways you can get (and keep) positive energy in your life is with the company you keep. Do your friends uplift you, or bring you down? Are they critical, or complementary? Ideal friendships provide support when you’re down, fun when you’re up, wisdom when you’re lost, and positive regard. Good friends can inspire you to reach greater heights, and see your strengths even when you don’t always. Pay attention to how your friends make you feel, and if they’re less than supportive, start putting your energy and time toward people who are better suited to be your friend.
Massage therapy has been shown in several studies to be an effective remedy for daily stress. Research among various groups of people who face a lot of daily stress conclude that a little massage therapy goes a long way toward relieving stress.
Results of studies using aromatherapy indicate that it helps aid in relaxation and stress relief. Essential oils have been found to affect brainwaves and alter behavior, though their mechanism of action is not well understood. Scents of lavender and citrus are two of the most often used for stress-relief, so keep these essential oils on hand and rub some into the temples in times of stress. Incense is another alternative.
• Uplifting Music:
Listening to music that not only has a soothing melody, but an uplifting message, can be great for developing positive self-talk. Have you ever had a song ‘stuck in your head’ for a few hours or days, the lyrics repeating themselves in your mind? If those lyrics were positive and inspirational, that would be a good thing. It’s a much better mental soundtrack to have than a running stream of complaints, criticisms or self-limiting thoughts.
Researchers measured whether yoga or listening to classical music or nature sounds could relieve stress. While all approaches worked to some extent, yoga worked the fastest to lower the blood pressure of those people subjected to mental stress.
• Breathing exercises:
Breathing or relaxation exercises are becoming increasingly embraced by mainstream medicine as among the best remedies for stress. Like meditation, these exercises are meant to give your mind and body a quick timeout. Whenever you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed by daily events, stop and inhale deeply through your nose, then exhale slowly through your mouth to the count of 8. Practice this regularly throughout the day and you’ll find yourself better able to diffuse your stressful moments.
• Aerobic exercise:
Physical activity is a great stress buster, plus you’ll be amazed by how much better you’ll look and feel. In addition to distracting you from your troubles, exercise has an overall relaxing effect. Aerobic activity, in particular, can reduce anxiety, depression and tension.
• Find Fun Distractions:
Indulging in a hobby, playing games, reading, watching movies and TV can all help you get your mind off of what’s stressing you and onto something more pleasant. Sometimes this is just the break you need to stop a pattern of obsessing over your problems, and enable your body and mind to enter a relaxed state. When you come back to your stressors, they may not have the same powerful grip on you.
• Take care of your body:
Taking good care of your body will help it to be better able to deal with the effects of stress. Get enough sleep. Eat a balanced diet. Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake. Drink green tea. Relax in a candle-lit bubble bath.
• Develop a support network:
Studies show that women are better able to cope with emotional stress than are men due, in part, to their stronger support networks. When stress becomes a problem, spending time with loved ones, meeting with friends or even caring for your pet may help.