Winning formulas to manage stress

Stress and anxiety can be detrimental in that they interfere with the immune system, making you susceptible to illnesses.

by Paula Owens — 

Stress — we all experience it and use different coping mechanisms to deal with it. Stress and anxiety can be detrimental in that they interfere with the immune system, making you susceptible to illnesses like the flu.

Chronic stress encourages infection and inflammation, which increases the risk of allergies, autoimmune diseases, hormonal disruption, heart disease and weight gain.

Although stress is life and life is stress, you must be able to manage the stressors that will inevitably occur daily. Here are some winning formula stress busters.

Breathe: This is the foundation of de-stressing and healing. Allow yourself five minutes in the morning and evening to focus on deep belly breathing (versus chest breathing). Empty your mind of day-to-day activities and focus on a one-to-five-word phrase you like, repeating it over and over. Surrender into the silence. Studies show that this lowers blood pressure, releases healing hormones into the body and increases creativity, productivity and your ability to handle stressful situations.

Get moderate exercise: Aside from strengthening the heart and lungs (two organs adversely affected from too much stress), exercise is great for your mental health, too. Exercising increases the levels of endorphins in your body, which stimulate your immune system, reduce stress and put you in a better mood.

Do not overdo it: Include daily exercise lasting 30 to 60 minutes. Weight training, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, rebounder (mini trampoline) and walking are ideal options. You must be healthy, nourished with wholesome foods and well-rested with balanced hormones to benefit and recover properly from more intense exercise. Working out too hard without addressing these other important variables may compromise your immune and endocrine/hormonal systems.

Restful sleep, the fountain of youth: When we sleep, the stress hormone, cortisol, is lowered, but when we are sleep deprived, cortisol levels rise. Lights out by 10 p.m. According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health), the physical body repairs between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. The mind/emotional/spiritual body repairs between 2 and 6 a.m.

Turn off all communication devices: This includes your cell phone, computer and fax. Remove electronic devices from your sleeping area to eliminate electromagnetic stress.

Get rid of clutter: Clutter will make life feel more complicated. A clutter-free space is one where you can truly feel at peace.

Seek wholesome nutrition and hydration: Providing your body with the nutrients and water it needs is vital to reducing stress (and staying healthy). Stress can actually deplete your body of nutrients. Make sure to include smaller, more frequent meals of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and enough protein. These foods contain stress-reducing vitamins such as magnesium, calcium, vitamins C and E, folic acid and B-complex. Our bodies require more protein when we are stressed.

Avoid all sugar, white flour products and processed junk foods, which cause more stress and damage to your body. Doing so will help regulate your insulin levels. When blood sugar drops, adrenaline is released to compensate, increasing anxiety. Eat mindfully, chew your food and enjoy your meals.

Drink half your weight or more in ounces of water daily. Add a pinch of unprocessed sea salt or Himalayan salt to your water. Many people are chronically dehydrated, which may reveal as dry skin, brittle bones and/or hunger, which is actually thirst and depleted brain chemistry (neurotransmitters function in water).

Water has been used since the dawn of humankind for reduction of stress. We are composed mostly of water; we were developed in our mother’s womb in water. Water is our connection to life itself. Take long, warm showers or relaxing baths. Schedule a regular time to soak in the tub. Aromatherapy is very powerful for relaxation. Pick soaps and bath salts with the most relaxing smell. Light candles around the tub. This is one of the most powerful ways to relax and come home to your mind, body and soul.

Build strong friendships/relationships: Stress can lead to feelings of depression and even isolation. Keep a network of social ties. Surround yourself with like-minded people who make you feel good. Decide who and what is important to you. Center your life around those people and items. Resign from organizations and commitments that are not fulfilling to you. It is OK to say no to invitations and events that you do not want to attend.

The Stress Institute’s founder, Dr. Kathleen Hall, states: “Friendships are strong indicators of mental, physical and spiritual health. Friendship is not a luxury, but is essential to work-life balance and your health. Studies show that isolation decreases immune functioning and increases mortality risk.”

Consider supplements: Take kava, St. John’s wort, 5-HTP and Biotics V.H.P. (a blend of valerian, hops and passion flower) to take the edge off and balance neurotransmitters.

Listen to your heart: Turn off your brain and get quiet with yourself. Listen to the voice of your heart. Connect with and nourish your spirit.

Be charitable: Charitable acts have been shown to decrease stress, improve quality of life and increase lifespan for the giver, while a person who receives, but does not practice charity, does not experience the same benefits. Hans Selye, M.D., the Canadian endocrinologist who developed the current model of stress and how it affects living systems, promoted altruism for its direct effect on decreasing stress and improving health. He proposed that “egoistic altruism” is natural law of the biological advantage of cooperation and collaboration between cells, individuals, groups, communities and societies.

Keep an attitude of gratitude: Every night write in a gratitude log five to 10 things, events or people you are grateful for. Studies tell us that daily gratitude exercises result in higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy.

Laugh: It releases endorphins, your body’s natural pain killer. Laughter lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones and boosts your immune function.

 

Paula Owens holds a master’s degree in holistic nutrition and a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. She is a nutritionist, fitness and weight-loss expert, and the author of The Power of 4. 480-706-1158, paula@paulaowens.com or www.paulaowens.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 3, June/July 2010.

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