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Stress Relief

Modern life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and demands. For many people, stress is so commonplace that it has become a way of life. Stress isn’t always bad. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best. But when you’re constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price.

The body’s natural relaxation response is a powerful antidote to stress. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and yoga can help you activate this relaxation response. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and an increase of your feelings of joy and serenity. What’s more, they also serve a protective quality by teaching you how to stay calm and collected in the face of life’s up’s and down’s.

The relaxation response brings your system back into balance: deepening your breathing, reducing stress hormones, slowing down your heart rate and blood pressure, and relaxing your muscles.

In addition to its calming physical effects, research shows that the relaxation response also increases energy and focus, combats illness, relieves aches and pains, improves problem-solving abilities, and boosts motivation and productivity.

Here are some useful and easy tools to cope with daily stress:

 

·        Learn to laugh more and take life easier. Laughter causes your brain to release endorphins, which are natural mood enhancement and stress relief brain chemicals.

·        Practice alternate nostril breathing. This technique is derived from yoga and is an amazingly simple yet effective brain hemisphere balancer. First, cover your left nostril with your left hand. Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, take 10 slow deep breaths. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, and then breathe out for 4 seconds. Cover your right nostril and repeat. Finally, breathe with both nostrils.

·        Listen to Music. Research indicates that music can reduce stress by slowing down and equalizing brain waves. For feelings of relaxation, Alpha and Theta brainwaves are the most important.

Alpha brainwaves occur at brainwave frequencies of 7 to 13 Hertz. Being in an alpha brainwave state can be described as feeling relaxed, yet alert. Enhanced mental functioning often occurs at Alpha brainwave frequencies.

Theta brainwaves occur at brainwave frequencies of 4 to 6 Hertz. Being in a Theta brainwave state can be described as deep meditation, intense relaxation, or daydreaming. This is your natural state of mind when you first wake up in the morning and your mind is wandering. Theta states are good for enhanced memory and creative insights. 

Relaxing music such as Baroque, New Age, and Natural Sounds can stimulate Alpha and Theta brainwave states. One of the key reasons for this is that these types of music have a tempo between 55 and 85 beats per minute, which creates a feeling of calmness and peacefulness. Relaxing music can balance the left and right hemispheres of your brain, leading to reduction of mental imbalance and stress.

              Relaxation Techniques. The simplest relaxation technique of all is to drink herbal tea. Herbal teas such as chamomile can have a tremendously soothing effect, especially when you are in a pressurized or stressful work or home environment.

A second choice is to sit under a large tree, or take a walk in the woods, or at the beach, with your bear feet in the water.  Trees and water have a naturally calming effect on the soul.   

Visualizations. When you visualize you use your imagination to transport your mind into a more tranquil place – a place where you are in control. Using relaxing music with sounds of water, birds, breeze, may help you visualize and achieve the calming state you need. 

 Deep breathing for stress relief.  With its focus on full, cleansing breaths, deep breathing is a simple, yet powerful, relaxation technique. It’s easy to learn, can be practiced almost anywhere, and provides a quick way to get your stress levels controlled. Deep breathing is the cornerstone of many other relaxation practices, too, and can be combined with other relaxing elements such as aromatherapy and music. All you really need is a few minutes and a place to stretch out.

Progressive muscle relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation is another effective and widely used strategy for stress relief. It involves a two-step process in which you systematically tense and relax different muscle groups in the body.

With regular practice, progressive muscle relaxation gives you an intimate familiarity with what tension—as well as complete relaxation—feels like in different parts of the body. This awareness helps you spot and counteract the first signs of the muscular tension that accompanies stress. And as your body relaxes, so will your mind. You can combine deep breathing with progressive muscle relaxation for an additional level of relief from stress.

   Mindfulness meditation. Meditation that cultivates mindfulness is particularly effective at reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions. Mindfulness is the quality of being fully engaged in the present moment, without analyzing or otherwise “over-thinking” the experience. Rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, mindfulness meditation switches the focus to what’s happening right now.

·         Body scan – Body scanning cultivates mindfulness by focusing your attention on various parts of your body. Like progressive muscle relaxation, you start with your feet and work your way up. However, instead of tensing and relaxing your muscles, you simply focus on the way each part of your body feels without labeling the sensations as either “good” or “bad”.

·         Walking meditation - You don’t have to be seated or still to meditate. In walking meditation, mindfulness involves being focused on the physicality of each step — the sensation of your feet touching the ground or the water,  the rhythm of your breath while moving, and feeling the wind against your face.

·         Mindful eating – If you reach for food when you’re under stress or gulp your meals down in a rush, try eating mindfully. Sit down at the table and focus your full attention on the meal (no TV, newspapers, or eating on the run). Eat slowly, taking the time to fully enjoy and concentrate on each bite.

Mindfulness meditation takes effort to maintain your concentration and to bring it back to the present moment when your mind wanders or you start to fall asleep. But with regular practice, mindfulness meditation actually changes the brain – strengthening the areas associated with joy and relaxation, and weakening those involved in negativity and stress.


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