Posted on Jul 6th, 2006

Research has shown that the stress hormone cortisol reduces a person’s ability to retrieve information and memory. Even worse, this same stress hormone is linked to progressive shrinking of the hippocampus - an important memory center in the temporal region. High levels of stress also promote depression, which severely impairs memory and increases the risk for dementia.

To reduce stress, try relaxation exercises. Sit quietly and breathe deeply and slowly. Relax each part of your body, starting with the top of your head and finishing with your toes.

Look for humor in tense situations and talk about your feelings with family members, friends or a therapist, if necessary.

Try reducing stress and anxiety with fresh, natural scents. In general they induce a calming state. In one recent study, volunteers became extremely anxious when they were confined in coffin-like tubes, but then calmed down when the tubes were infused with the smells of green apple and cucumber. These odors seem to have an impact on the limbic systems, the emotional center of the brain.

If you anticipate a situation where you will feel anxious, try a shampoo with green-apple flavored shampoo. Here are a few tips that will lower stress in five minutes or less:

* Move around. * Walk rapidly around your workplace. * Take a quick walk around the block. * Climb rapidly up and down a flight of stairs to really get the heart pumping. * Do 15 jumping jacks in place. * Stretch while seated at your desk. Link your fingers under a knee and draw it to your chest. Repeat with your other knee.

This stretches the legs and the lower back.

* Stretch your arms above your head, palms up and fingers linked. Dangle hands at your sides, then raise right shoulder to right ear, keeping the head vertical. Repeat this with the left shoulder. Finally, flex and bend back the fingers of each hand. Hand stretches are especially important if you use a computer for long periods.

* Take 10 long deep breaths. Your belly should expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale.

* Massage your eyes by placing your palms over them and apply gentle pressure while spiraling your palms. Try the same technique for your ears. Periodically, try to block out all sight and sound for just a second or two. Researchers report that this can be a refreshing experience from a psychological standpoint.

* Experiment with aroma therapy. A drop of citrus essential oil like lemon-lime or orange is refreshing for your office or home and is not overbearing.

* Early morning sleep is really the most restful sleep you can get. Men sent to bed at 2:15 a.m. and awakened at 6:15 a.m. slept more soundly than ones sent to bed at 10:30 and awakened at 2:30 a.m. So, if you are stressed and can get only four hours of sleep, stay up as late as possible to get the most benefit from your limited sleep. This does not replace a full night’s sleep. Resume normal sleep pattern as quickly as possible.

Meditation is a favorite stress buster for some people. Getting away from the everyday hassles of the world and turning your thoughts inward is a great stress buster. Meditation helps you see the objectivity in your own life and thoughts in a detached manner. Meditation is proven to reduce anxiety, work related stress. . .and blood pressure, too. There are many meditation techniques, but here is a common one that is simple:

* Sit quietly and comfortably in a place where you will not be disturbed.

* Focus your attention on your breathing.

* Feel the breath as it comes into your nose. . . . and when it goes out.

* Other thoughts will enter your mind. Just observe them and let them go. Return your attention to your breath. Start practicing meditation for five to 10 minutes a day, gradually increasing it to 20 to 30 minutes. Keep a clock nearby so you can keep track of the time but don’t use an alarm that might be jerk you back to full alertness too quickly.

Regular moderate exercise reverses much of the damage caused by stress and can also improve immune system function, lower blood pressure and improve your mood. The reason is because any physical activity negates the fight-or-flight response and can leave you feeling less tense, anxiety free and invigorated. Aerobic exercise is an effective stress buster but you may be more suited to relaxed walking.

Any exercise that suits you is fine. Just be sure to do it for at least 20 minutes each day. Don’t overdo it, however, because more is not necessarily good for you.

Human beings have an inborn affinity for nature. The scientific name for it is "biophilia." What that means is we enjoy things having to do with nature. Having "natural" things around us is psychologically beneficial. For example:

* Having an office with a view is not just prestigious. Studies have shows that workers who have a view of grass and trees exhibit less stress than who look at parking lots.

* Dentists who have an aquarium in their waiting room report that their patients are less anxious.

* Eating lunch on a park bench will relax your body.

* To reduce stress try spending time in the garden and your troubles will seem unimportant.

* Living in the city has its own stress factors. When it comes to a vacation, try planning it in a totally different environment like the mountains or seaside.

* Research studies show that people who have pets are generally healthier and have better methods of coping with stress. Consider obtaining a cat, dog or even a bird.

Humor is a great stress buster. Keeping a sense of humor and learning not to take yourself so seriously definitely helps. It’s hard to remain stressed when you are laughing at yourself. Try looking for the lighter side of every situation. Indulge your taste for entertaining books and movies. If you have a favorite cartoon or saying, cut it out and put it on your bathroom mirror or refrigerator. Try silly antics. Things that you would normally not even consider like walking in the rain or feeding birds in the park.

Cultivate friendships. Having close ties with others can make you feel warm inside. Having someone to talk to about your problems makes the problems much easier to deal with.

Just having a friend helps reduce your blood pressure and research has shown that those who have lots of friends tend to have a lower level of cholesterol and strong immune systems. Following a high carb, low protein diet can help with reducing stress for a short period of time, but should not be undertaken on a long term basis as the carbs represent just a short term energy boost.

Other foods that fight stress are foods that are rich in vitamins C and A like raw carrots peppers and broccoli. There’s a bonus as well, chewing crunchy foods helps to dissipate the tension.

How about some natural therapies for stress? Here are a few:

* Lavender - Use the flowers. This is a beautiful herb and is widely used. Many do not realize that it is an effective treatment for headaches related to stress. Also good for depression.

* St. Johns Wort - Taken internally, has a sedative and pain reducing effect. Use in treatment of neuralgia, anxiety, tension and similar problems.

* Vervain - Also known as Wild Hyssop. Will strengthen the nervous system while easing depression and melancholia. Good for fever and best for colds, and for menopausal irritations. Here are more tips to consider for reducing stress:

* This one is a "no-brainer" and we won’t go into detail here, but if you are a smoker - STOP!

* Try to avoid tight deadlines, keep your schedule looser.

* Ask for help instead of insisting on doing it all yourself.

TAKE A STRESS TEST

The standard tests that doctors use to tell whether you are an easily stressed "hot reactor" (and at greater risk for disease) are pretty simple, so take your pick, says Frank Barry, M.D., a family practice physician in Colorado Springs and author of Make the Change for a Healthy Heart. For the first two tests, you’ll want to take a blood-pressure reading twice "once before the test and once during the test" for comparison.

Test 1: Chill out. In Test 1, put your hand into a bucket of cold water for one minute and have someone measure your blood pressure right after you have done it. If it goes up into the high range in response to physical stress, you are a "hot reactor."

Test 2: Do some math. Test 2 is a little more cerebral. Start with the number 100 and mentally subtract 7, then continue to subtract 7 until you get to 2. In the midst of your figuring, have your blood pressure taken. "There’s no exercise, no threat to your life, but a lot of people still feel mental stress and their blood pressures shoot up," says Dr. Barry.

Test 3: Talk to yourself. You can also test yourself without the shock of cold water or the mental anguish of math. As yourself: "Are you working toward your own true goals or someone else’s? " If you are busy trying to keep up with the Joneses, you’re still in the rat race, even if you have retired. You’re much more likely to feel the effects of stress regardless of whether you’re a "hot reactor," says Dr. Barry.

CONFIDENCE AND SELF ESTEEM

The greatest challenges to your confidence come when you’re facing a situation that looks impossible. When this happens, you must tap in to the unseen force of self-assurance so that you can press beyond supposed limits. It’s not a matter of what things look like on the outside - the key is to recognize what you have working on the inside. Confidence is often the missing link to seeing yourself accomplish the impossible. You just have to believe that you have what it takes to be successful, and don’t back down from your capable stance.

You are in control of your thoughts. If you choose to believe you have confidence - that you’re energized - then you will be. The next time you face a big challenge, take a deep breath and fill your heart with the belief that you have unlimited energy running through your veins. Build your confidence by reflecting on those things you’ve already accomplished. If you did it once, you can certainly do it again.

Today, receive the confidence you deserve - and you’ll find that you always had it within you.

Don’t confuse self-esteem with arrogance: Arrogance is an over evaluation of your worth, while self-esteem is a healthy opinion of yourself - it’s valuing yourself to the point that you don’t allow other people or negative situations and circumstance to influence the way you feel about yourself. Until you value yourself, you won’t value anything, and other people won’t value you either. After all, your relationship with yourself is the most important one you’ll ever have.

When you’re filled with self-doubt, give yourself a little pep talk. Repeat

" [Your name], you are great! You are a unique individual, a new kind of person the world has never known. You were born to do well. You were born to succeed. You were born to bless the lives of others. You were born to be great, and you have what it takes to be great. You are enthusiastic, optimistic, and a change- embracer. You are a giver, rather than a taker. You are organized. You are a hard worker. You are happy. You are a master over yourself, you are a leader. You are a big thinker. As blessed as you are with all these talents, there isn’t one thing in the world you can’t do. You will never fail. [Your name], go out and make today an ‘attitude is everything’ day!" By making this profession every day, you’ll experience an awesome self-esteem boost! Remember, you are priceless - your past is history, and your future is now!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Let’s review some of what you have learned about stress. Steel will snap from it and a pressure cooker will blow its lid.

Stress, pressure, tension is a fact of everyday life for most of us.

Remember that it puts you at risk for heart attack, stroke, insomnia, backache, headache, irritable bowel syndrome, sports injuries and infertility.

Stress can trigger serious illness like Graves’ and fibromyalgia. Stress even makes us more susceptible to the common cold.

With your health at stake, it is essential to use some of the methods we have discussed. Also, it’s important that you remember that stress is a physiological response. It isn’t all in your head! You owe it to yourself to take the time to use the stress-reducing techniques on a daily basis.

We’ve already given you a great selection, but we want to make certain that you have a wide range of coping skills to use at home, work and other places. So here are an additional 12 keys to stress reduction to help you open the door to a more relaxing life. They contain dozens of additional helpful hints. Choose those best suited for you.

Breathe deeply. Relax your muscles, expanding your stomach and chest. Exhale slowly. Repeat several times.

Follow your breath as it flows in and out. Do not try to control it. This is a good way to relax in the midst of any activity. This technique allows you to find a breathing pattern that is natural and relaxing to you. Use this yoga technique: Inhale slowly, counting to eight. Exhale through your mouth, even more slowly, counting to sixteen. Make a sighing sound as you exhale, and feel tension dissolve. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise regularly. Aerobic exercise, such as walking and swimming, produces brain chemicals that uplift your mood and mental well-being. Exercise also improves sleep and gives you time to think and focus on other things. Beware of compulsive exercise, however.

Yoga is an age-old system for stretching and strengthening the muscles. Take a class or learn at home with a good book or video.

Neck and shoulder exercises are useful for the desk-bound and arthritis sufferers.

Neck roll: Look to the right, then roll your head forward, as if you are trying to touch your chin to your chest. Keep rolling until you are looking over your left shoulder. Repeat in the other direction.

Shoulder lift: Relieve tension in the neck by lifting the shoulders toward the ears, then dropping them as low as they will go. Repeat 10 times. Eat healthy foods. You should never skip meals. Take time out for lunch no matter how busy you are.

Carry nutritious snacks to the office, or even the shopping mall. A nutritionally balanced diet is important. For example, researchers have found that even small deficiencies of thiamin, a B-complex vitamin, can cause anxiety symptoms. Pantothenic acid, another B-complex vitamin, is critical during times of stress.

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large amounts of sweets, which can aggravate symptoms of stress.

Don’t let others get you down. Choose positive friends who are not worriers. Friends who constantly put you down or talk gloomily about life will increase your anxiety. Ask a good friend to help you talk out a problem and get it off your chest. A long-distance call to an old pal can be great therapy.

Forgive others instead of holding grudges. Relax your standards - for yourself and others. Perfectionism is not the way to happiness. Become more flexible.

Communicate clearly with your co-workers and boss. Ask questions. Repeat instructions that you are given. Clarifying directions at the start of a project can save hours later straightening out misunderstandings.

Be truthful with others. Lies and deception lead to stress that always takes it toll.

Be optimistic. Count your blessings, especially when everything seems to go wrong. Believe that most people are doing the best that they can.

Don’t blow problems out of proportion. Live by a philosophy of life that whittles problems down to size. The maxim, "Live one day at a time," has helped millions.

Plan your time wisely. And realistically. For example, don’t schedule back-to-back meetings with tight travel time. Remember to leave room for unanticipated events " both negative and positive. Be flexible about rearranging your agenda.

Get up 15 minutes early in the morning. Allow an extra 15 minutes to get to all appointments.

Avoid procrastination. Whatever needs doing, do it now. Schedule unpleasant tasks early, so that you won’t have to worry about them for the rest of the day. Keep an appointment book. Don’t rely on your memory. Do one thing at a time. Focus your attention on the person talking to you or the job at hand, instead of worrying about other things. This also reduces mistakes — which lead to more anxiety.

Be prepared to wait. Carry a book to read in case of delays. Say "no" to requests that stretch you to the limits.

Delegate. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Break a job into separate tasks and assign them to people with the appropriate skills. Then leave them alone to do their work. Prevent problems before they occur. This takes some planning.

If you are flying to another city for an important meeting, carry your presentation materials and dress suit on board the plane. Baggage does get lost.

Buy gas for the car before the tank is empty. Get regular oil changes and checkups. Keep food staples on hand so you can fix a fast meal without going to the store.

Keep food, toilet paper and toiletries on hand so you never run out. The same goes for postage stamps, paper and envelopes. Keep duplicate keys for home, car and office in secure locations.

Retreat to recharge your spirit. Schedule private time every day. You deserve it. Unplug the telephone and enjoy a quiet evening alone or with your family, or even 15 uninterrupted minutes in the shower or bathtub.

You may want to spend a few minutes writing your feelings out in a journal. It can help you find a new perspective and relieve hidden conflicts.

Here are more spirit rechargers:

Wear earplugs for instant peace anytime, anyplace. Learn a meditation technique. Two methods: Observe your thoughts as they pass through your mind. Or, repeat a word or phrase with an uplifting meaning.

Practice progressive relaxation for 20 minutes twice a day to relive high blood pressure and other physiological responses to stress. Tighten and release each muscle group in turn, starting with the soles of the feet and slowly working up to the scalp. Plan a weekend activity that is a change of pace. If your week is heavily scheduled, relax and enjoy noncompetitive activities. If you are never able to finish anything during the week, choose a project that you can complete in a few hours on Saturday or Sunday.

Take time out for a diversion in the middle of your workday.

When the pressures of completing a project are too great, your productivity can drop. Take a walk or stop for lunch. Savor life’s little delights. Give yourself some physical pleasure to help your stress slip away.

Treat yourself to a professional massage, or trade massages with a loved one.

Give yourself permission to enjoy a movie, watch a sports event, listen to music or read a book. Savor a soothing cup of chamomile herb tea with a dollop of honey. Chamomile has long been used to relieve nervous tension.

Plan a day of beauty with a friend. Do each other’s hair, or paint your nails and chat.

Create a simple steam facial at home by boiling water. Remove the pan from the stove. Cover your head with a large towel so that it creates a tent over the pot. Steam your face for five or 10 minutes. Add aromatic herbs to the water for a sensual touch.

Focus completely on any of the senses " hearing, seeing, eating or body movements " for a few minutes. Even washing your hands can become a sensual experience.

Use visualization and affirmation techniques. You can inoculate yourself against a situation you fear by going over the event in your mind. Imagine the scene in vivid detail and picture the best possible outcome.

You can also shrink an imagined fear down to size by picturing the worst possible results. Imagine describing this worst case to your best friend the next day and the sympathy you receive. Imagine telling a group of friends the next month, who share their similar experiences. Finally, imagine joking about your unpleasant experience with a complete stranger a year later. If you carry this exercise through to the end, your stress will become something to laugh about.

Replace negative self-talk with affirmations. The chatterbox in your mind is filled with gloom: You’re too fat. . . you’re too old. . .you’ll never amount to anything. Like the little engine that could, nourish your mind with a constant stream of "I know I can."

Get enough sleep. Determine how much sleep you require for optimum performance. Sleep deprivation aggravates the body’s responses to stress. Consider setting an alarm clock to remind yourself that it is time to go to bed.

Strive for your dreams. Plan ahead to meet your most cherished goals in life.

Time management experts emphasize the importance of writing down your important goals.

Break big projects down into a series of small steps that you can work on every day. Want to change jobs? Make one phone call contact today. Is writing a book your dream? Commit to writing one page a day.

Knowing that you are striving toward your dreams relieves frustrations that mount when you feel stuck in a rut of endless responsibilities that seem to lead nowhere.

Even if you only use these last 12 keys to stress relief, you can become a happier, healthier person, a more efficient worker and a better friend to others. Keep a notebook as new ideas come to you through your reading and your own creativity. The most important key is your decision to take time for yourself and to simplify your life whenever possible.

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Copyright (c): Jaime Peret Director / Founder

@ozsmartweb Pty. Ltd.
http://www.sydneybrowser.com
http://www.ozsmartweb.net
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