Tag Archives: relaxation techniques

9 Simple Ways to Handle Stress

relaxOur lives are filled with stress. It’s impossible to avoid. You’re already late for an appointment and get slowed down by road construction. Your boss dumped a proposal on you that’s due tomorrow. Your schedule is hectic, and you need to be in two places at once.

Research shows that some stress can be good for you. However, if you’re dealing with persistent – long-term stress, such as a sick parent or a demanding boss, it can actually lead to a variety of health issues.

Here are 9 simple and practical ways to copy with stress in your daily life:

Enjoy some fresh air
Make it a point to get outside every day. Research shows that vitamin D from sunlight can elevate your mood by releasing feel-good serotonin. Taking in the sights, sounds and smells around you will take your mind off your worries or frustrations. Even feeling the wind on your face can lift your spirits.

Take a walk
When you’re stressed, it’s easy to turn to bad habits to make you feel better, such as a candy, cigarettes or caffeine. Next time you’re feeling anxious, go for a quick stroll. Studies show that even 10 minutes of exercise can provide a mental boost. Better yet, climb a few flights of stairs. Climbing stairs requires you to pay more attention to what you’re doing and helps vent frustrations.

Rely on rituals
You probably already have rituals that help you relax, and you may not even realize it. For example, you may read the newspaper as you eat breakfast, listen to music while you clean or take a bath before going to bed. Our bodies naturally crave routines, so focusing on regular rituals can help you relax physically and mentally. If you’re feeling stressed, make sure you stick to your regular routines.

Put down the junk food
Do you handle stress by eating? In hectic times, you may choose comfort foods, such as refined carbs or sugary snacks. You will most likely experience a sugar crash, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish. Extra calories can also quickly add up to extra pounds. The next time you’re feeling anxious, make sure you have healthy snacks on hand, such as fresh fruits, vegetables or a handful of nuts.

Get out of your head
Stress likes to mess with your mind. Do you ever get stuck in an ongoing loop of negative thoughts or playing back conversations in your head? A great way to get out of your own head is to engage in fun activities that put your focus on your hands or body. For instance, you can cook, knit or crochet, climb a rock wall or play a sport. When you do something creative or an engaging activity, you fall into a rhythmic pattern and your brain helps you relax and feel more grounded.

Visualize calm
Find a quiet area and create a happy place for a few minutes each day. Just sit still, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Clear you mind and concentrate on thinking about nothing stressful. It’s harder than you think! Find a comforting and calming image that works for you and helps you relax. Read more about relaxation techniques.

Focus on the present
It’s easy to get sucked into worrying over things that have already happened or imagining what could happen in the future. Let go of thoughts about the past and future, and focus on the present moment. Be aware of where you are and what’s happening right now. Think about how the air feels on your skin, the sound of your kids laughing or a friend telling you about their day. Being mindful of the present can help you let go of stressing about the past and future.

Express your gratitude
Take a few moments each day to express gratitude. It can be as simple as going over the good things that happened that day before you go to sleep. You can write your feelings in a journal. Or, you can let friends and family know you are grateful for them. Research has shown that showing more gratitude releases hormones that make you feel good and lowers stress levels.

Connect with your spiritual side
Spirituality can boost happiness in times of stress. Many religious groups and native tribes use prayer beads to guide their spiritual practice. Having something to hold while communicating with a higher spirit can provide comfort and routine. Prayer can also help you pass your worries over to God and give you peace.

Learning how to cope with stress on a daily basis can help you improve your overall health and well-being. Take the time each day to acknowledge stress and find ways – like the tips above – to help you let it go and live a more balanced life.

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12 Ways to Stop Stressing Right Now

I was riding in the car with my son, and the country song “I’m in a Hurry” by Alabama came on the radio. He said, “Mom, that sounds like you.” The opening lyrics are:

I’m in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.

Do you feel like you’re in a constant state of stress? Rushing here and there trying to accomplish everything, until you realize you aren’t having any fun? I definitely have days like that.

If you’re stressed out and feeling like your life is out of balance, here are 12 ways to stop stress in its tracks:

Admit you’re stressed
When my son said that song sounded like me, I looked at my knuckles clenched on the steering wheel, hunched back and overall impatience. I realized I was stressed about fitting in everything I needed to do that day. Was it that important? Did I need rush until I was stressed out? Recognizing that you’re anxious, grumpy and just plain tired, you can make a determined effort to do something about it.

Take a deep breath
While you may not have time to take a yoga class or find a quiet place to practice relaxation techniques, you can take a few moments to just breathe. Breathe in deeply through your nose and then slowly let it out. Repeat a few times and think about letting the stress of the moment go. You will feel better!

Go outside
Taking in nature can reduce stress and improve your health. Go outside and take a walk or even sit in a peaceful place and enjoy the soothing sounds of nature. Spending time outdoors can put things in perspective and inspire a more positive outlook.

Laugh or smile like you mean it
A genuine smile can reduce your body’s stress responses, even if you’re not necessarily feeling it on the inside. Smiling can also lower your heart rate. Humor can help you relax. Read the comics in the newspaper, watch a comedy show or hang out with funny friends. Find a reason to have a little fun each day.

Do something for you
I spend all my time worrying about my kids, husband, work and all the things that need to be done to keep everything running smoothly. Take a few minutes to do something you enjoy – and that’s just for you.

Chew bubble gum
Studies show that chewing gum lowers anxiety and eases stress. It may be that the rhythmic act of chewing improves blood to your brain. Or, it may just be that the smell or taste help relax you.

Try aromatherapy
Certain scents can sooth. Lavender is a common scent thought to help ease stress. I personally like the smell of honeysuckle. It takes me back to summer nights when I was young, sleeping with the windows open and smelling honeysuckle. Other scents may trigger positive or special memories for you.

Get moving
Exercise improves mood, releases stress and can make you feel better about yourself. Just 30 minutes of physical activity three times a week can positively impact your mood and your health. Exercise can also be meditative, allowing you to clear your mind and let go of whatever is stressing you out.

Make time for friends and family
Talking to close friends and family members can help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Telling someone your troubles and getting their input can put things into perspective. It helps to share your thoughts and be supported and heard.

Hug a pet
Spending time with animals can also alleviate stress. You can tell them your troubles, worries and fears, and they won’t judge you or give you unwanted advice. Animals can help your brain produce less of the stress hormone cortisol and more serotonin, which helps you feel more relaxed.

Rock it out
Music can help you let go of stress or put your worries aside for a while. The type of music is up to you. Some people enjoy classical music while others want to jam out to some old time rock and roll. It’s about being in the moment and letting yourself get into the music.

Read a book
I love to get lost in a great novel. I can shut down my brain and let go of distractions. I enjoy becoming caught up in the story. It’s a great way to relax, especially right before you go to bed.

Once you learn to recognize that you’re stressed out, you have the power to let the worry and anxiety go and find a more balanced, low-stress life.

9 Intriguing Things to Know About Stress

Intriguing Things to Know About StressWe have written about holiday stress, summer stress, vacation stress and even tax time stress. There are foods that can help reduce stress as well as relaxation techniques.

We know that stress is bad for our health and can interfere with finding balance in our lives. At this point, you may feel like you know everything there is to know about stress.

Here are 9 interesting and intriguing things you may not – but should – know about stress:

Big or small – your body feels stress
Your body doesn’t know the difference between a big stress and a little stress. Whether you were just in a car accident or if you’re panicking over get a report finished on time, your body reacts in the same predictable ways. When you are stressed, your system is cascaded with 1,400 biochemical events in your body. Left unchecked, this stress reaction can cause damage over time.

Contributes to top-most causes of death
Chronic stress is interconnected with some of the major killers: accidents, cancer, heart disease, suicide, lung disorders and cirrhosis of the liver. Stress is often called the “silent killer” because we spend so much time in a state of stress that we may not even realize how seriously it affects us.

Stress can make you do stupid things
Researchers have found that stress causes something called “cortical inhibition.” This reaction helps explain why sometimes smart people do dumb things. When stress interferes with your brain, you aren’t able to function and think like normal.

Your pupils dilate when you’re stressed
When you’re in a stressful situation, your pupils will dilate. It’s your body’s way of trying to gather and process more information about what is happening.

Stress can make you lose your hair
While there’s no proof that stress can make your hair turn gray, it may contribute to hair loss. Studies have shown that you may experience hair loss as much as three months after a stressful event occurs.

Being stressed affects your blood
Stress can lead to physical problems like high blood pressure, irregular heart beat, chest pain and heart disease. Being stressed can also thicken your blood. Your body is naturally preparing for an injury and makes your blood more sticky. Your capillaries also constrict so that you won’t bleed as much if you have a wound.

Stress makes you prematurely age
How much stress you experience and how well you handle it can be a factor in the aging process. Stress speeds up the wear and tear on your body, making you look older and feel more run down than your actual age.

Simple things can help control stress
Little things like laughing, eating dark chocolate and listening to music can help you relieve stress. Chewing gum may ease stress as well. Of course, playing with a pet, hugging a child or spending time with friends and loved ones are also good stress relievers. Getting enough sleep can help you feel more rejuvenated and combat one of the side effects of stress – insomnia. Exercise is a natural way to alleviate stress, too.

Live in the moment
To a large extent, stress is all about mind over matter. A positive attitude goes a long way toward combating stress. Stress is often brought on by over thinking and worrying about things that are beyond your control. If you can spend more time living in the moment – rather than obsessing about the past or what might happen in the future – you can instantly create a more relaxing state of mind.

How do you cope with stress? What are your tips for avoiding it or changing your reaction to it?

6 ways to beat stress for better health

Stress juggling too many responsibilitiesWe all deal with stress. It can be a juggling act to balance all of our responsibilities. Your boss just dumped a bunch of work on your desk on Friday afternoon. The car battery died. One of the kids is sick. The property taxes are coming due.

Sometimes everything piles up at once, and you feel overloaded. You may not be able to keep all the balls in the air, and it seems like too much to handle. You can’t avoid stress. It’s just part of life. However, you can control how you deal with it.

Stress can cause you to gain weight and can even shorten your lifespan. By learning to manage stress, you can live a much happier, healthier and more productive life.

Here are 6 ways you can make changes in your life now to help you beat stress for better health:

1. Balance your lifestyle
How you live your life affects your stress level. If one aspect of your life is out of balance, it can lead to stress and dissatisfaction – not only in that area of your life but also in other areas. For instance, if your work schedule has become extremely hectic, it will impact your personal life. Your spouse may wish you could spend more time together. You may miss your kids’ sports or school activities due to work.

Here are some areas to work on to help you find more balance and reduce stress:

Look at your schedule. It’s important to create a balance between your personal needs, work, and your family and friends. Our relationships with others are an integral part of our happiness. Start by looking at your commitments. Maybe you need to adjust how and where you spend your time. Make more time for you. Or plan more activities with your family or friends. There may be things you don’t need to do at all. Sometimes just saying no when you’re feeling overwhelmed can be the greatest stress reliever.

Get enough sleep. Your body uses sleep to rest and re-cooperate from the stresses of the day. Your body and mind need sleep for many other healthy reasons, too.

Eat healthier. By eating healthier you have more energy, may lose weight or maintain your weight, and will feel better about yourself. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and protein can also help boost your immunity. Staying healthy is one of the best defenses against stress.

Make the time to exercise. If you can work exercise into your daily routine and make it habit, you will feel healthier and reduce stress. Even moderate exercise, such as walking, can help lower your stress level.

Find a sense of purpose. You may feel stressed if you aren’t doing anything that’s meaningful to you or that you truly enjoy. You may find a sense of purpose through your family, friends, a hobby you love, work or by volunteering. Your purpose should make you happy to get out of bed in the morning and fulfilled at the end of the day.

These are a few of the areas in your life that can get out of balance. It is also important to make sure you are financially and spiritually balanced. You may find it helps to set goals and improve your habits in order achieve more.

2. Get organized
Being surrounded by clutter can also contribute to stress. If you feel you are constantly searching for things or simply feel overwhelmed by all of the “stuff” in your life, then take the initiative to clean up the clutter and reduce your stress.

You can also improve your time management skills. I know I am often guilty of procrastination. I put things off or do unimportant tasks to avoid what I should be doing. The next thing I know, I haven’t gotten anything worthwhile done. By managing your time more effectively, you can prioritize what is urgent and what can wait. You can also get more things done in a shorter amount of time. That leaves more time to do the fun things!

3. Change your mindset
It’s easy to get caught up in negative thinking. Situations that are out of your control or not even your fault suddenly start to cause you unnecessary stress. Negative thoughts can trigger your body’s stress response. Changing your mindset to more positive thinking can help you cope with stress more easily.

4. Learn to relax
When you feel stressed, take time to relax. It may mean simply closing your eyes, breathing deeply and thinking positive thoughts for a few minutes. You can envision yourself in a place that makes you happy and relaxed. Sit outside and soak up the sun for a few minutes. Go for a quick walk and let your mind wander. You can also use different types of relaxation techniques to help you reduce tension.

5. Disconnect
We live in a plugged-in world. While all of our high tech devices – TVs, cell phones, computers, tablets – can help us stay connected and make work and life easier, they keep us connected all the time. Turn off the computer and cell phone and take a break from technology every once in a while. Spend time with family and friends without the distractions. Go outside and do nothing. Enjoy just being.

6. Reach out
If you start to feel too overwhelmed, reach out to friends and family. Simply talking to someone and venting your frustrations can help you feel better. You can talk to people you know from church or a religious leader. You may reach a point when you want to talk to a counselor or therapist. It’s okay to reach out and ask for help when you need it!

You can beat stress and live a more balanced, healthy and fulfilling life. How do you cope with stress?

Easy relaxation techniques to reduce stress

1121962_meditationThe kitchen faucet is leaking. One of my kids can’t find her P.E. clothes and the school bus is coming. I need to deposit checks, pick up the finished taxes, drop off the dehumidifier to be fixed, and get my gray roots touched up sometime. Oh, and get a little work done, too.

This is just a sample list of the types of things we all deal with on daily basis. Some stress is good for us. It helps us stay motivated to get things done, and it keeps our minds focused and active. On the other hand, too much stress can be harmful to our physical and mental health.

How can you find the right balance between a little bit of good stress and too much stress? If your hectic lifestyle is getting to you, here are a few relaxation techniques that can bring you back into balance – quickly and easily:

Meditate
When you think of meditation, you may picture twisting your legs into the lotus position, holding your hands up and repeating, “Ohmmm.” However, any repetitive action can act as meditation and help you relax. For instance, walking, swimming, painting and crocheting can help you focus on the moment and find calmness.

The idea is to quiet your mind and let your thoughts slow down. If you start feeling overwhelmed, you can also find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. You can focus on an external point, such as a photo or an object, or you can focus internally on an imaginary scene or a calming phrase. Concentrate on your point of focus and push out all the thoughts that are causing stress. You may get distracted and start stressing again. Simply push it aside and go back to your point of focus until you feel more relaxed.

When you meditate, you are giving your mind a rest from thinking and that constant stream of chatter  running through your head. You can let the negative thoughts go and move on.

Visualize yourself relaxed
This technique is called guided imagery or visualization. You focus on pleasant images to replace your negative thoughts or feelings so that you can relax. I live in landlocked southern Illinois, but I love to go to the beach. I like to picture myself sitting in my beach chair, the waves lapping at my toes, a warm wind ruffling my hair, and the sound of waves crashing rhythmically on the shore. Ah, I feel better already!

Breathe deeply
Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, can help you reverse stress by calming your breathing. To practice deep breathing, follow these steps:

  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, pushing your abdomen out as far as possible
  • Let your shoulders and neck muscles relax
  • Begin to exhale slowly and comfortably
  • Focus on feeling relaxed and calm
  • Repeat bullets 1 through 4 up to 5 times

Relax your muscles
When you are feeling stressed, you may find your body becomes more tense. I find that I tense up my neck, shoulders and jaw which can lead to a tension headache. With practice, you can learn progressive muscle relaxation to relax your muscles when you find yourself tensing up. Find a place where you can sit comfortable or even lie down. You may want to start with a few minutes of deep breathing to help you begin to relax.

Then, focus your attention on your right foot. Slowly tighten up the muscles in your right foot squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold it for a count of 10. Relax your foot and feel the tension flowing away as you let your foot go limp. After a moment, focus on your left foot and follow the same process. You can move slowly up your entire body, contracting and relaxing muscles as you go.

It takes some practice but feels great when you get the hang of it. I also use the technique to quickly release the tension I may be holding in a specific area, such as my neck, jaw, shoulders or back.

Think positively
If you find yourself stressed out about a situation and focusing on the possible negative outcomes, take a mental step back. Engage your mind in positive thinking. It can be very powerful! Start by envisioning something that triggers positive feelings in you. You can envision your spouse, your child (or children), a favorite vacation spot or your pet.

Thinking about these things that make you happy will help you slow your breathing, relax and put a smile on your face. With these feelings of relaxation and peace, you will be able to consider the stressful situation from a new perspective. You will most likely find it less overwhelming and more manageable.

Share some love
One of the quickest ways to feel more calm and relaxed is to cuddle with a loved one. Hug your spouse or partner for no reason. Snuggle up with a child and let the child take the conversation where ever it will go. Or, spend time with your pet. Playing fetch with your dog or petting your cat can provide instant relaxation. A side benefit of spending time with those you love is that you also recognize and appreciate the good things in your life.

Take a musical trip
Music can calm your heartbeat and soothe your soul. You may like to have classical, jazz or opera playing softly in the background to help reduce your stress. Or, you may like to crank up some pop or rock and roll to get out your frustrations and dance to the beat. Turn up the radio in your car and sing along. You may get some funny looks from other drivers, but you will most likely feel more relaxed. No matter how you like your music, it can take your mind off your worries so that you can decompress and enjoy the moment.

Drink a cup of tea
I drink a giant cup of coffee to help me get going in the morning. However, coffee can raise the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. I switch to drinking water after my morning coffee, but I also like to have a cup of hot tea in the afternoon or evening. Green tea offers many health benefits, including fight cancer and heart disease, lowering cholesterol, burning fat for weight loss, preventing diabetes and stroke, and staving off dementia. Chamomile tea is great for calming the mind and reducing stress. Some research has shown that black tea may help lower levels of cortisol when you drink it on a regular basis.

The next time you feel stressed, try a few of these techniques and see what works for you. If you practice them regularly, you will be able to confront that stressed out feeling immediately. You can take control of stress instead of letting it control you.

Do you have techniques you use to help reduce your stress level? Tell us about them!