Learning How To Cope With Stress
It’s the holiday season again. Oh the parties! The fun! The champagne! Oh the crowds! The traffic! And those family members who push all your buttons! Yes, you know what stress feels like, but do you really know the magnitude of potential harm that this level of chronic stress can have on you?
According to studies at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), approximately 90 percent of all illnesses—mental and physical—are caused by or aggravated by stress! Dr. Hans Seyle, a pioneering stress researcher, defines stress as a psychophysiological (mind/body) event that takes place when your system is overwhelmed by any experience: physical, mental, or emotional. Stress isn’t something out there; it’s completely subjective and internal. It is a mind/body reaction.
Learn stress management techniques that will help you survive this holiday season.
Researchers have found that chronic stress causes a cascade of neurochemical reactions that can lead to illness and disease. In stressful situations, the adrenal glands release cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, otherwise known as the stress hormones. The pituitary releases more stress-related hormones, and as a result, the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system “revs” up. The response is known as fight or flight. It’s very useful—even essential—in an emergency, because it gives you the ability to respond quickly for your safety. However for most of the daily stresses we face, the fight-or-flight response is neither necessary nor appropriate. Instead of being helpful, it can be quite harmful to your health.
The subsequent psycho-physiological response leaves behind a soup of chemicals that stick around and wreak havoc on your system. When chronically elevated, these stress chemicals can cause high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, depression, frustration, anger, and tension. They raise the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stomach ulcers; depress your immune system and can even enlarge your waistline. Stress reactions also cause an increase in oxygen-free radicals, which are linked to most degenerative diseases including accelerated aging and cancer.
Triggers for Stress
You’re probably familiar with the list of big stressors: death of a loved one, divorce, moving, and loss of a job. But what you may not have considered is that just about anything can create stress in your body. Too much or too little of things that are considered good for you—or even essential—can trigger a stress response: good food, rest, exercise, a vacation, or any sensory stimulus.
Of course, traditionally bad-for-you things can cause it too, like eating the wrong food, eating too late at night, staying up too late, watching too much TV, or watching a violent movie. Anything can induce a stress reaction if you don’t receive it in the proper way at the right time in the correct amount.
Fortunately, there are several proven techniques that are effective at reducing stress or, at least, at decreasing your physiological response to it. Here are 8 suggestions:
8 Stress Management Techniques
1. Get enough sleep at the proper times: Go to bed before 10 PM and get up by 6 AM for the most benefit.
2. Eat primarily fresh organic fruits, vegetables, and grains. Organically grown plants are loaded with protective nutrients, such as antioxidants, that guard against stress and disease. Conventionally grown foods (grown with pesticides and other chemicals), red meat, processed foods, leftovers, and frozen or canned foods all have lower nutritional values, increase oxygen free radicals, and are generally toxic for your body.
3. Practice an effective, stress-reducing technique. More than 500 research studies have shown that Transcendental Meditation (TM) significantly lessens anxiety, depression, insomnia, digestive disturbances, neurotic tendencies, physical complaints, and psychosomatic problems. Tai chi, yoga, and breathing exercises are great stress-busters too.
4. Listen to relaxing music. Studies show that classical music or any other soothing music of your choice can cause a significant relaxation response.
5. Get a massage, or give yourself a massage. Massage has been found to release many hormones associated with relaxation, and it boosts your immune system. The effects are enhanced when a good penetrating oil, such as organic sesame oil, is used.
6. Take an antioxidant supplement. A stress reaction creates excess oxygen-free radicals, which have been linked to most chronic degenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and accelerated aging. Some good antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and CoQ10.
7. Take an herbal supplement. Certain herbs, such as Holy basil, ginseng, and ashwagandha have been shown to effectively reduce the stress response through a variety of mechanisms. They are called “adaptogens” because they help us adapt to stress. Studies show they decrease the release of the stress hormone cortisol, enhance stamina and endurance, increase the body’s effective use of oxygen, neutralize oxygen-free radicals, and boost your immune system.
8. Exercise regularly. Exercise is pure medicine. Even brisk walking helps to alleviate stress, elevate your mood, strengthen your cardiovascular system, and lower your risk of all sorts of diseases including cancer.
CHANGING YOUR REACTION
Life is stressful—especially around the holidays. Because chronic stress can be so harmful, it’s essential for good health to be proactive against the damaging effects. Give a few of these tips a try. Not only will you lower the risk of stress-related diseases, but you’ll find that you feel better, have more energy, and feel more peaceful and calm. Happy holidays!
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