Stress is simply a fact of everyday life affecting almost every age group. However, contrary to popular belief, stress is not always bad. We need some stress to stimulate us. A certain level of stress is beneficial. This type of stress is called eustress. It helps us to achieve goals as well as perform at a higher level. For example, the demands of an upcoming competition, work project or exam can create stress, that stimulates a person to work hard to win the competition & finish the project on time.
However, there are times when stress is overwhelming. This type of stress—called distress that paralyses rather than stimulates. It contributes to decreased health and well-being. Therefore, an important part of healthy living is to bring stress back to a functional level, where it works for us, rather than against us. The following table lists some of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress. The more signs and symptoms you notice in yourself, the closer you may be to stress overload.Stress Management: Often dealing with circumstances, situations and stressors in life that leave one feeling emotionally and physically overwhelmed. Many feel that they have very little resources or skills to deal with the high levels of stress they are experiencing. This continued state of stimulation that contributes to health problems. Stress management strategies that address the symptoms of stress are typical relaxation strategies. Relaxation strategies help to reverse the stress response. Therefore, they can reduce the risk of stress-related health problems.
What follows are various relaxation strategies that have been proven effective for stress management:
1. Breathing exercises: Breathing exercises have been scientifically shown to induce relaxation. There are several ways to perform breathing exercises like Deep breathing, consciousness of breathing, yogic asanas etc. that can be practiced to induce relaxation.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: The goal of progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is to progressively relax the muscles. Different breathing exercises, techniques vary but, the essence of the exercise remains the same. To progressively tense and then relax muscle groups. As one learns to distinguish between tense muscles and relaxed ones he can become more efficient at inducing a state of relaxation in the group of muscle that are being focused upon. SAVASANA – the still pose is an efficient way to produce progressive muscle relaxation.
3. Massage: Stress results in tense muscles. Since massage is an effective technique to relax tense muscles, it can help as a short-term approach to manage stress. One can have someone massage himself or himself he can use self-massage techniques. This can also be used for local relaxation.
4. Exercise: During exercise, the body releases a hormone called adrenaline, stimulating hormone that is released in “fight or flight” response. During exercise, adrenaline serves a purpose and is needed to keep the body moving. After exercise when it is consume by the body, it returns to normal. However, in times of stress this hormone is secreted but there is generally no physical action (e.g. running, jumping etc.) so, the body stays in stimulated state. A relaxed state usually occurs after physical activity. A few types of exercise including Yoga and T'ai Chi have additional benefits as they promote body awareness and breath control. Take some time to go out for a brisk walk a run, play a sport with some friends, visit a gym, skating or try any kind of physical activity that you enjoy to relieve stress.
5. Visualization: The mind and body are intricately connected. Our thoughts can lead to changes in the body. Visualization is a technique where we use the power of imagination to induce feelings of relaxation. Close your eyes and imagine things that make you feel good, that are relaxing or soothing to you ; such as spending time with loved ones, sitting on beach, watching a waterfall or looking a lake surrounded by mountains. Beware of creeping negative thoughts that can add to the experience of stress rather than promote relaxation.
Another way to use visualization for stress relief is to visualize tension fading away. Guided imagery is a form of visualization where an instructor guides us through the visualization and relaxation process.
6. Meditation: It involves focusing attention and awareness. We can gain greater control over thoughts. Different methods of practicing meditation begin with assuming a comfortable posture such as sitting on a cushion or in a chair. Gently close both eyes and begin to relax body muscles. The next step is to clear all thoughts from mind & put them on side. Don’t think of the past or the future: just focus on the present moment. A popular way to do this is to focus on the breath. The goal is to reach a point where your thoughts disappear and you are left with an uncluttered mind.
7. Hot bath, sauna, hot tub: The physical changes that happen in the body as a result of stress include constriction of blood vessels, leading to an increase in blood pressure. The warmth of a hot bath, a sauna or a hot tub opens up blood vessels, so that there is greater circulation of blood to the muscles that help in mental and physical relaxation.
8. Music appreciation: We listen music regularly, but we rarely devote time to truly appreciate many facets of music such as lyrics, beat, or even the contribution of each individual instrument. Through music appreciation a person gets time to sit with music and appreciate it as a whole as well as its parts. Some types of music—such as classical, ambient or easy listening—are more conducive to achieve a relaxed state than other types such as heavy metal or hard rock.
9. Sleep: On average, around eight hours sleep a night is sufficient for good health. Sound sleep is necessary to induce feeling of relaxation. If you are under work pressure all the time, you will be amazed, how sharp and energetic you will feel when you start sleeping normally. Enough sleep can prove to be the best mood booster. Sleep relieves anxiety, unpleasant thoughts and promotes relaxation.
10. Hobby: A hobby that is too demanding, time-consuming, or expensive, however, will probably add to stress. On the other hand hobbies that are reported to produce satisfaction and contentment are those that are creative, productive or build expertise skill. Some ideas include crafts, gardening, noncompetitive sports, playing an instrument, writing, singing, and dancing.
11. Spending time with loved ones, including pets: Time spend with people (or animals) we love promotes feelings of calmness and relaxation. Spending quality time with people you love and admire can change the mood and help fight stress to great extent. An outing with family and friends can take you far away form anything causing stress.
12. Be aware of the foods you eat: Caffeine found in soda, coffee, tea and chocolate can increase the level of stress. Caffeine releases adrenaline that raises levels of stress. Consuming large amounts of caffeine has the same effect as long-term stress. It can also cause weight gain over years. Eating foods high in sugar cause adrenal glands feel tired. If this happens it can cause depression, irritability and can cause trouble in concentration. Foods high in salt like bacon and ham can increase blood pressure and can also cause emotional instability. Alcohol creates adrenaline levels to raise which can cause insomnia and irritability. This can also hurt your immune system causing you to be susceptible to more colds and other viruses. Red meat can also raise your levels of stress and anxiety. High protein diets raise levels of dopamine which increases anxiety and stress. Fatty foods including fried food and junk food produce stress.
Garry & Sun Reno, Nevada USA.