WE'VE ALL BEEN in situations when we needed on-the-spot stress relief.
Experts have discovered fast and easy things you can do to relieve tension
any time and anywhere. Reducing stress as soon as it strikes, is important
because stress is unavoidable in everyday life. Stress can hit without
warning. And the long-term consequences of unman-aged stress can be
serious. It can lead to health problems such as headaches, backaches and
insomnia, as well as high blood pressure, ulcers, a weakened immune system,
and heart disease.
The secret to managing stress is to build relaxation breaks into every day
so that they become part of your lifestyle.
- Eat soothing snacks: Carbohydrates set off an intricate chain of
events in the body that increases the supply of serotonin, a brain chemical
known for its calming effect. To get the most out of your snack, avoid
eating proteins, which can thwart the production of serotonin. Likewise,
the snacks should be low in fat, as fat slows the absorption of food and
can delay the calming benefits. Choose starches like low-fat crackers,
pretzels, and Cheerios; and sweets like jelly beans, gummy candies, and ice
pops. All you need is a few ounces to trigger the calming effect.
- Take a deep breath: Deep breathing brings much-needed oxygen into the
body and relaxes the muscles. It also slows down the heart rate (which
accelerates when we feel anxious) and helps calm the mind. When you
concentrate on the rhythm of deep breathing, it takes your mind off what's
causing the problem. Here's a simple exercise: Picture a small beach ball
in your abdomen. Breathe slowly and deeply, imagining that you're inflating
the ball through a hole in your belly button. Exhale slowly through
slightly parted lips. Do this for about two minutes.
- Relax your muscles: Because anxiety causes muscles to tighten,
leading to headaches and backaches. Take a deep breath and hold for three
seconds, while pushing the thumb and index finger of one hand together so
that you feel a little tension. Then slowly exhale through your mouth while
releasing the tension in your fingers. Repeat several times. Focusing on
that tension release should help your whole body feel more relaxed.
Walk it off: While the stress-reducing benefits of moderate and
high-intensity exercise are well known. Even a brisk five to 15 minute walk
can be effective. Walkings effect on the cardiovascular system gives you a
boost of energy. And the more energy you have, the more you are able to
resist the physical effects of stress. A walk can also reduce muscle
tension, especially if you swing your arms naturally. Be sure to keep up a
brisk pace, but not so fast that you become exhausted.
Follow your nose: Some studies have shown that sniffing pleasant
aromas improves moods. Some people may find the smell of spiced apples
comforting because it reminds them of their mother's baking. The scent a
person finds relaxing depends on whether she thinks it's pleasant and what
associations it brings from her past.
Have a good cry: Eighty-five percent of women say they feel better
after crying. It's a way humans have of alleviating stress. Just how does
it work? Tears rid the body of chemicals that build up during periods of
stress, allowing us to relax.
Talk it out: When you're under duress, a quick call to a friend can
instantly make you feel better. Getting it off your chest helps put it in
perspective. Just be sure to pick the right person to confide in -- someone
who's a good listener. A word of caution: You may be working yourself up
instead of calming down if you find that you're repeating the same gripes.
If you don't feel like talking about what's bothering you, just chatting
can help too.