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6 Ways to Relieve Stress

Stress. We all experience it. Your heartbeat races, breathing shortens, chest tightens, temper rises...or maybe your stress response is exhaustion, depression, aches and pains in the body. Whatever your reaction to stress in your life; the result is unhealthy and dangerous. While experiencing stress is inevitable; suffering with it is not. There are ways you can manage it that will make a difference in your overall health.

Stress is known as the silent killer. And while our bodies are fully equipped to handle stressful situations short term, chronic stress leads to consequences on both your physical, mental and spiritual health. This includes depression, anxiety, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, eating disorders, skin problems and gastrointestinal problems—just to name a few.

The good news is there are things you can do on a regular basis to help you cope with stress inducing situations easier. Here are 6 easy ones to start with!

  1. Regular exercise. Regular exercise reduces the stress hormone cortisol and improves sleep and confidence. Choose an activity that you find enjoyable so you are more likely to stick to it and get moving!
  2. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness brings you back to the present moment, the here and now, helping you focus on the task at hand by minimizing racing thoughts and anxious thinking. Take some time each morning to just be still and live in the moment being grateful for all the positive realities in your life.
  3. Deep breathing. Slow, deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system reducing your blood pressure and heart rate immediately decreasing the stressful vibration in the body and mind. Find a quiet place and inhale deeply, hold the inhale for a count of 7 then exhale slowly pushing all of the air out and hold at the bottom of the breath for a count of 5.
  4. Yoga. In a yoga class, the combination of slow movement, peaceful music and controlled breath lowers blood pressure, heart rate and improves sleep. The meditative movement also lowers the stress hormone cortisol and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing depression and anxiety.
  5. Avoid stimulants. Caffeine, nicotine and sugar all cause a rise in stress hormones and then a drop resulting in a feeling of depression or lethargy. Avoiding these triggers will lower blood pressure and the feeling of racing heartbeat associated with stress. 
  6. Get more sleep. This takes some effort. Try to avoid your smartphone, computer screens and TV a few hours before bedtime. Get into the habit of getting into bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. 6-8 hours of sleep is optimal for the body and mind.
Li Wang