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Stress Reduction Techniques

Stress is the individual's generalized response to the varied demands of life. In a biological sense, a certain degree of stress is helpful and enhances survival, while too much stress can be harmful and impair survival. Humans experience stress mentally, emotionally and physically from internal and external causes. Our bodies react to stress in much the same general way regardless of what's causing the stress. Intense or prolonged stress produces changes in the nervous system which causes the endocrine glands to release hormones that affect different tissues throughout the body.

Stress is usually not limited to one part of the body or one part of our life. Therefore, it is important to address our whole selves when we talk of stress management. Our reactions to stressful events can impact all facets of our lives. Emotional stress can induce physical problems just as physical stress can lead to mental or emotional changes. Everyone has heard of business executives getting ulcers from stress on the job, but it may also be responsible for many other illnesses. Stress can cause decreased overall energy and fatigue, impaired resistance to illness, and inflammation in the body. Everyone has different weaknesses in their body, whether physical or emotional. Stress can aggravate or induce health problems by affecting those weaknesses.

Stress Management
* Try to identify major sources of stress in your life, both pleasant and unpleasant. How do they affect you?

* Say something positive or uplifting at least once daily, especially when you are under stress. Say it out loud to yourself or to someone else.

* Don't dwell on the past. Change the subject from the old, stressful thought and find a new response to past ways of dealing with problems.

* Get adequate sleep. Your body does a lot of repair work while sleeping.

* Deep breathing. Taking 3 deep, slow breaths causes the body to relax. Regular repetition has a cumulative helpful effect. Yoga utilizes deep breathing in its exercises.

* Aerobic exercise. Any exercise which increases the pulse rate can be called "aerobic". This is one of the most powerful tools to combat stress, provided one does not overdo exercising and become weakened. Check with your doctor if you are beginning an exercise program to find one that is appropriate for you. Some examples of exercises that can be done aerobically are: walking uphill, swimming, exercise bicycle, "rebounder", sports, step up/step down.

* Eat in a relaxed frame of mind. Chew thoroughly.

* Drink adequate liquids. You need 1 1/2 - 2 quarts of fluid daily. Some relaxing drinks include herb teas like alfalfa, peppermint, or chamomile, vegetable and fruit juices.
* Eat a diet high in fiber. Fiber is important in keeping the intestinal tract moving and provides substances that prevent against cancer. Foods rick in fiber include raw vegetables, whole grains and cereal products, and psyllium seeds.

* Eat foods high in B vitamins. B vitamins are called the stress vitamins because they are used as coenzymes in reactions throughout the body, especially the nervous system, and they are needed to metabolize food. Examples include whole grains, meats, eggs, nuts, beans, fish, poultry and green leafy vegetables.

* Limit sugar intake to less than 5% of total calories consumed to keep the immune system healthy. Even "natural" sugars like honey, raisins and preserves can impede immune response. Watch for foods with added sweeteners like corn syrup, glucose, dextrose, etc.

Hydrotherapy
* Hot baths, showers, sauna, steam bath, jacuzzi promote relaxation, as do moist hot packs to tight or sore muscles. Tepid baths are useful during periods of insomnia.

* Cold water shower after hot baths or showers stimulate and strengthen the nervous system and invigorate the body. Cold moist packs to local body areas reduce pain, swelling and heat, and promote good tissue tone.

Massage/Bodywork
* Pressure points stimulate the nervous system and promote muscle relaxation. A "foot roller" at the end of the day can be used to stimulate pressure points in the feet.

* Massage is effective at reducing stress in the body and can stimulate the body's immune response.

Relaxation
* Visualization. Find a scene in your mind, somewhere you have been that was a particularly peaceful and safe place to be, or somewhere you would like to be. This is important in allowing the wakeful mind a short vacation from daily stresses. Focus your attention on breathing, on mental repetition of uplifting words, or on the scenery of your peaceful place. Go there whenever you need a break from a stressful situation.

* Find activities or hobbies that are relaxing: movies, games, music, reading.


Further Reading
1. The Stress of Life, Hans Selye, M.D., Revised Edition, 1976, McGraw-Hill Book Co.
2. Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer, Kenneth R. Pelletier, 1977, Dell Publishing Co.
3. Fit or Fat?, Covert Bailey, 1978, Houghton Mifflin Co.

 


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