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Spring Cleaning- Getting Rid of Stress

Spring has made its come-back and ushered in its flowers, new energy and sunlight. Despite the initial surge of vitamin D, my transition to Spring has proved challenging and was accompanied by an ultra-busy schedule and a great deal of change.

Feeling tired and overwhelmed eventually translated into a fair amount of stress for me. This got me wondering about the pervasiveness of stress in today’s society. I quickly discovered that I wasn’t alone. The American Psychological Association found that 66 percent of people in the United States experience the physical symptoms of stress regularly.

Stress can be triggered by concerns about work, school, money, or relationships and has negative implications for our health.  Chronic stress has been shown to lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and to weakened immune systems. In addition, studies have also shown a link between stress and the development of psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression. For all of its negative consequences, learning to manage stress is essential.

Some find solace from their restless minds in yoga. I recently attended a class in hopes to stop mine in its tracks. During the class we were encouraged to use our strength to sit deep into the most challenging of poses; we were then directed to soften each pose with each breath.

The idea of surrendering to a challenge with strength, breath and patience can be powerful one. It reminded me that when we feel overwhelmed, sometimes all that is left to do is to stand tall, still and proud in tree pose…using the power of breath to lighten the load.

Although I find yoga classes particularly helpful it is not the only way to minimize stress. There are many options available to us outside the studio. An informal survey amongst friends resulted in the following list:

Running

Running has always been one of my favorite ways to get my endorphins up. Enjoying the scenery, fellow runners, and getting some sun can be a wonderful ways to get some perspective. In 2015 running was proved to reduce the amount of a substance called kynurenine by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. The substance “accumulates during times of stress and is believed to be linked to depression.”

Hobbies

Another way to help reduce stress is to aggressively pursue the things that you love. Taking short breaks to make room for things such as listening to music, playing a mindless video game, writing or painting. Hobbies can provide a nice moment of calm and can help bring us back to ourselves.

Treat yourself

We spend so much time working, being productive, and worrying about our health that sometimes we forget to take time to just love ourselves. Taking a bath after work, watching a movie with a glass of wine, or having a delicious lemon tart are great ways to can hug our internal selves during tough times.

Call a friend

Calling a friend or relative whom you can trust with your concerns can be extremely helpful. Moving the conversation from YOU to concern for someone else can also help put things into perspective.

Physical contact

Touch is another great way to reduce the physical effects of stress. A simple hug has proven to increase oxytocin levels which can help fight off the stress related hormone cortisol! During a massage the pressure placed on receptors under the skin, increases nerve activity (vagal nerve activity in the brain) which boosts serotonin and also decreases cortisol.

 

These are merely a few of the diverse ways in which people deal with stress. As for myself, I can’t say that I have mastered this whole stress management thing, but incorporating a couple of these actions into my daily life has been a great start.

Sources:

Effects of Stress- http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/02/25/how-stress-affects-mental-health/

Benefits of Touch- http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/heal-touch?page=4

Benefits of Running- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/11524491/The-surprising-health-benefits-of-going-for-a-run.html

Beat Stress- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/mens-health/11942920/How-to-beat-stress-a-complete-and-relaxing-guide.html


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