Stress Re­lief Tool­kit

IF YOU DON’T HAVE A HEALTHY WAY TO DEAL WITH STRESS, IT’S SO EASY TO CRUM­BLE. CON­SIDER CRE­AT­ING A FOUN­DA­TIONAL SUP­PORT SYS­TEM FOR YOUR LIFE WITH TH­ESE STRESS- BUST­ING IDEAS

Better Nutrition - - CONTENTS - BY TINA RU­BIN

Chronic stress is a fact of modern life— one that takes a big toll on our health. We asked the ex­perts for their top stress- bust­ing tips, and com­piled them into an easy- to- use for­mat to help you keep calm and carry on.

Have you ever no­ticed your pulse ac­cel­er­ate when you do some­thing as mun­dane as watch­ing the news? In an au­to­matic re­sponse to per­ceived dan­ger, the body fl oods with hor­mones and el­e­vates the heart rate, boost­ing our en­ergy in prepa­ra­tion for “fi ght or fl ight.” Th­ese days, some of us fi nd our bod­ies’ alarm sys­tems go­ing off all the time, which can lead to se­ri­ous health con­se­quences.

“Stress re­lief isn’t op­tional any­more, it’s a ne­ces­sity,” says Cas­san­dra Bodzak, a holis­tic life­style ex­pert, med­i­ta­tion and well­ness teacher, and TV per­son­al­ity. “Con­sider cre­at­ing a foun­da­tional sup­port sys­tem for your life. If you don’t have a way to re­lieve stress, whether it’s na­tional or per­sonal, it’s so easy to crum­ble.” The fol­low­ing tools can help us cre­ate that sys­tem.

Tool No. : Take Min­utes

Bodzak sug­gests tak­ing 15 min­utes in the morn­ing to “fi ll your own cup fi rst.” Her prac­tice is to have some tea, med­i­tate, then go on a walk through her neigh­bor­hood. Your own per­sonal rou­tine could in­clude read­ing a fa­vorite blog or jour­nal­ing, “but make that walk a thing, even if it’s just 10 min­utes,” Bodzak says. “The sunshine does won­ders for your health and san­ity, and tak­ing that time for your­self fi rst thing in the morn­ing gives you ex­tra band­width for the day.”

For Bodzak, med­i­ta­tion and mind­ful­ness are like a daily vi­ta­min. She en­cour­ages med­i­tat­ing for fi ve min­utes a day, even while you’re still in bed. Nu­mer­ous ex­per­i­ments have shown that the prac­tice re­duces anx­i­ety, low­ers lev­els of stress hor­mones, and im­proves at­ten­tion and cog­ni­tion. If you’re just start­ing out, there are many good re­sources, such as the guided tu­to­rial on the UCLA Mind­ful Aware­ness Re­search Cen­ter web­site, marc. ucla. edu.

In an ar­ti­cle in Real Sim­ple, Diana Win­ston, di­rec­tor of Mind­ful­ness Ed­u­ca­tion at the UCLA re­search cen­ter, ex­plains that the sim­ple act of tak­ing a deep breath has been sci­en­tifi cally proven to help curb anx­i­ety and re­fo­cus our at­ten­tion. “That’s im­por­tant,” she says, “be­cause dwelling on neg­a­tive emo­tions only pushes us fur­ther into sadness and de­spair.” She also sug­gests prac­tic­ing mind­ful breath­ing at least fi ve min­utes a day. “Once you get used to it,” she says, “you can use the tech­nique when­ever you need it.”

Prac­tic­ing grat­i­tude is also ad­van­ta­geous. “There is some neu­ro­science around the idea that peo­ple can’t have fear and grat­i­tude in their minds at the same time,” Win­ston says. Try call­ing a loved one to ex­press ap­pre­ci­a­tion for that per­son, writ­ing down things you’re thank­ful for, or just be­ing aware of time spent with your fa­vorite peo­ple.

Tool No. Stop Eat­ing StressIn­duc­ing Foods

This is the car­di­nal com­po­nent of the body’s abil­ity to deal with stress. A strong, healthy body is less aff ected by stres­sors than a weak one.

Walk bare­foot on the dirt or sand for a few min­utes to con­nect to the earth‘ s nat­u­ral en­ergy charge. Called “earth­ing,” this prac­tice con­trib­utes to vi­brant health.

“If you eat infl am­ma­tory foods ev­ery day, and your body is con­sis­tently low in the es­sen­tial nu­tri­ents it needs, then it’s only a mat­ter of time un­til the stress wins out and some­thing in your body breaks,” says Peter Glid­den, ND. To op­ti­mize health, Glid­den sug­gests elim­i­nat­ing foods such as wheat, bar­ley, rye, oats, well- done red meat, meat with added ni­trates, the skins of baked pota­toes, and ge­net­i­cally mod­ifi ed corn or soy ( an in­for­ma­tive video on his web­site, glid­den. healthcare, ex­plains why each may be prob­lem­atic). And get your daily al­lowance of the 60 min­er­als, 16 vi­ta­mins, 12 amino acids, and two fatty acids that the hu­man body can­not make.

What we fuel our bod­ies with in the morn­ing en­ables— or dis­ables— our in­ter­ac­tions dur­ing the day. “Try ex­per­i­ment­ing with this,” says Bodzak. “Grab a bagel or crois­sant at Star­bucks and no­tice how you feel at 10 a. m. Another morn­ing, have a cleaner, more sooth­ing break­fast: a smoothie, or scram­bled tofu with veg­gies, or a co­conut yo­gurt par­fait, and then no­tice how you feel at 10 a. m. You’ll be sur­prised how much you no­tice the diff er­ence. Lis­ten to your body.”

As Bodzak in­di­cates, cer­tain foods are sooth­ing and ac­tu­ally help re­lieve stress. In gen­eral, good- qual­ity fats such as co­conut, av­o­cado, and sal­mon are

calm­ing be­cause they sup­port nerve func­tion, ex­plains Emily A. Kane, ND, LAc. Foods with high lev­els of tryp­to­phan can also be sooth­ing be­cause tryp­to­phan, an es­sen­tial amino acid, pro­duces sero­tonin, a chem­i­cal con­sid­ered re­spon­si­ble for main­tain­ing mood bal­ance. Those foods in­clude nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fi sh, beans, lentils, and eggs.

Tool No. Move More

The Na­tional Cen­ter for Com­pli­men­tary and In­te­gra­tive Health notes that yoga, like med­i­ta­tion, is a mind­body prac­tice that con­trib­utes to re­duced stress and boosts im­mune func­tion.

And if pos­si­ble, take that yoga mat out­side. Any kind of out­door ex­er­cise— such as those walks Bodzak men­tions above— is ideal be­cause of the ex­tremely sooth­ing eff ect the nat­u­ral world has on the hu­man brain. Kane notes that it’s also benefi cial to walk bare­foot on the dirt or sand for a few min­utes to con­nect to the earth’s nat­u­ral en­ergy charge. Called “earth­ing,” or “ground­ing,” the prac­tice con­trib­utes to vi­brant health.

Tool No. Make Face- to- Face Con­nec­tions

Among other sig­nifi cant tech­niques to re­duce stress are strength­en­ing our face- to- face so­cial con­nec­tions; cre­at­ing an environment that in­duces calm by min­i­miz­ing dis­trac­tions, such as hav­ing the TV news on in the back­ground, and elim­i­nat­ing clut­ter. And give your­self some down time to en­joy fa­vorite ac­tiv­i­ties such as lis­ten­ing to mu­sic, writ­ing a poem, or go­ing to a movie.

While th­ese tools have been sep­a­rated by cat­e­gory, they all work to­gether— the mind and body func­tion like two sides of a coin. Over time, as you ac­cli­mate to th­ese prac­tices, you’ll be able to rec­og­nize stress as it hap­pens and let it go. The more you do it, the eas­ier it be­comes.

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