How to relieve stress
Whether it's emotional, mental, physical, environmental or social stressors, the following tips will help you deal with — and eventually overcome — whatever roadblocks life has put in your way.
Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 04:55 PM
Photo: Ryan McVay/Getty Images
Has your life become like a country song lately? Lost your job? Spouse walked out on you? Truck broke down? Dog ran away? Fret not, partner; it’s not the end of the world. Here’s how to relieve stress.
Whether it’s emotional, mental, physical, environmental or social stressors, the following tips will help you deal with — and eventually overcome — whatever roadblocks life has overwhelmed you with.
To combat stress, you’ll want to:
- Eat more
- Rest and re-evaluate
- Balance hormonal levels
I’m already overweight — and stressed out. You’re telling me to eat more?
Yes. Many people who lead stressful lives tend to skip meals and binge. Skipping meals results in the body undergoing more stress. Skipping breakfast or going several hours (more than five) between meals results in your metabolism screeching to a halt and blood sugar levels dropping to less-than-ideal levels.
To relieve stress, you’ll want to fuel your body regularly. Make sure to eat at least three meals a day and have a snack in between meals, if necessary to regulate blood sugar levels. As much as possible, avoid high-starchy foods like pasta, pastries, breads and any foods loaded with white flour. Flooding the body with foods like these will spike blood sugar levels and won’t help you relieve stress.
Stress zaps the body of energy. Resupply yourself with balanced meals and snacks that always include protein, natural fats and low-starch carbohydrates. Indulge in a little piece of milk or dark chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth.
I’m going through a divorce. How is contemplating my navel going to help pay alimony?
Meditation won’t miraculously erase your stress overnight. But over time, setting aside as little as 10 minutes in the morning and evening for meditation can help you relieve stress. There are many forms of meditation.
To combat stress, one of the best forms is to focus on one thing: your breathing. Throughout our hectic day, we forget to take deep breaths. We hold on to our breath and bottle up the stress inside.
Our chest and upper back muscles get tight. Sitting still (can be in a chair; doesn’t have to be like Buddha cross-legged) and focusing on inhaling and exhaling deeply, each lasting about a 3-Mississippi count, can have a profound relaxing effect.
Try to not think about the stressors in your life, but it’s OK if you do. Think of bad thoughts as dark storm clouds quickly moving through the sky (your brain). Let stressful and negative thoughts come in one ear and quickly out the other.
Focusing on the flame of a lighted candle, while concentrating on breathing, also helps put stressful situations in perspective. Seldom are our problems as serious as we think they are — in the grand scheme of the universe.
I already do triathlons, but I’m still stressed out. How can exercise help me?
Most people know that exercising regularly can help deal with stress. If you have a stressful job, say slaving away on Wall Street for the big bucks, maybe you’re already hitting the gym to get the stress out of you. But working out too intensely can actually make you more stressed out. How? High-intensity workouts can flood the body with cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone.
The more cortisol coursing its way through your system, the more your adrenals will become fatigued. Your adrenal glands, which rest on top of your kidneys, release the hormones that help you battle stress. Too much cortisol will leave your body struggling to battle stress. High-intensity workouts may add to sluggish adrenals.
If you have lots of stress in your life, pick an activity that will help balance your already hyper mind. Yoga or Pilates are just two examples of exercise modalities that may help relieve stress.
Are you really held captive eternally to your stressful life?
If you’re determined not to have a stressful life, make changes that remove yourself from stress. Do you have a friend who stresses you out and unloads all her drama on your lap? Distance yourself from that friend, no matter how long a history you have with her. Wall Street slave: do you really need to make as much money as you’re earning, at the expense of all that stress? Quit and find a less stressful job.
Unemployed and can’t find work in your field? Scour the Web for outside-the-box opportunities. Become a caretaker for an estate in another country. Pack up your family and move to a less stressful environment. The confining and debilitating walls of stress will only box you in if you let them.
Decades of stress can wreak havoc on your health. Balance hormones to counteract it.
All that cortisol flooding your system over the years can throw your hormones out of whack, compromising every system of your body. Seek a medical professional like a naturopathic doctor to help you reestablish correct and balance hormonal pathways.
Judd Handler is a certified functional diagnostic nutrition coach and health writer in Encinitas, Calif.