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Natural Stress Reduction
Stress can be a drain on mental energy and a health risk if left unchecked. There are prescription medications designed to minimize stress levels, but there are also many natural stress reduction techniques that do not require a doctor's visit or drugs that can have side effects or a risk of dependency. Natural techniques cover the spectrum of lifestyle issues, from what you eat to your activity levels, so there is bound to be several measures you can take right now to cut that stress down in your life. It is easier than you might think and sometimes just involves some simple planning and practical thinking to reduce the stress.
Stress of course is a mental issue and just as the mind can create stress, careful thinking can also help to reduce it. Change the way you think and approach life and you might find fewer situations causing you stress. First set attainable goals, this means avoiding setting yourself up for stress. Be realistic about how much you can do in how much time. Adding a hundred things to your "to do" list will only make you feel like a failure when you can only accomplish 5 of the tasks, and cause you to worry about how to fit in the other 95 chores! Prioritize your tasks and conservatively estimate how long each task should take. Don't be afraid to enlist the help of others. Too often people create stress by thinking that they are the only ones who can do a job properly. But give up a bit of control and when someone offers a hand, take it!
Tweaking your schedule can also go along way. Fit in a brief walk during a work break and try to schedule significant downtime for the weekend so you are not tired entering a new work week. Take advantage of vacation time and schedule three-day weekends when you are able. Also make sure you have a predictable routine at home and at work, which should help to buffer the effects of stress when tension hits.
But there is more to stress reduction than just thinking your way to relaxation. Physical activity can actually play a significant part in your stress level. Walking or jogging can be great, simple and inexpensive ways to quickly reduce stress. But it is also important to do an activity that you truly enjoy for maximum benefit. That is because the physical activity will release special feel good chemicals in your brain, while blocking stress producing ones and the more enjoyment you experience the more of these beneficial juices will get flowing. But whatever activity you choose make sure to stretch properly beforehand, to loosen up the tension your experiencing and give your muscles a chance to get ready for the activity.
Certain foods can also help in managing stress because of the nutrients or special qualities they contain. Vegetables in general can work wonders and specific veggies like potatoes, kale and turnips can help particularly well. Besides getting your thinking, diet and exercise in check, there are a few other things you can do to lessen stress. First, take at least 10 minutes every day to do something simple that you enjoy. This could be everything from listening to a few tunes to chatting with a friend, but whatever you do, keep it simple and make sure you find time within a day's busy schedule for this "me" time. Fruits such as tomatoes, pineapples, pomegranates, apples and bananas also include stress minimizing goodness. Other good mood foods include poultry, seafood, and foods rich in B3 or B12.
Now you might try to eat foods that reduce stress, but did you know you could be consuming something that might be contributing stress? Alcohol might seem like a stress-reliever, but it actuality, alcohol and drug use can exacerbate the stress response. Furthermore, prescription drugs can increase stress levels. It might be a surprise but anti-anxiety drugs, like Valium and Xanax can contribute to stress.
Meditation is widely known to relax both the mind and body. But regular practice can actually assist and regulate the body's stress response. Just 20 minutes a day can be all it takes to help reduce stress and providing long-lasting health benefits. Some activities to try include deep breathing, which focus on cleansing breaths, progressive muscle relaxation, where muscles are systematically relaxed throughout the body, yoga, T'ai Chi and deep tissue massage.
Whether it is lightening the load in your weekly planner, adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet or adding some meditation time into your hectic schedule, cutting back on stress can be easier than you think. Isn’t time to take control of your moods and eliminate the worries and tension that hang around constantly? Begin to implement some change today and in no time you'll be glad you did.
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Jackie Rupp is a freelance writer who writes about self improvement and stress management.
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