Stress is a physiological survival mechanism. When you sense that you are under threat, the brain responds by sending a message to the adrenal glands on top of your kidneys, which, in turn, respond by releasing adrenaline. Adrenaline has effects on various body systems that, in combination, enable you to take action: to either run away from the source of the threat or to stay and fight. This is known as the "fight or flight" response.
Although this physiological response may have been useful in primitive times, it is less useful in modern society where sources of threat are mainly psychological.
When instance sof stress are occasional and short-lived, the body can cope, but when they are frequent and long-lasting the body may be perpetually in a state of high alert. This is when your vulnerability to problems such as cardiovascular disease, colds, immune sensitivities and high blood pressure increases. For this reason, it is essential to find ways to overcome chronic stress.
People often turn to "quick fixes" when they are under stress. They feel tired, irritable and lacking in energy and they often turn to chocolate, caffeine or alcohol for stress relief, or a quick energy burst. Unfortunately, these substances deplete the body of energy and make you feel worse in the long run.
The most important nutrients to include in the diet when you are under stress are the B Vitamins, Vitamin C, zinc, chromium and magnesium. Dietary therapists may recommend taking a Multi-Vitamin and mineral supplement that supplies these nutrients. It is also very important to avoid sugary foods when under stress because they stimulate the stress hormone cortisol. Instead, eat whole foods, specifically vegetables and fruits.
Yoga, Meditation and Breathing
Learning relaxation techniques is a powerful antidote to stress. Yoga and meditation teach you how to still the mind and focus on something simple such as the breath flowing in and out of the body. When you are stressed, your breathing is usuallly fast and shallow (from the chest). Making a conscious effort to relax your muscles and breathe deeply can help you deal with a stressful situation. Breathing from the stomach instead of the chest produces deeper, slower breathes which tell the body that you are no longer in "fight or flight" mode and calms the pulse and therefore relaxes the entire body.
Meditation and breathing can be thought of as the same thing for those beginning to take steps in reducing stress. Meditation is the act of focusing on breathing and allowing the mind to clear itself and relax. One useful meditation technique is the humming bee practice. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Focus on the breath entering and leaving your nostrils. Say to yourself, "I am aware of breathingin. I am aware of breathing out". Use your fingers to close your ear flaps and imagine the sound of a humming bee inside your head. Breathe in and as you breathe out make the sound of a humming bee. Breathe in and repeat. Try to concentrate on the sound and on your breathing. Regular practice of this exercise should help to still your mind.
How to begin?
Breathing and meditation can be done anywhere and anytime. Create a peaceful and quiet area that includes a comfortable pillow, dim lighting, and relaxing music and remember that everyone has different techniques and there's no "right-way" or "wrong-way".
This series of Synchronicity soundtracks is the slowest, most continually meditative music available. May be used with headphones for expansive Theta level meditation or as deeply relaxing, ambient background for massage, yoga, etc. Each soundtrack contains two 30-minute selections. Sounds of Source Volume Four features two tracks entitled "Peaceful Circumference" and "Luminous Ecstasy". http://www.synchronicity.org
The Yoga Zen Collection by Lesruba Designs
The Yoga Zen Collection was created to reflect the calm meditative nature of
yoga and to communicate the inner strength we all possess. The apparel, bags
and accessories feature fluid line movement illustrations accented with
colors that are soft and serene. Leslie, who has studied Reiki, Feng Shui,
Pilates and Yoga, says she wanted to create designs that were aesthetically
aligned with the everyday yogi by offering fun yoga alternatives for yoga
Aromatherapy and Massage
A range of complementary therapies can help to ease stress: Acupuncture, reflexology, hypnotherapy, homeopathy and flower remedies. Aromatherapy and massage are very widely used in the treatment of stress and aromatherapists recommend the following essential oils: basil, bergamot, clary sage, chamomile, geranium, hyssop, juniper, lavender, marjoram, theyme, cedar, neroli, rose and sandalwood. Massage can help to ease stress by relieving muscle tension and enhancing circulation.
Try a stress-relieving bath consisting of 2 drops each of chamomile, & lavender and 4 drops of juniper. Use warm water and breathe deeply as you soak for 15-20 minutes. This is an excellent way to relax before bedtime.
Try Body Systems' Calming Bath Tea which infuses relaxing herbs, epsom salts, and essential oils in an easy to use Tea Bag for the bath. http://www.body-systems.net
Personal Stress Reducers
Everyone has their own ways of overcoming stress and its important to cultivate methods that work for you. Some people unwind by talking to friends or a partner or by being sociable, others relax by spending time on their own. Exercise is a stress reducing technique that works for many people as it used up adrenaline. The endorphin rush that exercise brings can also provide a sense of well-being.
Sometimes a change of attitude can turn a stressful situation to your advantage. Some people decide that rather than try to relieve the symptoms of stress they will tackle the underlying cause of the stress itself. This may involve leaving a stressful job or ridding yourself of other responsibilities you can no longer manage.