Practice these simple techniques to be more stress-free, and more relaxed as you go through your day.
Being of a certain age, I get the AARP magazine. Yesterday I read an article about four natural stress remedies. I said to myself, “That’s a perfect topic because even though I’ve talked about managing stress so many times, it’s always good to have a reminder. Especially as the school year begins, or if you’re getting back from summer vacation or trips and things like that.
We’re getting back to our regular routines, and we want to make sure that those routines are really working for us. So here are four essential elements we want to do to reduce stress so that we can be at our best mentally, physically, and spiritually.
- Combat stress by fueling up with the right foods.
Everybody eats but so many of us don’t eat well, and many don’t realize that nutrition relates to stress level. I really enjoy shopping for food, especially at a farmer’s market. I love to cook. Chopping and peeling veggies is a meditative process that puts me in a sensually delightful place: the colors of the food, the scent of sautéing onions, the sizzle as I add water to the pan and so much more! For me, food preparation is just as much fun as eating!
So, what are you eating? That’s the question. In the article I mentioned above, fatty fish is helpful in reducing stress. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have been shown to improve symptoms of moderate and major depression and to significantly reduce anxiety according to a review in JAMA. (Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open.) In their clinical trials, they found a correlation between fatty fish and anxiety reduction. They recommended supplementing with fish oil because it’s hard to get at least 2000 grams of the omega-3s in food. But be careful when you buy fish oil. Make sure that it’s been tested and that it’s mercury-free.
Also probiotic-rich foods (pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, cheddar, mozzarella, and Gouda cheese, buttermilk) are essential for the gut/brain connection. Certain kinds of bacteria do their job to make our food digest properly.
I eat yogurt every day, just a couple of tablespoons. I cut up some kind of fruit. Then I sprinkle a handful of nuts and seeds and top it off with yogurt and maybe a little bit of cinnamon. Yum! So that’s a delicious, nutritious dessert that maybe can help you fight stress.
According to The Journal of Psychiatric Research, there’s a link between probiotic foods and a lowering of social anxiety. Imagine that! This is truly important– I was in the supermarket a couple of weeks ago and I was just about to open the door of the refrigerator to take out the yogurt that I was buying when this fellow came along and opened the door first. He was pulling out a flavored yogurt (I won’t say the brand,) but I know for a fact that that brand does not contain live cultures.
It’s got flavoring and sweeteners. These are the things that are counterproductive to what we want to put in our bodies and might be contributing to our stress levels. So you want to look for yogurt that is sugar-free. You want plain yogurt. With live active cultures.
Read the labels! I was talking to a food expert recently and she said, “If you look at the ingredients with a long list and half of the things you can’t even pronounce, you don’t want it. Just put it back. You don’t want to eat that.
OK, another suggestion. Eat protein in the morning because it helps synthesize serotonin, which is a brain hormone responsible for helping lower anxiety and boosting your mood. You can get that in two eggs, so you can get your protein in the morning and give yourself the energy and brain boost.
2. Meditate regularly, especially when you feel stressed.
I teach meditation protocol because it helps you get into the here and now, rather than worrying about the past, which is over, or being concerned about the future because it isn’t here yet. So why worry? Being in the now is where peace is, and it’s where your stress gets relieved. You get stressed when you bring in the old stuff from the past and start ruminating over why did I do this and why did they say that, blah blah blah. It’s destructive because when you do that, you release harmful hormones into your body which, over time, if it goes on long enough, will make you sick.
The article gives a quick, easy exercise when you’re feeling anxious: get a citrus fruit, an orange, or a grapefruit. Then use all 5 senses to eat it. Look at it and notice its characteristics. Touch it as you peel it. Hear the sound as it tears apart. You can smell the juices released as you take a bite and then you taste its special flavor. During this process, you’re focusing so completely on eating this orange that you forget your current anxiety. This is good for reducing that immediate sense of stress. The more we can do that in many, many ways, because there are many ways, this is just one of the many ways you can keep yourself in the moment to release stress.
The more you can zero into the moment and let everything else go, the more peace you can experience. It’s beautiful.
3. Lower your anxiety by doing yoga.
I’ve been doing yoga for 40-odd years. Yoga is great for so many things — it keeps you physically fit when done regularly. And when your yoga teacher does shavasana, you have a meditation at the end of the session. The beautiful thing about yoga is you do only what you can. You don’t have to stand on your head to receive the great benefits. And any good yoga teacher will say that to you. It’s part of my morning ritual.
Doing some stretches to get the body relaxed, supple, and ready to greet the day no matter how stressful it may become.
The Journal of Psychiatric Practice found that people who practiced yoga several times a week reported improvement in both depression and anxiety symptoms within eight weeks.
4. Good sleep is essential in reducing anxiety levels.
You could be eating well and exercising, but if you’re not sleeping enough, it will affect you badly. Sleep is an important anxiety reducer. Anxiety makes it hard to go to sleep in the first place and then when you’re sleep-deprived, it makes your mood worse the next day. It’s like a rotating wheel, so you’ve got to nip that in the bud. Because people with insomnia are 17 times more likely to have clinical anxiety than sound sleepers according to the National Sleep Foundation. Taking drugs to get yourself to sleep, will leave you drowsy and feeling yucky the next day.
Try resetting your nighttime routine. About an hour before bed, take a warm bath or shower because your body temperature will decrease. Dr. Michael Breus, an LA sleep specialist and the author of The Power of When, says your body temperature will decrease once you get out of the tub or the shower, helping produce melatonin naturally. I didn’t know that!
OK, so that’s good to know. And once you get into bed, no electronic devices. No checking Facebook because you need to relax and de-stress and who knows what you’re going to read on there that will get you all fired up. So read a book. Listen to music or a guided meditation on calm. Snuggle with your honey. Let yourself cool down and do something relaxing and enjoyable.
Do some deep breathing exercises. Breathing helps you relax. As soon as you let the breath out, you feel your whole body go limp, and that kicks off a series of physiological changes that aid stress reduction, including releasing muscle tension, slowing the heart rate, and lowering your blood pressure and metabolism.
Dr. Breus recommends a 4-7-8 breath pattern. While you’re sitting in a comfortable position, close your eyes and slowly inhale to the count of four, then hold for a count of seven. And then let go of that breath, gently and slowly, for the count of eight. So four in, seven hold, and eight out. He says the slow exhale is very similar to the pace of breathing your body adopts as you’re falling asleep. So as a result, you’re mimicking the breathing pattern of starting to go to sleep. And with luck, you’ll soon be asleep.
I hope that you can put some of these things into practice so that you can be more stress-free, and more relaxed as you go through your day enjoying each moment and knowing that you’re in control (at least of the decisions you make from moment to moment.)
I want you to lead a more fulfilling, happy, peaceful and successful life!
And remember, everything begins with a thought so notice the thoughts that are hurting you and let them go!
Love and Peace Always,