Wednesday, May 16, 2012

You: Stress Less...Bonus!


Stress management isn't about eliminating it; after all, stress can be good for you. It's actually all about regulation - turning the dials of your emotions so you can best handle what life tosses at you.

  • Identify the sources of your stress. The first step to managing your stress is pinpointing the culprit.
  • Focus on the moment - you'll have better stress management by being "mindful" (paying attention to the present and trying to get out of the gears of the past and the future - both of which are major sources of stress)
    • one way to practice living in the moment = the body scan. Focus on every part of your body, which will help you to relax:
      • lie down
      • close your eyes and notice your posture
      • think about the natural flow of your breath, focusing on air filling and leaving the lungs
      • notice your toes - any tension, tingling, or temperature change?
      • move to thinking about your feet, heels and ankles, all the way up through the knees, thighs and pelvis
      • continue with each body part, going through both the front and back of your body as you work your way up, and finishing with the throat, jaw, tongue, face and brow
  • Go through your health checklist - stress is much more manageable when the other aspects of your life (from your general health to your sleep patterns to your eating habits) are in good order
    • when you don't get enough sleep, your body produces more stress hormones, making you more vulnerable to the damaging effects of stress
    • evaluate what areas in your life need your attention, and work on fixes
  • Do the opposite - every emotion has an "urge to act" that goes with it (eg. when we feel afraid or anxious, we avoid things; when we are depressed or sad, we withdraw; when we are angry, we lash out; etc). Each of these mood-inspired behaviors actually increase an emotion, not decreases it.
    • if you can act the opposite way, you can decrease the emotion
    • rather than letting your emotions determine what you do, take control and choose how you feel
  • Focus on your muscles - by tensing and relaxing your muscles, you can help relieve some of your stored physical stress
    • tense and relax different muscle groups in your body one at a time. When done, relax for a few minutes.
- may help modify the messages sent from the gut and the rest of the body to the brain via the vagus nerve. Controlling your vagus nerve can help you with everything from improving your memory to improving your immune system.
- carve out time each day to breathe deeply and meditate. Before bed is a good time, or anytime when you're trying to manage stress.
  • Deep Breathing = lie flat on the floor, with one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in slowly - it should take about 5 seconds for you to inhale (imagine your lungs filling up with air). As your diaphragm pulls your chest cavity down, your belly button should move away from your spine, filling your lungs. Your chest will also widen and perhaps rise. When your lungs feel full, and you even feel a tiny bit of discomfort in the solar plexus, just below the breastbone, exhale slowly (Taking about 7 seconds). Pull your belly button to your spine to get all the air out.
  • Meditation = the goal is to clear your mind of all thoughts.
    • the first step: silence. Discipline yourself to squirrel away 5 minutes of silence a day.
    • to help your mind and meditate, pick a simple word (like ohm) and repeat it to yourself over and over. Focusing on the word helps keep distracting thoughts from seeping into your gray matter.

Day 1
  • Take a 30-minute walk
  • Take 1 minute in a quiet room. Close your eyes and breathe deeply (follow deep breathing technique above). Focus on one word or image. If you are having trouble with this, try the "Stress Less" program from the or sites.
  • Give a compliment to someone who needs to hear one.
  • Make a Garden Harvest Soup that you can keep on hand for the week to eat in case of hunger / stress emergencies.
Day 2
  • Practice deep breathing for 2 minutes.
  • Try any 1 yoga move from the yoga workout.
  • Make plans to do something fun with a spouse, partner, friend, or relative on Day 6.
Day 3
  • Take a 30-minute walk.
  • Practice deep breathing for 2 minutes.
  • Substitute green tea for your usual "energy" drink.
  • Spend 2 minutes focusing on having good posture.
Day 4
  • Practice deep breathing for 2 minutes.
  • For optimum energy and to avoid highs and lows, look at your meals today and strive for balance between protein, healthy fat, 100% whole grain carbohydrates. Make note of your energy levels throughout the day.
  • Take a quick audit of your environment (work or home) and see if you can identify things that cause you stress. Purchase some lavender and lemon aroma packs or sachets to see if these help, and brainstorm ways to eliminate (or reduce) that stress.
Day 5
  • Take a 30-minute walk.
  • Practice deep breathing for 3 minutes.
  • Write a thank-you note to someone unexpected about something unexpected (and send it!)
  • Have the perfect late-afternoon snack instead of relying on perhaps an energy crutch: We recommend a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts.
Day 6
  • Practice deep breathing for 3 minutes.
  • Do the "something fun" you planned a few days ago.
  • Spend a few minutes and roll your neck in circles, then rock it from front to back to help relieve tension you're storing there.
Day 7
  • Take a 30-minute walk.
  • Practice deep breathing for 3 minutes.
  • Buy a pack of tennis balls. Take one and roll it over chronically sore muscles, or places in your body where you store tension.
Day 8
  • Practice deep breathing for 5 minutes.
  • Make a list of the nagging stresses in your life, then brainstorm solutions for how to resolve or eliminate them.
Day 9
  • Take a 30-minute walk.
  • Practice deep breathing for 5 minutes.
  • Make a list of all the reasons why you love life; put it somewhere where you'll take a look every so often.
  • Write a thank-you note.
Day 10
  • Practice deep breathing for 5 minutes.
  • Make a smoothie that contains low-fat milk, non-fat yogurt, a dab of natural peanut butter, ice and your favorite fruit - lots of nutrients, lots of energy.
  • Send an email to an old friend you haven't talk to in years (tell him or her you were thinking about them).
Day 11
  • Take a 30-minute walk.
  • Practice deep breathing for 5 minutes.
  • Try new yoga poses.
Day 12
  • Practice deep breathing for 5 minutes.
  • Add a plant to your office or other room where you spend most of the day.
  • With your family or friends, make a "play" date - for yourself. Choose a board game, a sport, something that reminds you to get loose and have fun.
Day 13
  • Take a 30-minute walk.
  • Practice deep breathing for 5 minutes.
  • Try a few new yoga poses.
Day 14
  • Practice deep breathing for 10 minutes.
  • Swing on a swing, take a hike, go out and play.
  • Ask yourself the best way to help others. Make arrangements to do that.

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