April is Stress Awareness Month, so chill out

Of course in this modern age, a certain amount of stress is unavoidable, and without any stress we wouldn’t be motivated to do much of anything. However, in today’s society, most people feel that there is just too much stress and that they have a hard time coping. Therefore, today’s column will focus on assessing the stress and developing some good coping mechanisms so you can live well.

Some of the stressors that people experience are brought on by not taking care of basic health criteria. Do you eat at least three balanced healthy meals a day? Do you drink too much alcohol or smoke cigarettes? Do you get at least some form of exercise every day? How’s your weight, your blood sugar, your cholesterol numbers? Do you take too much caffeine? Maybe you don’t sleep enough or very soundly. Are you generally happy with your career, your relationships, your group of acquaintances and friends? Do you make enough money to look after your needs? Do you drink enough water? What about taking time for yourself? Can you find fun and humor in your life?

These are some of the issues that when left to chance can raise the stress levels to an overwhelming level. So the following are some suggestions in order to lower your stress and help you be healthier and happier.

Obviously, we all need to exercise, and daily exercise is best to reduce the everyday feelings of tension. Some of the best exercises for calming your body and mind are yoga, tai chi or other stretching exercises. Even “deskercises” such as shoulder rolls, shrugs, neck stretches, wrist curls, standing stretches and waist twists can reduce stress and give you a break from work resulting in renewed energy and a fresh mindset.

Tense muscles make it difficult for the blood to flow into the tissue, resulting in oxygen and nutrient depletion, which can cause pain and stiffness. Even a short session of a few minutes of deskercises can restore the blood flow and increase your ability to focus on your work.

Visualizing calm scenes, then letting your mind relax to enjoy a few minutes of peace, is also a good way to restore your balance and create a stress-reducing atmosphere. With the visualization, focus on your breath and take in some long, slow, deep breaths to oxygenate your brain and blood. At this time you could also repeat calming words such as “I feel calm and relaxed” or whatever words seem to be right for you.

The power of positive affirmations is quite remarkable. Rapid, shallow breathing is a common reaction to stress, but it causes us to lose focus and to feel tired and irritable. Deep breathing helps you regain your balance. It is not a coincidence that meditation and yoga sessions always begin with the long, slow, cleansing breath.

Take a good Omega 3 fish oil supplement every day. The supplement should be certified free of mercury and best consumed with an antioxidant such as freshly squeezed juice or an orange or grapefruit. The B vitamins are well known to be the stress-reducing vitamins, so make sure you are getting the required amount, every day by optimizing your diet and taking a good quality multivitamin.

Experts all agree that the typical American diet with too much processed foods, too much sugar, fat, salt and alcohol puts an inordinate amount of stress on the adrenal glands as well as the rest of the body.

Aromatherapy has been used for many years to help people relax and calm themselves. Some of the most potent oils for relaxation are jasmine, lavender, juniper, bergamot and chamomile. You could add these oils into a warm bath or use them as a massage oil. They are also handy to keep in a little vial that you can sniff when you feel overwhelmed.

A massage — either by a trained professional or, in a pinch and if you can reach the sore tight spots, yourself — will help reduce stress. Even massaging your hands, fingers and wrists yourself, especially with an aromatherapy hand cream, is effective.

The space in which you live and in which you work should be de-cluttered and made to feel safe, relaxed and restorative. If your home or workplace is noisy, cluttered, messy or ugly, you will feel the same. Take some time to clean and make your space orderly so that you feel energized and relaxed.

Don’t be afraid to say no if you are overtired. Getting enough sleep and relaxation time for yourself is just as important as feeding yourself well and getting enough exercise.

You need to live your life as though it is important and decide on the kind of life you want to live. A little planning and prioritizing can go a long way towards reducing your stress and increasing your effectiveness and your happiness.

Simplifying your life and being grateful for the good things in your life can help melt away much anxiety and stress too.

Following these obvious health tips and organizing your life and space will relieve tension and create a healthier and happier you. You deserve to live well.

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Jane Riley is a certified personal trainer, nutritional adviser and behavior change specialist. She can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, (808) 212-8119, www.janerileyfitness.com

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