Stress can take a toll on both your physical health and mental well-being. It can lower your immunity to colds, flu, and even more serious illnesses. It can affect your sleep patterns, interfere with job performance, and leave you irritable. Stress can also trigger all sorts of skin disorders, including psoriasis, eczema, acne, rosacea, and hives. Fortunately, there are ways to get a handle on stress and up your energy.
Peace of Mind
Peace of Mind
- Set aside "private time" - Something as simple as soaking in the tub can renew your mind and body. For added relaxation, turn down the lights and play some soft music.
- Learn relaxation techniques. - Read a book about it, or take a meditation or yoga class. Here's one you can try at home. Find 15 minutes where you will not be disturbed to meditate, visualize, etc. Sit in a comfortable chair, feet on the floor, arms at your sides. Breathe in deeply, through your nose. Then slowly release air through your mouth and repeat an affirmation, like "Relax... Relax... Relax," or "I'm confident... I'm confident..." Continue breathing in and out, focusing on your word or phrase for the 15 minutes. Visualize the person you want to be, already in possession of your goals. If a worrisome thought pops up, acknowledge it, then re-focus on your breathing.
- Schedule "worry sessions." - Set aside a specific 15 minutes each day when you'll concentrate on everything that's bothering you. When worries pop up during the day, save them for these 15 minutes. Then picture yourself conquering a particular challenge. It's not easy, but it's simple and it works.
- Keep a journal - New studies suggests that people who are able to write about their innermost feelings may enjoy better mental and physical health. Writing is also a powerful tool that helps you organize your thoughts and make life a little bit easier.
- Pep up with a scent. - When you need an energy boost, take a whiff of muguet or peppermint oil. Preliminary studies suggest these scents can promote alertness. Try!
- Power naps. - 15-20 minutes can be very energizing and rejuvenating. Careful - more than 20 minutes and you'll wake up more tired than you were to begin with.
- Delegate. - On your weekly calendar, eliminate the least important tasks and activities. Delegate household chores. Have your spouse/significant other to the grocery shopping. Even if things aren't done the way you want them done, it's important for everyone to pitch in so you don't feel like the Lone Ranger.
- Reward yourself- Every day engage in a just-for-you activity, provided you accomplished something you set out to do for that day. Rent a movie, read, gardening, etc. You'll not only boost your self-esteem, you'll also enjoy the well-deserved feelings of relaxation.
- Laugh. - Laughter really is good medicine. Laughing raises your heart rate, stimulates circulation, exercises your diaphragm, abs, and other muscles, and increases production of certain hormones that serve as your body's natural painkillers. Watch a sitcom, read humorous books, get Reader's Digest.
- Cry - Feel better a good cry? studies show that the tears you produce when you're anxious, upset, sad, or angry contains stress-relieving hormones.
- Get a body massage. - Various massage techniques reduce stress, loosen tight muscles, and rev up your energy. Massage also helps release endorphins ("feel good" chemicals released by the brain), triggering relaxation.
Stress-Reducing, Energy-Boosting Nutrition
- Do Not Skip meals. - Spreading your calories out over 4-6 balanced meals a day gives you the carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals required to keep your energy high by keeping your blood sugar levels stable.
- Eat a "good mood" breakfast. - Combine a high- protein food, such as cottage cheese, with a fiber-rich carb, like strawberries. Protein not only boosts your brain's production of dopamine and norepinephrine - chemicals that keep you alert - it also controls levels of relaxation-inducing serotonin. The carbs help you feel calm and focused on whatever you're doing.
- Have a midmorning muffin. - USE THIS ONLY IF ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Instead of heading for the vending machine, bring a low-fat, whole grain muffin topped with a teaspoon of jam. Carbs combined with a limited amount of sugar can restore mental energy.
- Quick, low-fat lunch. - Broiled fish, skinless chicken, tuna, deli turkey or chicken with a teaspoon of low-fat mayo on whole-grain bread can give you energy for the afternoon.
- Beat the mid-afternoon lag. - If you're droopy by 3 pm, have a cup of coffee to get back on track. (I don't suggest doing this very often, either. It's quite possible you need to catch up with some Z's.)
- Make dinner your lightest meal. - If you've eaten a balanced, substantial lunch, you'll feel surprisingly satisfied with a light dinner. Instead of a regular dinner plate, use a smaller plate and fill it up (not mounding!) with your protein and carbs.
- Watch the caffeine - A little caffeine is okay for a little boost. Too much and you're making your adrenal glands work overtime. You'll need more caffeine for the desired effect, and the crash when it wears off get worse, Plus you get restless and irritable.
- Cut back on sugar and starches. - You all know about the "sugar high." When you drop, you feel cranky, weak, and unable to concentrate. Stick with balanced snacks and meals to keep your blood sugar level.
- No alcohol - some of you yell at me for saying this; too bad. Sure, it may help in keeping your heart healthy, but so does eating right and exercising regularly. Like sugar alcohol gives you a high, and then you crash. Also leaves you feeling lethargic.
- Aerobic exercise daily. - Along with cardiovascular health, aerobic exercise boosts production of endorphins. 25-30 minutes can significantly reduce stress and increase energy.
- Deep breathing. - Need a 1-minute regenerator? Sit in a quiet place, feet flat on the floor, arms at your sides. Breathe in deeply through your nose, filling your diaphragm (your stomach should protrude if you're doing it right). Breathe out slowly through your mouth. Do this for just 60 seconds.
- Shrug off tight shoulders. - Whenever you notice you're tense around your neck area and shoulders, shrug your shoulders ten times.
- Take a break to stretch - Alternating arms, reach upward, stretching toward the ceiling. Five times each side.
- Stretch neck tension away. - Touch your chin to your chest and hold for 2 seconds. Try to touch your left ear to your left shoulder (keep it relaxed - no reaching up!) and hold for 2 seconds. Repeat for the right ear/shoulder for 2 seconds. Repeat entire cycle if necessary.
- Stand up. - If you spend most of the day sitting at a desk, stand up once every hour for 20 minutes, and do any of the exercise mentioned above to relax and stimulate circulation.
- Take out your frustrations on the iron. - Pumping iron, that is. You've got all those stress hormones flowing around your body and they're not getting used up. Aerobic exercise may calm them down some, but new studies are showing lifting weights help you burn off those stress hormones more effectively.