A healthy lifestyle is an essential part of any stress-reduction programme. You can enhance your overall health and ease your struggle with stress by getting regular exercise, eating well balanced meals and avoiding excessive alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.
Exercise in combination with stress management techniques is very important for many reasons:
- Exercise is an effective distraction from stressful events.
- Exercise can reduce the harmful effects of stress on blood pressure and heart.
- Advise your healthcare professional before starting your exercise programme and start slowly. Strenuous exercise in people who are not used to it can have serious repercussions.
- Combine cardio and weight training, but vary your exercise programme from day to day.
- Take part in activities that you find exciting, challenging and satisfying.
Some more suggestions:
- Sign up for aerobics classes at a gym.
- Try brisk walking (even short walks can relieve bouts of stress).
- Swimming is ideal for stressed people, including pregnant women and people with musculoskeletal problems.
- Try yoga or tai chi. These techniques include many of the relaxation benefits of breathing, muscle relaxation and meditation while toning and stretching the muscles.
Half of all people who begin a vigorous training programme drop out within a year. The key is to draw up a realistic plan and execute it successfully, as that provides feelings of control. Start with just 10 minutes of exercise three times a week and then gradually build these sessions up to 30 minutes or more.
Finding methods for managing and reducing stress:
- Identify the source of stress: It is advisable to keep a diary to record daily events and activities. The first step is to note activities that put a strain on energy and time or trigger negative feelings such as anger. It is also recommended to note positive experiences such as those that trigger a sense of accomplishment.
- Question the source of stress: Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do these stressful situations meet my goals or someone else’s?
- Are these tasks reasonable to accomplish?
- Which tasks are under my control and which not?
- Add stress-reducing activities: Elimination of stress is rarely possible. However, there are ways to reduce its impact, such as:
- Listening to music – music is an effective stress reducer in both healthy individuals and people with health problems. Research has found that listening to soothing music could decrease blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety levels.
- Taking long weekends or holidays.
- Planning time away should the source of stress be at home – even if it’s for an hour or two a week.
- Owning a pet. Research found that pet owners have a lower blood pressure increase in response to stress than people who do not own a pet.
- Humour: Research has shown that humour is a very effective mechanism for coping with acute stress. Keeping a sense of humour in difficult situations is a common recommendation in stress management.
The benefits of relaxation techniques include:
- Slowing heart rate
- Lowering blood pressure
- Slowing your breathing rate
- Improving digestion
- Maintaining normal blood sugar levels
- Reducing activity of stress hormones
- Increasing blood flow to major muscles
- Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
- Improving concentration and mood
- Improving sleep quality
- Lowering fatigue
- Reducing anger and frustration
- Boosting confidence to handle problems
Relaxation techniques include the following:
- Deep breathing
- Tai chi
- Music and art therapy
Rather than choosing just one of these techniques, experts recommend sampling several to see which one works best for you. Try to practice these techniques for at least 20 minutes a day, although even a few minutes can help. The longer and the more often you practice these relaxation techniques, the greater the benefits and the more you can reduce stress.
Until next week,
All information in this blog was researched for this blog, and is not intended for self-diagnosis or to be used as medical advice. All medical questions should be directed to a healthcare professional such as a doctor or pharmacist.
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