5 simple ways to reduce stress

When it comes to tackling stress in our lives there are a million different things we can analyse, adjust and eliminate in order to restore mental balance.  While many things will vary from person to person, according to individual lifestyles and compositions, attending to some of our most basic human needs will have wondrous balancing effects for ALL of us.  To experience immediate stress-relief, put these simple remedies into action today.  While not a cure-all, they will certainly set a solid basis for living a happy and stress-free life.

1. Eat Healthy Food

The food you eat is nourishing every cell in your body and therefore it can be the key to your good health or it can be the cause of a demise into bad health.  YOU have the power to determine which it will be.  When it comes to stress you must consider that everything you eat places stress on your body.  Your body gets to work on breaking down food from the moment it passes your lips.  Some things are easier to break down than others and the ease of assimilation effects how much energy is required for the digestive process.

Your body was designed to break down foods that nature provides, it instinctively knows what to do with them.  Therefore, natural foods are much easier for your body to break down than foods that are high in saturated fats and processed foods that come to you in cardboard boxes (loaded with chemicals and preservatives that are poisonous to your body).   The longer your body must linger to break down the food you have eaten, the less time it has to spend on other demands and processes of the body.  This can lead to feelings of heaviness and lethargy, and in the long-term it can lead disease within your body as healing processes are obstructed by your over-burdened digestive processes.

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Making life ‘easier’ for your body will make life easier for you.  You will experience increased health, energy, clarity and feelings of lightness.  Reducing stress on the digestive system frees up your energy for other things, including cognitive processes.  So increase the amount of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and lean (organic) meats you eat and reduce your intake of processed foods, refined sugars and saturated fats.

Another fun fact to be aware of is, the majority of the body’s serotonin is produced in the stomach lining.  So do what you can to maintain a healthy happy tummy, keeping the pathway clear to maintain a healthy and happy YOU!

2. Get Your Sleep

Getting adequate sleep is essential to your health and instrumental to your fight against the effects of stress.  Unfortunately, when we are stressed getting to sleep, or staying asleep, can be problematic.  If you can’t sleep, just lying down in a quiet place and resting your mind and body can have very powerful effects.  The hours between 7am and 9am, and again between 10pm-12 midnight are miraculously healing for the adrenal system – so get those hours of sleep (or rest) wherever you can.

You will also need to get your head around the idea that sleep will help you to be more productive and not less – give yourself permission to rest without feeling guilty or anxious.  Your ‘to-do’ list will still be there when you get back to it, and with a clear, rested, mind you are likely to get more done than you would with a tired and frazzled one.  By allowing yourself time to rest and recover, you CAN get through all you need to get through without coming out exhausted at the other end.

A lack of sleep is associated with many major health problems – decreased immunity, susceptibility to infections, impaired glucose tolerance, decreased morning cortisol levels that cause carb cravings, increased oestrogen levels (upsetting hormone balance), altered alertness and concentration, slowed healing time, and more.  You can reduce your chances of suffering in these ways by aiming to get the recommended eight hours of sleep a day.

Remember:  when you break your sleep/wake cycle it can take your hormones up to 3 weeks to return to normal.  So, for healthy hormones create a sleep routine that you can maintain and stick to it as much as possible.

3. Exercise

Exercise has endless benefits for your body and stress management is up there with the best of them.  You were built to move and sitting in front of computers for hours on end, day after day, causes all kinds of health problems including, increased risk of cardio vascular disease, certain types of cancers and osteoporosis, weight gain and obesity, depression and anxiety and increased blood pressure.  The thought of suffering from these diseases is enough to create stress in your mind and body (let alone the reality of actually being diagnosed with one of them).  People know through instinct and education that modern lifestyles are unhealthy, however, we often feel trapped and powerless – if we don’t keep up we may get left behind.  Our fears of being left behind produce anxiety and keep us doing the things that increase our stress and stop us from doing the things that reduce it.  This is CRAZINESS !!!

You must MAKE time for exercise, rather than finding time for it.  There are always a million other things that you could do, but if you care about your health you need to move your body – it is as simple as that.  Exercise releases those feel good endorphins that we all love and the end result (whether you love exercise or not) is that you just feel good.

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We all want to feel good, so get out there and find the kind of exercise that works for you.  If you hate the gym, do something else – run on the beach, play tennis, learn to surf, climb a mountain, take a yoga class- whatever – excuses don’t fly when you get serious about your health.

4. Get out in Nature

If you live or work in an environment that does not provide a constant stream of fresh air, your health will suffer.  Stale air has decreased oxygen content and your mind and body thrive in oxygen rich environments.  In an oxygen-poor environment, you get tired and lethargic.  You take instinctively take shallow breaths to prevent outside toxins from circulating through your body.  Your shallow breathing reduces the flow of oxygen through your body making it more difficult to produce vibrant and healthy cells – therefore negatively impacting all of your bodily processes.

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There are many things you can do to increase the amount of fresh air you are exposed to – the number one thing being to spend more time outdoors.  Spend time in places where you feel free to take deep breaths that fill your entire body with our most necessary life force.  Get away from the city pollutants, take a trip to the mountains, exercise outdoors, increase ventilation, open windows to create constant streams of fresh air and place plants in your home and office.  Your body craves fresh air, your mind feels relief from deep breathing and your heart rate slows down (thereby reducing feelings of stress and anxiety).  Your soul loves to play in nature – so take it out whenever and wherever you can.

5. Meditate

Meditation teaches you to control your breathing in order to produce feelings of peace, calm and stillness within.  There is a place inside of you that no harm can touch.  A place that will always be intact no matter what happens to you on the outside.  It is the thing that has been with you since the day you were born and it will be with you until the day you die.  To find it, you only need to close your eyes, find your breath and still your mind.

This is easier said than done when we’ve been so conditioned to keep our minds active and stimulated.  For many the thought of going inside and finding out what’s there, finding out the real YOU, can be scary.  Most of the time we operate on auto-pilot.  Our breath happens automatically and thoughts run through our heads at a million miles just to get us through the days.

Young Woman Meditating In Lotus Pose.Although confronting, letting go of your thoughts and finding out what you really care about is essential to finding inner peace and happiness.  It can lead to a life of authentic satisfaction, rather than a life of achieving goals that have been set for you.  Learning to mediate can enhance the life you are already living, it can be thoroughly transformative and it can lead to deeper levels of self-awareness and happiness.  Taking a step back can help you find the inner strength you need to move forward, to face your challenges and to find a healthy perspective.

Originally posted on Abhay Living, August 2015

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