Note to Self: Just Relax and Breathe

posted in: Mindfulness | 0

As a meditation teacher, I hear a lot of different reasons why people want to learn to meditate. Most often I hear “I’m just so stressed!”

There are many ways to reduce your stress, meditation is just one of them. I’ll get into some others in a bit, but for now, let’s look at what stress does to your body.

Stress is an evolutionary response to danger. When stressed, either physically or psychologically, the body suddenly shifts its energy resources to fighting off the perceived threat. The adrenal glands release what’s become know as the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, and prepare for “fight or flight.” Our heart beats faster, our blood pressure raises, blood sugar levels increase, digestion shuts down. That served us well in the past when we could fall prey to animals and needed to make a quick getaway. Now, not so much.

When the perceived threat subsided back in the day, our body systems returned to normal. These days, the barrage of stressful situations leave us in a constant state of stress. Deadlines to meet, social media to attend to, bills to pay, illnesses, they all lead to that “fight or flight” response.

Each person reacts differently to stress. Under stress, your muscles tense up and that could lead to headaches (including migraines), neck aches and other musculoskeletal problems. Increase in the rate of breathing can bring on panic attacks in some people. Stress can cause inflammation in coronary arteries, leading to heart disease. Your endocrine, gastrointestinal and reproductive systems are all negatively affected. In other works, stress can wreak havoc on most every system in your body. So, you’re well-served to find ways to reduce your stress levels, and there are many ways you can do that. Here is my list of

TEN WAYS TO SHRUG OFF STRESS

Everyone experiences stress in their lives. But it doesn’t have to get the better of you. When you need some inspiration for restoring your sense of calm, try one of these activities.

MEDITATE!
Meditation provides relief from stress. One way it does this is by reducing the amount of cortisol and adrenaline, the “flight or fight” hormones produced by the brain. Body scanning meditation can be especially effective.

Journal
Just getting your thoughts out on paper helps to clear your mind, thus leading to less stress about the past and/or the future.

Take up a hobby
Hobbies can provide a nice distraction from stress. Coloring books are great fun. Gardening can also act as a stress reliever and is good exercise.

Practice Yoga regularly
Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline that is effective in relieving stress. Find a teacher that you connect with and that teaches the type of yoga that speaks to you.

Breathe!
Your breath is a convenient and simple way to reduce short-term stress. Next time you’re annoyed, just take a few moments for some nice deep belly breaths.

Hang out with friends
Just hanging out with friends can take your mind off your stressors for a bit. Social connections are one of the most effective ways to increase your happiness, thus reducing stress.

Laugh!
The physical act of laughing releases tension and brings positive physiological changes. So, go ahead, watch that silly kitten video on YouTube!

Get out in nature
If you spend too much time at your desk, taking a walk in nature allows you a change in scenery, and it gets you moving. Exercise is another form of stress release.

Listen to Music
“Music has charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks or bend a knotted oak.” Yes, it’s that powerful.

Try Aromatherapy
Rosemary, lavender, ylang-ylang and lemon have all been shown to reduce stress. There are others and if you’re interested, there are many well-written books on the benefits of aromatherapy.

 

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