In small amounts stress can be a good thing by keeping your adrenaline pumping so that you are more alert and energized to reach your goals. But what you may not realize is that too much stress can weaken the immune system and may even lead to chronic disease. In a study at the University of Pittsburgh, elevated stress levels were linked to high blood pressure and increased activity in parts of the brain that control negative emotions.
Slowing down and focusing on the world around you can promote optimism and better health. Learning to relax is a gradual process, but it is one you can achieve with practice.
Symptoms of stress
The first steps in reducing stress are recognizing symptoms.
Headaches, body aches
Constipation, diarrhea, indigestion
Weight gain or loss
Shortness of breath, chest pain, pounding heart (could indicate a serious condition; contact your physician)
Natural techniques for reducing stress
There are many natural ways to train both mind and body to relax and let go of tension. Some natural techniques that reduce physical symptoms of stress include:
Aerobic exercise. Exercise each day for at least 30 minutes or in several short intervals throughout the day to increase feel-good endorphins and release nervous energy.
Yoga or tai chi. Try one of these Eastern disciplines once a week to promote alternative thinking centered on emotions.
Aromatherapy. Sniff essential oils in scents of lavender, chamomile, or sandalwood to induce relaxation. Smells are thought to be highly connected to mood and emotion.
Massage. Splurge on massage as often as you can. People receiving weekly massages report lower levels of workplace stress. The power of touch can help decrease anxiety.
Decaffeinated tea. Drink decaf tea. Theanine, a compound found in green or black tea, may reduce tension and increase alertness, perfect for times when you need to focus.
Visualization. Practice optimism, and never underestimate the power of positive thinking. Studies show that concentrating on positive images can lower blood pressure and boost immunity.
Breathing techniques. From the abdomen, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, for 10 seconds each. Practicing 10 minutes a day, even when you’re not feeling stressed, can improve your relaxation responses.
Meditation. Clear your mind, eliminate distractions, and focus on your surroundings. It inspires calmness, even on your craziest days.
Acupuncture. Try it – it’s not painful. Supporters say the ancient medical practice alters brain chemistry and regulates nerves to relieve stress.