24 ways to ease up

With apologies to Paul Simon, there must be... 24 ways to ease your living.

Why 24? Why not? It's a start! That people have to go online and type the words "How to relax" into a search engine should be indication enough that modern life may be getting too stressful. Why, with all the innovations and timesavers, do we feel more and more rushed?

Time is a constant - it always remains the same. What changes are our expectations of how much we can accomplish in that same old time. It's scientifically proven that stress can lead to sickness and that relaxation is one of the things that can soothe the savage beast.

Hopefully everyone has at least one favourite way to wind down, because not every stress soother will suit every single person. Next time you feel tense and uptight, try out one of these ways to relax. Perhaps some will work for you, while others might inspire you to write your own list of ease-up ideas.

  1. Dance.
  2. Mono-task, as opposed to multitasking.
  3. Progressively tense each muscle, holding each for 5 seconds then releasing.
  4. Stretch.
  5. Go for a walk
  6. Play a game. Sudoku, crosswords, hopscotch, whatever.
  7. Soak in a bath.
  8. Laugh.
  9. Turn off your electronics. Enjoy the quiet.
  10. Read.
  11. Take a 5-minute break to clear your mind and breathe.
  12. Cover your eyes with an eye pillow. Allow your anxious eyeballs to feel like they're floating rather than gripping.
  13. Play with your pet.
  14. Drink a cup of hot tea. Or iced if that makes you feel better!
  15. Take a whiff of a favourite soothing scent, maybe citrus or lavender.
  16. Clean out the drawers of your dresser. De-cluttered can equal destressed.
  17. Soak your feet in Epsom salts.
  18. Listen to your favourite music.
  19. Light a candle and watch the flame flicker.
  20. Write in a diary.
  21. Talk to a friend.
  22. Make everyday activities more meditative. Like walking, for instance. Rather than rush down the hallway, place one foot in front of the other and really feel your feet ground into the earth with each step.
  23. Unplug (or turn off) your phone.
  24. Strive to take deep breaths to reach the tight spaces of your body - try to feel your breathing in your lower back and your shoulders

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Stress-Ways-to-Cope

How to take a bite out of stress

Food shouldn't be a source of stress. In fact, food should be one of your best stress-busting allies. Our bodies use food to help affect our ability to respond to a moment's tension or a long-standing stress. Some foods can make us jumpy, while other foods can steady our energy and equip us to handle challenges as they arise.

And yet no one food could be labelled "best stress-buster." By eating a healthy and balanced diet, you give your body almost everything it needs to function well under pressure. That said, there are a few foods you should try to add to your diet to help you work through the tension.

Complex carbohydrates

When stress strikes, your body may crave carbohydrates. Eat carb-filled foods and your body creates serotonin, which sends good-mood messages to your brain. To get "carb calm" you need to eat complex carbohydrates, like whole grains. Complex carbs are digested more slowly than simple carbs found in sugary foods.

If you eat sweets, any "carb calm" you feel will be cancelled out by the surge of insulin that will lower your blood sugar and make you feel hungry again. Slow carbs will keep you full for longer, too, so you won't have to stress over hunger pangs or digestive dramas.

Stress less snacks: Fill up on fibre-rich foods like oatmeal or whole-grain breads, rice, and pasta to help you stay calm, cool, and collected. Most starchy vegetables and legumes will fit the bill, too. Try starchy sweet potatoes, crunchy carrots, baked beans, or just about any green vegetable!

Vitamin C

Give your daily diet a vitamin C boost to balance your body's output of stress hormones. Some studies show that with enough vitamin C during tense times, your body may be able to slow down the production of cortisol. That's the chemical stuff of stress that sends us into that "fight-or-flight" frenzy we experience when challenged or threatened. Cortisol is good for our bodies in healthy doses, but too much cortisol on a regular basis can make us more vulnerable to depression, learning and memory difficulties, and physical illness - all sources of further stress.

Stress less snacks: Oranges aren't the only source of C in the bushel. Papaya bursts with vitamin C, as do strawberries, cantaloupe, and kiwi fruit. Munch on raw bell pepper, a sprig of parsley, or steam some greens like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or kale.

Healthy fats

Fat is usually the bad guy, but when you're stressed out, fat can be your friend. If you trim the fat during lean times, you leave yourself vulnerable and ill-equipped to handle stress. In one study, women put on a low-fat diet experienced swings in their mood, showing more irritability than the group on a normal-fat diet.

Don't go for any old fat, though. Since stressful times boost your body's cortisol levels, any excess calories you eat can quickly turn to unhealthy belly fat. Instead, opt for healthy fats, like those found in foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fats may help support your body with a steadier attitude toward stress.

Stress less snacks: Net the benefits of omega-3s by eating more oily fish, including salmon, mackerel, herring, and light tuna. If fish isn't your thing, omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in walnuts, flaxseed, beans, tofu, and olive oil. Monounsaturated fats are another healthier choice. Creamy avocados will give you the fit fat, along with other nuts like almonds, cashews, and peanuts.

B vitamins

A body under stress pumps out cortisol, which then borrows from the body's vitamin storage to power all of those dreaded stress symptoms. Fight back against cortisol by stockpiling B vitamins. This complex of vitamins - including folate, niacin, and riboflavin - supports the nervous system.

Stress less snacks: Feast on green leafy vegetables and whole grains, and you'll meet most of your body's B requirement. Getting B6 and B12 can be tricky for vegetarians and vegans, as these nervous-system supporting vitamins are mostly found in animal products. If organ meats, fish, liver, eggs, poultry, and milk are not on the menu, try adding brown rice and soybeans or taking supplements.

Magnesium

Reacting to stress takes a lot of energy: Along with B vitamins, our bodies also use up magnesium. This mineral has lots of jobs in our bodies, including maintaining proper nerve and muscle function and keeping bone and teeth healthy.

Having too little magnesium means our nerves can get overexcited, which leads to muscle tension, cramps, and weakness. Our heart rate can also increase, our blood sugar can become unstable, and our blood pressure can be elevated. Add headaches into the mix, and you have a potential stress management disaster. On the other hand, a body coursing with enough magnesium will enjoy relaxed muscles and healthy nerve function.

Stress less snacks: Munch on a handful of raw pumpkin seeds for a mega-boost of magnesium. Grab some sunflower and sesame seeds while you're at it. Again, green leafy vegetables pack a stress-busting punch, especially spinach and Swiss chard.

Amy Toffelmire

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Stress-Ways-to-Cope

Ha! Laughing is good for you!

As adults, we laugh about 15 times a day. Sounds pretty joyful - until you find out that children laugh about 400 times in a 24-hour go-round. That is a pretty big giggle gap!

Kids get it right, too, according to gelotologists. No, that's not a scholar of gelatin desserts. Gelotology (from the Greek gelos, which means "to laugh") is the study of laughter and its effects on our body and mind. As it turns out, laughter provides health benefits that are nothing to snicker at.

Laughing may reduce stress

You know how a good laugh can feel like an escape? Well, laughter actually has the power to stop the body's stress response in its tracks. In a small study, Dr. Lee Berk (an immunologist who has investigated laughter's benefits since the 1970s) found that real, "mirthful" laughter could slash stress hormone levels. And since stress hormones can suppress our immune system, laughter may be a way to protect our body's best defences.

Even just the anticipation of laughter that's about to happen can make us feel better. Dr. Berk discovered this when he was setting up laughter studies. He noticed that people's levels of endorphins, the so-called "feel-good" hormones, would rise right before they were about to be shown or told something funny.

Laughter also engages our muscles. Once we've stopped laughing, those muscles relax - and that muscle relaxation can last up to about 45 minutes. And it's usually cheaper than a massage, too.

Laughing may support a healthy heart

Ever heard of laughter yoga? If you haven't, you might want to take this to heart: After just seven sessions of laughter yoga, many research participants in one study saw a significant reduction in their blood pressure. The sessions consisted of 45-second rounds of simulated laughter followed by deep breathing and gentle stretching exercises; this process was repeated during the 20- to 30-minute session.

In another study measuring response to humour, it was noted that people with heart disease seemed to be more angry and hostile and less likely to laugh at ridiculous or joyous moments from everyday life. Perhaps the heart-healthy benefit of laughter comes from not just the physical act of deeper, quicker breathing, but also from a light-hearted, laugh-it-off attitude.

Laughing may sharpen our minds

A Marquette University psychologist had people read a list of words, and then some of them were shown a funny video clip. A week later, those who had the chance to chuckle at the clip recalled 20 percent more words than those who hadn't had the laugh break. It's thought that the rush of laughter speeds up the heartbeat and sends more oxygen to the brain, which could boost memory skills.

Laughter can be therapeutic

Many cancer patients try humour therapy as part of their treatment, and are able to better cope with cancer and cancer treatment because of the jolt of laughter they add to their lives. Children who laugh during painful medical procedures may be able to tolerate pain better. And they don't even have to laugh out loud to feel the soothing benefits.

Laughter yoga, mentioned above for its heart-healthy benefits, has caught on as well. More than 5,000 laughter yoga clubs have opened around the world. In these clubs, participants walk around together, breathing and chanting "ho ho, ha ha" while engaging their abdominal muscles. Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of laughter yoga, notes that while the laughter in his sessions may start off phony, "when we have eye contact with others, this laughter becomes real and contagious." Kataria contends that laughter yoga strengthens the abdominals to help support a healthy digestive system, stimulates the circulatory system, and strengthens the respiratory system.

But can laughter replace your cardio workout?

When we laugh, our heart beats faster. Our blood flow also increases - about as much as it would after taking cholesterol-lowering medications or during light exercise. Lazy optimists sometimes interpret this to mean that laughter is a good alternative to cardio. Ha! Not exactly. It's been estimated that 20 seconds of laughter would equal about 3 minutes on the rowing machine, but even the best, biggest belly laugh session can't replace a good run on the treadmill. So, hearty laughter is more like a really light, brief aerobic workout. Let out a good laugh more often, though, and you may have more energy and help your body to reverse some of the effects of excess stress.

Basically, laughing feels good, and it can undoubtedly perk up a bad mood. While it may not be the best medicine, wouldn't you take it anyway?

Amy Toffelmire

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Stress-Ways-to-Cope