Even when you can’t change a difficult situation, you have some control over the way you deal with stress. So if you’re pulling out your hair, biting your nails to the quick, or worrying yourself into a tizzy, try these techniques to loosen stress’s grip and restore a sense of sanity.
Dose with de-stressors
‘ Ever since ancient Greeks began enjoying chamomile tea, it has been praised for its healing properties. Today, when an estimated one million cups are drunk each day throughout the world, herbalists and naturopathic doctors praise chamomile as a wonderful remedy for stress. Drink one cup three times a day.
‘ You can also add chamomile, along with other calming herbs such as lavender and valerian, to bathwater for a nerve-soothing soak. Wrap the dried herbs in a piece of cheesecloth and hold it under the faucet while you fill the tub.
‘ Get more vitamin C. In one study, under-pressure people who took 1,000 milligrams of C had milder increases in blood pressure and brought their stress hormone levels back to normal more quickly than people who didn’t take it.
Beat stress with your mind
‘ Closely studied by Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University, the relaxation response has been clinically proven to short-circuit stress. Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place. Close your eyes. Now choose a word or phrase to focus on (‘It’s okay,’ for example). As you concentrate on breathing in and out, repeat the phrase each time you exhale. If you get distracted by other thoughts, gently put them out of your mind and return to your word or phrase. Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. Practice at least once a day.
‘ Research has found that music can reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and even levels of stress hormones in the blood. Take a break and listen to music you find soothing, whether it’s classical, jazz, or something else.
‘ Do a time-travel exercise. When you’re feeling knotted up with some immediate concern, remember something that had you feeling equally tense a year ago. How important does it seem today? Now try to project a year into the future, and look back on your present dilemma. Chances are, that ‘leap forward’ in time will give you a better perspective on what you’re going through now.
Take a progressive approach
‘ When you feel especially tense, try a technique called progressive relaxation. Sit or lie down in a quiet, comfortable place. Close your eyes. Now curl your toes as hard as you can for 10 seconds. Then relax them. After your toes, tense and relax your feet, legs, belly, fingers, arms, neck, and face. In other words, progressively ‘work’ the tension all the way from the tips of your toes to the top of your head, and then ‘let it go.’
Take steps to prevent stress
‘ Get out for a walk or do some other form of exercise for at least 20 minutes, three times a week. Exercise boosts feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins, which lift your mood and make you feel less anxious.
‘ Limit your consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and sugar; and if you smoke, quit. All of these substances can fire up your body’s fight-or-flight response, contributing to physical symptoms of stress like a racing heart, trembling, clammy hands, anxiety, and irritability.
‘ Take up a calming hobby. Knitting, working on puzzles, reading, or some other favorite pastime can help you take a breather from the stresses of life.
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