Editors Note: This post is written by contributor Vin Miller. Vin is a certified health practitioner who is passionate about helping people get the most out of life. If you’d like to learn more about maximizing your life through health, fitness and perspective, visit his blog at NaturalBias.com
In our fast paced modern world, we are busier and more stressed than ever before. In my last article, I discussed how less obvious sources of stress can accumulate and gradually break down the body. Today, I’ll discuss some practical ways to alleviate stress and prevent it from destroying our health.
As I discussed in the previous article, eliminating unwanted sources of stress is the best solution, but isn’t always possible. The following suggestions will help you alleviate and offset the stress that you can’t avoid.
Reframe Negative Thoughts
We all have a choice in how we perceive and respond to any situation. While you may think your day is ruined because of trivial frustrations that are a common part of every day life, Nick Vujicic views every day as a blessing and an opportunity even though he has no arms or legs. Similarly, Viktor Frankl managed to find meaning and fulfillment from the treacherous conditions he endured in Nazi concentration camps. The point here is not to make you grateful for not having it as bad as these people, but rather to make you realize that there is positivity to be taken from any situation.
A large majority of the stress we experience is a result of our own perception. To take advantage of the choice you have in this matter, pay close attention to your thoughts and pay particular attention to the ones which are negative and bring you down. Think of the worst case scenario that could possibly result from the situation you’re facing and you’ll likely realize that it’s not as bad as you think and isn’t worth the negative emotion that you’re investing in it. Also try to find a positive aspect of the situation that makes the situation worth enduring and gives you reason to be more tolerant of it.
Most of us are frequently exposed to potentially frustrating situations throughout the course of each day. Finding the perspective to prevent them from becoming stressful can add up to a significant amount of physiological burden that is avoided. Not only will this contribute to better health, but it will also give you greater capacity for the demanding activities you may enjoy.
Slow breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and is a great way to calm yourself down and escape anxiety and frustration. There are many different breathing techniques you can use to accomplish this. I like to keep things simple and use the following approach. Sit or stand with good posture and try to slow your mind down and relax. Inhale deeply through your nose while expanding your diaphragm first and then your chest. Hold the breath in for a few seconds, or as long as you wish, and exhale slowly and gradually through your mouth. Repeat this as long as is necessary to achieve a calm and relaxed state.
Clear Your Mind
In many cases, we create our own stress by worrying about the future or the past. In fact, many of the things we worry about are often out of our control. A great way to prevent these thoughts from causing excessive stress is to become efficient at clearing your mind and focusing on the present. Regular meditation is probably the best way to develop this ability. However, if you’re not interested in meditation, listening to soothing music or engaging in mild forms of focused exercise such as tai chi or qi gong can work as well. You can even use the deep breathing technique described above.
Have you ever noticed that even the most unbearable stress can melt away after hearing a good joke? Laughter provokes the release of endorphins which are potent neurotransmitters that eliminate pain and provide a general sense of well being. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, go out of your way to find something to laugh about and make an effort to surround yourself with positive people who have a good sense of humor. As you develop an appreciation for simple humor and spend more time around people who appreciate it as well, you’ll likely gain more tolerance for stress and find that you’re in a better mood more often.
Take a Break
Sometimes we let stress go too far and get to the point where we’re too exhausted to even try one of the stress relieving methods suggested above. In this case, one of the only remaining things that will help is to take a break and let your body and mind rest. This is a great opportunity to cancel all your obligations for a day or two and do nothing but rest and relax. If you do, you’ll likely feel recharged and ready to get back on track, but keep in mind that if you don’t find a way to alleviate some of the stress that wore you out in the first place, you’ll likely end up in the same situation again.
If you’d like to learn more from Vin about maximizing your life through health, fitness and perspective, visit his blog at NaturalBias.com