MANAGING MIND AND BODY IN THESE TOUGH TIMES
By Nutrition Team
Thursday, December 4, 2008.
A high level of stress is likely to become the number one killer of the 21st century. We all face daily stress, whether it’s from sitting in traffic jams, the washing machine breaking down at the worst time or losing your wallet, but further stress can come from money and financial worries, illness, family problems, work-related worries and so on. Another type of stress includes major life events, such as death, marriage or a new birth.
Stress can lead to a number of psychological problems such as irritability, depression, a lack of concentration and emotional difficulties, while the physical symptoms can include muscle aches, chest pain and palpitations, headache, nausea and sweating, fatigue and sleeping difficulties.
Stress is the response we have to events that disrupt our equilibrium and pose a challenge to our ability to cope. In other words, stress is change.
In today’s society we find ourselves busier than ever. Nothing remains constant, so it is important that we learn how to cope more effectively with daily change.
Coping is the key to surviving, even with the most hectic schedule.
And although we can’t always take away the sources of stress, we can learn to survive and cope in a more effective manner.
1. Keep your blood sugars balanced.
Try to avoid using sugar as a “pick me up” as this sends your blood sugars on a roller coaster of highs and lows. Take your sugars in the form of complex carbs such as cereals, wholegrain breads, pasta and rice, as part of a healthy diet. These sugars will break down in your body, releasing the sugar over long periods of time. Eating frequent small meals will also reduce the sugar swings. Don’t skip meals. This only causes you to binge on unhealthy foods and keeps your blood sugar levels imbalanced.
2. Lighten your load.
This means learning to say NO to social functions or other demands that may place extra stress on you. Let someone else do the holiday planning this year!
3. Postpone making any changes in your environment.
Since change is stress, don’t make that commitment to change your living environment until you are ready to take on the burden. Even moving into a larger home or making any other positive change in your living environment can be stressful. Just make sure you are ready to take on any new responsibility.
4. Reduce the number of hours you spend working or studying. If you are having difficulty handling your responsibilities or you consider yourself a workaholic, you need to reduce the energy drain you are placing on your body. Delegate the responsibility at work where possible. Make a plan to work or study only certain times and make sure you incorporate recreation and down time as a part of your daily schedule.
5. Give yourself a break.
Sometimes it’s okay to do nothing and remember, your body needs time to repair itself.
When feeling stressed, people dread the thought of exercise. However, exercise will not only enhance your sense of well-being, but it will provide you with the energy you need to get through those overly stressful days. It is important that you find time to incorporate an exercise routine into your life. Exercise will reduce your frustration and stress, allowing you to function more effectively every day.
Here are some stress-reducing exercises that you can do at work, in the car, at home…anywhere!
Begin by relaxing your neck. Good posture, particularly the alignment of your head and neck, is extremely important for proper vision. Tension in the neck and stiffness in the cervical spine can be related to chronic eyestrain. Here are a couple of simple movements for relaxing your head and neck.
Head rolling: Standing or sitting with an upright back, let you head fall gently forward and start to move your head in a slow circular movement. Keep your shoulders relaxed and level. Do not strain or force this movement, but let the weight of your head guide you around. As you make several full circles, feel your neck muscles loosening and lengthening. After 2-3 circles one way, change direction.
Head turning: Slowly and smoothly turn your head to the right as far as is comfortable. Then turn back to the centre. As you repeat this simple motion a few times, first to the right and then to the left, keep your eyes level and your shoulders completely relaxed.
An excellent way to rest your eyes and mind is called palming. First, warm your hands by rubbing them together briskly. Then place your cupped hands over your closed eyes, with the heel of each hand resting on your cheekbones. The centre of each palm should lie directly over each eye, without actually touching the eyelid. Raise your elbows to shoulder level and rest them on the back of a chair or a stack of books in front of you in order to keep your neck and back straight while your shoulders are relaxed. As you palm for several minutes, feel the warmth and darkness soothe your eye muscles and your whole body.
Another quick way of draining excess tension and relaxing tight muscles is shaking. With your arms hanging loosely at your sides, begin by shaking your hands. Then let the vigorous vibrations move up to include your arms and then your shoulders. Feel both arms vibrate energetically and rapidly. Then let the shaking slowly subside and feel the tingling throughout your body. Next, begin loosely shaking one leg and then the other.
Begin to incorporate these exercises into your daily lifestyle. The sooner you start to reduce your tension, the more effective you will be in every aspect of your life.
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