Stress, stress, stress and more stress

Stress – so necessary for life, but so destructive in excess. Excess stress makes you fat. Excess stress speeds up your heart. Excess stress narrows your blood vessels. Excess stress makes you irritable. Excess stress interferes with your sleep.

It seems as if there’s no more down-time. There’s just stress.

Well, you don’t have to give in to it. You CAN combat stress – without spending a lot of money, or time or losing even more sleep.

Now, a lot of this you have heard before. You may have even tried it to a certain extent. My advice is to try it again and stick with it for a few weeks. Stress is a killer that creeps up on you. Fight back.

Exercise: Oh, that word! It seems to pop up more and more lately. There’s a reason for its constant presence. Exercise is necessary. You know how it helps your cardiovascular system. How it helps control blood sugar. You may also have heard that it is useful in reducing depression and anxiety. But did you know that there is evidence that exercise give your body a chance to actually learn how to deal with stress? It brings your auto-regulating systems closer together so that they can communicate faster.

So, do you need to get your heart rate up to a certain level for 30 minutes each day? Keep your eye on the clock and count your pulse. Hurry! Get it right. Sigh! How self-defeating. Yes, getting your heart rate up is good for you and 30 minutes of exercise is ideal. But if you can’t do 30 minutes, do 15 or 10 or 5! Walk. Walk. Walk. Speed it up now and then. It all adds up. And – take off those headphones!! Listen, really listen.

This brings me to the next recommendation…

Meditate: OM! An hour of yoga every day at lunch hour! Twenty minutes of deep meditation morning and night. Are you feeling the stress? Here again, sometimes the ideal isn’t possible. Instead take little meditation breaks all day long. Close your eyes – at your desk, at the kitchen sink, on the bus – listen! What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you feel? Take time for the beauty in little things – the dust motes in the air, the feel of warm water on your hands. Take deep breaths and let your shoulders sag. You’re all hunched up for a fight. Let it go. Meditation is in the small things as well as in contemplation of the cosmos.

Keep relationship in your life: family, friends and lovers. They’re all important. Make new friends and acquaintances. Say hello to the janitor, the mail carrier and “thank you” whenever you can.

Finally: laugh, often and hard. – with friends, with family but, most importantly, with yourself. Laughter infuses your body with oxygen, gives you a healthy glow, relaxes your muscles and wipes away your frown lines.

How long will all of this take? Minutes a day, maybe 30 if you do some walking. So, lower your stress levels naturally and enjoy the journey.

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Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN

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