Tuesday, April 3, 2012

8 Tips For Managing Stress

Feeling the pressure? Chronic stress isn't just bad for our emotional well-being, it also has serious ill-effects on our physical health. Start taking control of stress right now -- with these eight tips to cope and manage stress.

1. Say "om"

Learn and practise relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or tai-chi, which are a great way to de-stress. "Through breathing fully and deeply, this helps the nervous system to calm down," explains Nathalie Bennett, who runs Live Love Yoga.

2. Get active

Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to tackle stress and burn up stress hormones, says Philip Weeks, an expert in natural medicine. What's more, your body can fight stress better when it is fit. Aim for half an hour of brisk exercise five times a week, and make it fun by working out with a friend -- or two!

3. Cut your caffeine intake

When you're stressed, your body is already 'on edge' so you'll want to cut down on your consumption of caffeine and other stimulants, advises Weeks. He suggests swapping with a cup of soothing herbal tea, such as lemon balm and camomile. If you find it difficult to stay away from caffeine altogether, go for green tea, which also contains health-boosting antioxidants.

4. Get plenty of rest and breaks

Make sure you have enough sleep, says Weeks, as this is the time your body recuperates the quickest. How much zzs is optimum? Studies show it's important to catch around 7 hours of sleep every night. In the day, take regular short breaks from your work by stepping away from the computer every hour or so to stretch and move around. (Try this office workout!)

5. Retrain your brain

There's no point in worrying about situations that are outside of your control, says Weeks. Learning to accept situations that you can't change can go a long way towards improving your stress levels. CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) techniques can be extremely useful for changing your thinking patterns and is used a lot in counselling. Get into the habit of talking to yourself positively, adds stress expert Dominic Knight. "Any human behavior that you rehearse continuously for approximately three weeks becomes habit forming."

6. Aim to eat better

This will keep your body in the best shape to fight stress. Include more wholesome vegetables, fruits and whole foods, and drink plenty of water. Look to eat more vitamin B-rich foods, too, says Weeks, as these are known to help the body process stress hormones more efficiently. Sources include chicken, beef, liver, salmon, sardines, spinach, peas, broccoli, asparagus and whole grains.

7. Make time for hobbies

Doing something that you enjoy is a great way to wind down and lift your mood. Whether it's gardening, arts and craft, reading a novel, or just taking a long soak in the tub, set aside a little quiet time each day to indulge in your favorite activity and relax.

8. Seek help

If stress has become too much to handle, professional help and support can be very beneficial in reducing stress levels. This may involve seeing a psychologist or attending counselling sessions. You'll learn more healthy ways to deal with stress from the pros, and "anything that promotes your sense of wellbeing can help reduce your levels of stress," says Weeks.


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