Long-term stress means that your body is constantly on high alert, and high levels of stress can over time lead to health problems and even severe illnesses. It is important to learn to relax and to manage your stress symptoms. Stressful things will always happen in life, but it is possible to learn to manage stress.
The Importance of Relaxation
Relaxation sounds like a simple idea, but many of us are finding it increasingly more difficult to relax. Relaxation techniques include breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, t’ai chi, qi gong or even simple techniques you can learn from books, relaxation CDs or DVDs. Relaxation techniques can slow down the heart rate, slow down your breathing, lower blood pressure, relieve muscle tension and improve your ability to focus – all important for relieving and managing stress.
Exercise and Stress Relief
Almost any exercise can relieve stress. Exercise boosts endorphins (the feel-good neurotransmitters), helps you to sleep better, helps you to relax and re-energizes the body and the mind. Stress-relieving exercise can include yoga, Pilates, tai chi or qi gong – but also running or walking outdoors, aerobics or other fitness classes, or any form of exercise you enjoy.
Meditation for Stress Relief
Many meditation techniques have been known for thousands of years, and today meditation is commonly used for stress relief. Meditation comes in many forms and you can practice it regardless of your religious beliefs – there are Buddhist meditation techniques, Christian meditations (including prayer) and methods that have nothing to do with any religion.
Meditation can you help to find peace of mind, to focus on the present moment instead of worrying about the future, to keep stress symptoms under control, to manage negative emotions and worries, and simply to become more aware.
Massage is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to reduce stress. Most massage techniques relieve tension in the body and help to calm down the mind: try Swedish massage, aromatherapy, traditional Thai massage or Ayurvedic massage. Massage can be a natural first-aid treatment for acute stress and a regular massage can also prevent stress.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program was founded in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society in the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The eight-week program uses mindfulness meditation and other tools to help participants deal more effectively with stress and illness. You can also practice the eight-week program at home or use the techniques to relieve stress in daily life. Read more about mindfulness in Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams, Danny Penman and Jon Kabat-Zinn. The book contains instructions for an eight-week stress management program and comes with a CD of mindfulness exercises, meditation and relaxation techniques.
The Mayo Clinic online articles:
Mark Williams, Danny Penman and Jon Kabat-Zinn: Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World (Rodale Books, 2011)
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