Stress Reduces the Quality of Life for Millions
Stress is like an insidious force that works against us every day, depleting our health, robbing us of pleasure, wearing us down and burning us out. The negative effects of stress on both our minds and our bodies are numerous and well-documented. Yet many of us go about our daily routine without making much of an effort to reduce the stress in our lives. I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to reduce stress, and here are ten ideas I have come up with.
1. Unplug and Eliminate the Constant Chatter
That means setting aside time each day to turn off the TV, turn off the radio, and power down the computer. We're hit with a constant barrage of hype, bad news, "urgent" messages, and flickering lights. It is my belief that too high a dose of these things contribute to our cluttered and stressed-out state of mind. Unplug and try to enjoy simple silence.
2. Follow a Healthy Diet
Try to reduce, as much as possible, highly-processed carbs, caffeine, and sugar. These junk foods give you a shot of blood sugar/energy that wreaks havoc on your body chemistry and over time just makes you feel unwell. Try replacing coffee with tea, get your requirements of fruits and veggies, and eat sensible portions of meals. In addition to the physical benefits of eating well, you will also have greater peace of mind.
3. Do Something You Enjoy
Many people are working long hours at a job they don't particularly like, just to get the bills paid on time. But it is important to draw the line somewhere and say, "this is my personal time." Be sure to dedicate time each day to spend with your family or working on a hobby that interests you. Doing this will bring greater balance and calm into your life, and help you get through a particularly tough day on the job. Doing things you enjoy is an antidote to stress.
4. Spend Time With a Pet
Studies have shown that stress levels decrease when we spend time with animals. There is something about the affection of a puppy or the purring of a cat that sooths us. People feel happier. The sick even heal faster. If you don't currently have a pet, consider getting one.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is a very important component to stress reduction. Not everyone requires the same amount of sleep, however experts believe that getting less than seven or eight hours each night is detrimental to most people. Yet in our hectic lives, sleep is often the first thing we sacrifice. The body and the mind both need adequate sleep to wake fully rested ready to start the next day. Try to get to bed at a reasonable time and be sure to sleep on a comfortable mattress. A little "white noise" also does wonders for creating a peaceful sleep.
6. Learn to Meditate or Practice Yoga
Meditation has been practiced for centuries as a way to boost the spirit and defend against the stress of life. Consider adding meditation or yoga to your regular routine. Find some quiet time, dim the lights, close your eyes and try one of these techniques: Focus on your breathing; slowly take in deep breaths, hold for a second, then release. Chant a calming word or phrase over and over, such as "heaven" or "relax". Lie down and focus on one body part at a time, starting from your feet, and tell it to relax. For more meditation ideas, consider these sites.
7. Be Sure to Get Enough Exercise
Stress creates tension that can be relieved with a little exercise. Not only does exercise help you get out pent-up energy and stay loose, but it also triggers the release of endorphins--brain chemicals that counteract the negative effects of stress. So get your exercise, get your fix of endorphins, and relieve pent-up tension.
8. Listen to Relaxing Music
Music is a natural mood-setter. Put on some calming music and your mind will respond by becoming more calm. Listen to whatever you prefer, whether it is classical, jazz, or laid-back contemporary songs. My favorite relaxation music is the New Age station on AOL radio. Internet radio gives you a lot of options, and if you don't have AOL you could give Yahoo! Music Unlimited, which comes with 100 radio stations, a try.
9. Treat Yourself to a Vacation
Every now and then you just need to give yourself a break--take yourself out of your routine and do something fun. I put a priority on vacations in my own life; trips to Florida or the occassional cruise do the trick for me. I come back recharged and refreshed, and you likely will, too. Read my article on reasons to take a cruise, if you need more convincing!
10. Make a Bold Change
You may ultimately come to the conclusion that a drastic change must be made in your life if you're ever going to reduce your stress levels. That may mean quitting your job or moving to a different area or breaking off a relationship that isn't working. In fact, this may be one of the toughest decisions you will ever make.
In the end, no matter which of these ideas you choose to try, it is important that you make the conscious decision to reduce the stress in your life. Our time here on earth is too short to be spent anxious and worn down. I hope that these ten ideas have given you something helpful. Remember: relax!
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