Stressed Out?


Ladies’ Home Journal offers these quick stress cures:

Talk to someone — Bottling things up is for brewers. A trusted friend or a trusted trained professional who will listen to what’s bothering you without judgment or mockery will help you unload your problems and may also help you solve them.

Laugh — Read comics, rent a funny movie, go to the circus. A hardy belly laugh decreases stress hormones in the bloodstream, relaxes muscles and, let’s face it, feels good all over.

Cry — Hey, assuming you’re not running for president, go ahead and sob. Research shows women cry up to four times more often than men, and when they cry, they cry harder. According to William H. Frey III, Ph.D., author of Crying: The Mystery of Tears, our waterworks may have evolved to remove chemicals, possibly stress hormones prolactin and ACTH, that build up during stress.

Put fun on your “to-do” list — Write down everything you think you need to do for the next month. Work, errands, chores, everything. Then remove 5% of the items. You’ll drop tasks that aren’t truly critical and gain valuable free time to spend on something fun for yourself.

Eat more fiber — Find it in legumes, nuts, vegetables, whole grains and fruit. Fiber keeps your digestive tract happy, less stress on your body and helps absorb toxins and bacteria. It also stabilizes blood sugar levels, ameliorating mood swings.

Eat oatmeal — Oatmeal helps your body release serotonin stores in your brain, too little of this neurotransmitter may lead to depression. Nutritionist Keri Glassman recommends eating a bowl of oatmeal no later than an hour before going to bed to alleviate stress and help relax.

Ditch toxic people — Everybody has that person in her life who only makes everything more stressful. You can’t always duck him or her entirely, sometimes you’re related but you can limit your exposure. And when you do have to be together, set a specific time period and include others so that you don’t have to handle this person yourself.

Play with your pet — It’s virtually impossible to stay stressed when you’re tickling your dog’s belly. Or dangling string in front of your cat or bird, for that matter. Unless it just poked a hole in your sofa cushion, of course.

Eat almonds — It’s possible, just possible, that almonds are a perfect food. They’re loaded with immune-boosting zinc and heart healthy vitamin E. And they help stress because you really have to chew almonds in a “get the aggression out” sort of way.

Breathe deep — When under stress we tend to take quick, shallow breaths. Deep breathing slows the stress response by getting more energizing oxygen to your body. Take 10 to 15 minute “breathing breaks” throughout the day, suggests Frank Lipman, M.D., an integrative physician in New York City who combines Western and alternative therapies. Find a quiet space and be conscious of your breath going in and out. Think about your belly rising and falling with each breath. Relax.

Fantasize about something wonderful — Whatever happy place you choose is fine. Take a visual vacation. Closing your eyes quiets the brain by eliminating the myriad visual stimuli that tax your body.

Stretch — We hold tension in the soft tissues of our body’s muscles. When soft tissue gets tight, it squeezes nerves and blood vessels, creating poor circulation and pain. Spending a day trapped behind the wheel or a desk makes things worse, humans were built to move, not sit. Fifteen minutes of gentle stretching at the end of a day can be enough to restore flexibility and mobility.

Sleep — Getting shut eye provides time for biochemical housekeeping, replenishing energy stores, reducing the level of stress hormones.

Fill the tub — Can’t remember the last time you reclined in your bath? Before the shower was invented, the Romans and Turks had the right idea. Being immersed in warm water encourages, nearly forces, your muscles to relax.

Play a board game — Unwinding and stress relief were the top reasons people play “casual” games such as cards and board games, according to a 2006 Harris Interactive poll. Playing is also a relaxing way to connect with family and friends.

Practice yoga — Other hand the release of stress hormones that comes with any exercise, yoga is a way to quiet the head. We all suffer from “monkey mind” jumping from thought to thought all day long, says Dr. Lipman. Yoga forces the mind to start focusing on breathing, moving and staying still.

Turn off your PDA — Power down at least once hour twice a day to give yourself and your family a break. When it’s on, make sure the new e-mail notice is not set to vibrate or beep every time you get a message.

Treat yourself — Whether you enjoy spoiling yourself with a haircut, a cup of coffee and your favorite magazine or sneaking in a midday movie, doing something that’s pure pleasure for you is a great way to decompress and de-stress.

Wet your wrists — Place them under cold running water for 60 seconds while breathing deeply. Your wrists have a large number of small blood vessels and the cold water helps cool and calm you, according to Julie Rosenzwig, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in Lake Oswego, Oregon, who specializes in stress cures.

Take the chocolate cure — Dark chocolate is a potent antioxidant and may increase your serotonin levels, as well as lower blood pressure and bad LDL cholesterol. Milk chocolate is not as powerful as the dark type.

Turn off the TV for a whole week — Watching TV can add stress to our already overstimulated brains. And it doesn’t help that so much of the news that’s on the tube is scary.

Crank up the music — It doesn’t matter what type of music you choose, clear the floor, turn up the volume and let it rip. Losing yourself in music and, better yet, dancing to it is a great full body stress reliever.

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