Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Stress Solutions: Ten Tips To Cope With Stress

Stress Solutions: Ten Tips To Cope With Stress
By: Dr Arien van der Merwe

Stress levels are higher than ever. The current economic crisis is taking its toll on physical and mental health and wellbeing. All the distress obviously affects workplaces, and particularly morale and productivity. Short fuses dramatically increase the potential for dysfunctional behaviours that affect everyone from top management and colleagues, to customers and families. Managing stress is vital to overall health and wellbeing!

• One minute stress buster: Breathe in deeply through your nose on a slow count of three. Push your stomach out as you breathe in. Hold it for a count of three. Breathe out through your mouth on a slow count of six. Repeat two or more times. Try this every time you feel stressed, anxious or worried. Do it every morning before you get up and every night before falling asleep. Feel your pulse rate by putting your fingers gently on your wrist below the thumb. When you’re stressed, your breathing and pulse rate become fast. Do the slow breathing and feel how your pulse rate slows down – a quick fix stress buster!

• Quiet time and deep relaxation: Can be done anywhere, anytime to refocus the mind and improve concentration and sense of wellbeing. Deep relaxation enhances cardiovascular health, respiratory health, balances the endocrine and nervous system and improves mental clarity. Imagine your thoughts being the waves on the surface of the ocean. They go up and down as the mood, your feelings, emotions and your memory dictate. The deeper ocean is quiet, still and peaceful. This is the part you can access voluntarily any time of the day and night through meditation, visualisation, deep breathing and prayer.

Practice mindfulness

• On waking, spend a few moments lying in bed. Enjoy the delight of the fresh morning air, the sparkle of early sunlight, the sound of birds. Sense the life flowing through your body. Notice your breath, the pulsing of blood in your fingertips, the tug of gravity upon your arms, legs, and trunk. Take a few deep slow breaths. This is a good time to write in your journal – dreams, thoughts, ideas, feelings. Get out of bed slowly, observing the shift in your center of balance as you move into an upright position. Stand erect, without strain. Feel your feet on the ground. Become aware of your whole body. Go about the early morning’s activities with mindfulness, really experiencing them with all your senses. Cultivate serenity early in the morning and carry the feeling with you throughout the day. We control how we respond to irritations, worries, doubts and fears. Preparing the mind like this, calmly centers you throughout the day.

• Spend a few minutes every morning in quiet contemplation. Create your special space – upright in your bed, a meditation stool, or cushion, or a comfortable chair, crystals, colourful candles, soft music or the silence of a perfect day.

- You can eat, drink, or walk mindfully by focusing exclusively on eating, drinking, or walking.
- Stop and notice your breath at various times throughout the day.
- Cultivate a sense of being, rather than always feeling like you have to be doing something.

• Tired eye soother

Splash eyes with cold water – alternate with a hot washcloth over your closed eyelids and press gently with your fingertips. Rub an ice cube around each eyeLie back in your chair or on a bed, place sliced cucumber or a wet tea bag over your closed eyes and relax for a few minutesDo eye exercises: blink a few times, focus on objects far and then near you, move your eyes in a circle, keeping your head still, rub the palms of your hands vigorously together and place over your closed eyelids.

Support your body to help you cope with stress

• Have regular mini breaks every 2 hours from sitting or standing where your muscles remain in one position all the time. Breathe deeply, get up and stretch your neck, arms and shoulders, roll your shoulders clockwise and anticlockwise, clasp your hands behind your back and lift your arms, shake your legs, drink herbal tea, look out the window. This will prevent tension headaches and neck muscle spasm.

• Become aware of the basics of ergonomics: invest in a good quality chair that follow the curve of your back, your upper legs should be straight, knees bent, lower legs perpendicular to upper legs, feet comfortably flat on the floor. Elbows, forearms and hands should be in line with the keyboard. Fresh clean air should circulate freely. There should be greenery near you – a pot plant, fresh flowers, your own small herbal garden in a pot.

• Stress busting food tips-

Prevent low blood sugar – it’s a stress attractor! Eat regular, healthy, small meals. Always have fruit, veges, nuts and seeds handy!- Sip away your stress: chamomile, mint, passionflower, lemon balm, ginseng, lavender, valerian herbal teas, together with a spoonful of honey will soothe frazzled nerves- Calming foods: tryptophane boosts the formation of serotonin, the ‘feel good’, calming brain chemical - eat unrefined carbohydrates, nuts and bananas- Energising foods: small amounts of protein (cheese, eggs, chicken, meat) contains the amino acid tryptamine that can give you a boost when stress tires you out. Take small ready prepared portions to work. - Take a daily dose of vitamin B-complex to support your nervous system together with an antioxidant and multivitamin combination (vitamin A, E, C, minerals zinc, selenium, copper, chromium, iron, calcium and magnesium)- Use the herb Ginkgo biloba to boost your concentration and memory- Food for thought: beans / legumes, lean meat, whole grain and enriched cereals, poultry, fish such as trout, salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel, dairy products, brewer’s yeast, nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables

• Become quite, focused, aware

Rather than a worry, fear or anger response to triggers: become quiet, focused, aware of your feelings around the stressful experience, consciously relax by slowing down your breathing. When deeply upset, you can’t always change the feeling, but you can slow down and deepen your own breath. Doing this regularly, will teach you to react pro-actively: responding rather than reacting to stress triggers. Use the female tend-and-befriend’ stress response. Women (and female animals form all species) experiencing stress tend to nurture themselves and their young and form bonds with others. Women also have the classical fight-or-flight response under stress, but the tend-and-befriend response seems to take effect during long term chronic stress. Female animals need to protect their young in a stressful situation – as did our ancestors and ourselves even today, when physically threatened. Fleeing too soon might leave a young animal defenseless. So use it, by forming networks and support groups with others. Relax and unwind over a cup of coffee or lunch. It’s a survival mechanism! Men will of course also benefit from the tend-and-befriend response!

• Develop the inner awareness of a soul having a physical experience

Feelings of stress or anxiety may also be your soul's way of telling you to attend to your spiritual needs. The inspiration gained from spirituality is an essential part of stress management. Mind, body, and spirit are inseparable. Establishing a firm connection to your spirit will provide healing for your mind and body. You can deepen your commitment to spirituality through any of the following: creating a sacred space in your home or at work: decorate it with colourful textured cloth, arrange crystals or stones, hang crystals or wind chimes inside an open door or window, look at pictures of your loved ones, a special painting and a burner with aromatherapy oil. Connect with it every day in mindful awareness of your soul’s purpose on earth. Other soul connections: regular participation in church or your preferred spiritually based organisation, read inspirational literature of your preference, write in your journal: your life story, your ancestors’ stories; contemplate your dreams, myths and restore rituals; have a 10-20 minute meditation session every day; use spiritual affirmations and prayers.

By: Dr Arien van der Merwe
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Written by Dr Arien van der Merwe, medical doctor, specialist corporate health & wellness service provider and author of”>Stress Solutions, ‘Relax & Unwind’ a relaxation CD, Health & Happiness Also Training manuals on Wellness/Peer Education, Stress Management and Workplace Wellness. For more info & to order:”" target="_blank">”