How to Relax and Lose Stress

1.

LEARN DEEP, SLOW BREATHING. One of the things that happens when we are under stress is hold our breath or breathe unevenly. Instead, practice slow, regular deep breathing as if you were meditating or praying. It signals your brain that you are safe, which in turn slows your heart, relaxes your muscles and lowers your blood pressure. It's good to learn meditation techniques so that when you are under pressure, you can automatically begin meditative breathing.

2.

GET TOGETHER WITH FRIENDS. When people are stressed, they tend to isolate themselves when they should be doing the opposite. Join a hobby group or other community organization that is involved in activities that you enjoy. Get out and socialize, even if it is with just one close friend with whom you can confide. Talking is a stress reliever. As you hear yourself talk, sometimes the problems provide answers or don't seem as severe when bounced off another person's perspective. Talking to strangers works as well as talking to close friends, because people feel it doesn't matter what they hear. You'll never see them again.

3.

GET EXERCISE ON A REGULAR BASIS.
Your heart is the first thing to feel the effects of stress, so you need to find a way to exercise on a regular basis, six days a week if possible. Research shows that exercise lowers the physiological response to stress and improves the brain's ability to concentrate, change focus, and adapt from one situation to another. Mental fog decreases with regular exercise as you increase blood flow to the brain and calm the cortisol stress response.

4.

EAT VEGETABLES AND FRUIT.
When you are under stress, the body produces inflammatory proteins that you need to get rid of because they can affect your heart and your health. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that counteract the stress proteins. Research shows your body benefits most from whole foods rather than supplements when it comes to antioxidants.

5.

GET EIGHT HOURS OF SLEEP.
You've heard it before, but research shows that irregular sleep increases the negative effects of stress on your body. You need regular sleep, going to bed and getting up at the same time everyday. You can't make up for lost sleep by getting 10 hours on the weekend after sleeping only 6 hours during the week. A lack of sleep increases metabolic imbalances and stress. It also increases your risk of heart disease and lowers your ability to concentrate, which is sure to add to your stress. Break the cycle by getting regular sleep.

If you have difficulty falling asleep, lavender might be able to help you. Inhaling this flower's scent helps reduce stress and helps you feel drowsy. Use essential oils in an oil warmer, or try a lavender diffuser.

6.

GET A MASSAGE.
A one hour massage will not only help you relax, but it will help you sleep, boost your immunity and fight pain. If you would like to see what kind of massage will help you and your specific concerns, you can go to Health.com/massage and learn about the different styles of massage. You can also find the name of a qualified massage therapist near you at the American Massage Therapy Association website: http://www.amtamassage.org/findamassage/locator.aspx

7.

GET OUT OF TOWN. If all else fails, take a vacation. That means turning off the email and cell phone. Try a weekend getaway if you can't take off from work for a week's vacation. Go someplace where you can relax, unwind and disengage from the world. Try a biking vacation or a local hotel so you don't have the mental stress of driving someplace. Go to a spa and learn meditation. When you combine a vacation with physical activity, you get an added bonus of recharging your body.

Tips and Warnings

  • Learn yoga to gain mental health and physical health as you practice meditative breathing while exercising.
  • Everyone has stress. It's how you deal with stress burnout that counts. Research shows that the window of opportunity is small during which you can reverse the effects of stress on your body. Learn a few stress reduction techniques and you can actually get your brain to turn off the stress response in your body and minimize the damage.