TECHNIQUES & MORE
STRESS REDUCTION TECHNIQUES
THE 4-7-8 OR RELAXING BREATH
A powerful yoga-style exercise that effectively calms the nervous system
To begin, sit with your back straight and completely exhale through the mouth.
Close your mouth and inhale deeply through your nose from your diaphragm to a count of 4. Your stomach should rise as you inhale.
Hold your breath for a count of 7. (This may take practice).
Exhale completely and audibly through your mouth to a count of 8. Your stomach should fall as you exhale.
Repeat 3 or 4 times.
In the words of Thich Nhai Haln, when breathing in, imagine that, “I calm my body.” When breathing out, “I smile.”
THE RELAXATION RESPONSE
The Relaxation Response can be coupled with the Relaxing Breathe to quickly promote tranquil feelings.
Visualize an image of a peaceful setting such as a beach. Look at the sun’s beautiful rays; feel their warmth. Watch the waves wash across the shoreline. Feel their coolness. Feel the calm.
As intrusive thoughts come to mind, simply let them pass through like a breeze.
In your mind, pick up the stress, place it in a box, close the box and put the box on a shelf. Watch the box become smaller and smaller. Return to the image of the beach until you feel relaxed.
You may write down a more detailed description of the beach or another setting that has a peaceful significance and refer to it as needed. Maximum benefit will be derived by practicing this technique twice a day. Practice will allow you to easily transcend to that calm place when most needed.
EXERCISEStudies have shown that more than 80% of individuals prone to anxiety and stress experience both less severe and less frequent symptoms when exercise becomes part of their daily routine.
Exercise is a natural stimulator of many important wellness hormones, including serotonin, GABA and dopamine. 15 to 20 minutes of exercise every day will naturally release these feel-good hormones that are so vital to feeling happy and calm.
Propel yourself into action and let exercise keep you in the moment. When you feel inner tension begin to build, engage in any form of aerobic exercise. Take a brisk 10-minute walk as you become mindful of your stride and your environment (e.g. wind against your face, warmth of the sun). Your body’s release of powerful neurotransmitters will boost your mood and minimize feelings of anxiety.
MINIMAL PLANNING FOR A STRESS FREE DAY
Incorporating adequate structure within your daily routine can be invaluable when coping with stress. It may be helpful to plan your day the night before by making a simple list of things you want to accomplish the next day. Limit the list to 3 to 5 items if possible depending on the time each task will require. Then prioritize the list in order of importance. Prior to sleep, perform breathing exercises and other relaxation or meditation techniques.
Upon awaking, start the morning with breathing exercises and meditation to positively frame your day. Eat a nutritious, high protein breakfast. Try to accomplish the 2 most important items on your list in the morning. Perform breathing exercises and the relaxation response between tasks or as needed. Try to finish each task one at a time rather than multi-tasking. Focus on the task at hand so you become as mindfully involved as possible. If it is an enjoyable task, focus so as to loose yourself in the experience. If it’s a mundane task, focus on the benefits of having it completed. This simple means of structuring and focused immersion will promote a sense of calm throughout your day.
PRACTICE MINDFULNESS AND MINDFUL MEDITATION
Mindfulness is the art of living in the moment. It is defined as a state of active, open, and intentional attention on the present such that you are immersed in the moment. When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; rather you become an observer of your thoughts without judging or identifying with them. You come to accept that your thoughts do not define who you are or who you will become. Mindfulness embraces acceptance, kindness, and forgiveness towards oneself. Being mindful makes it easier to savor the joys and pleasures in life as they occur, helping you to become fully engaged in activities, and creating a greater capacity to deal with adverse events.
By living in the present, we are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past. We are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, we perceive adverse situations as less threatening, and we are better able to form deep connections with others.
Mindfulness allows us to cultivate an awareness of the time-limited nature of existence and a willingness and openness to let this awareness inspire our everyday lives. Whenever you find yourself worrying or obsessing about something, simply ask yourself, if this were my last day upon the earth, would I choose to worry or to find and embrace the joys of this moment?
While none of us can live life to the fullest all the time, we do have the ability in most cases to significantly increase our joy and happiness each day by reminding ourselves that we only get this incredible opportunity to live today but once. When we acknowledge our desire to make each moment count, we change our focus to live in the present and live to our fullest.
How does mindfulness work? Neuroscientist Daniel Siegel, postulates that one of the benefits of practicing mindfulness is that the process creates new neural networks for self-observation, optimism, and well-being. Through mindfulness practice, a build up or thickening of the left-prefrontal cortex occurs. It is this part of the brain that is associated with optimism, self-observation, and compassion. These changes allow us to cease being dominated by the right-prefrontal cortex, which is associated with fear, depression, anxiety, and pessimism. As a result, our self-awareness and mood stability increase as our judgments of others and ourselves decrease (Siegel, 2007).
Tai Chi offers a low-impact, slow-motion exercise, or “meditation in motion” where a person continually moves without pausing through a series of motions. As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention on sensations within the body. Medical science has demonstrated that the sustained practice of Tai Chi promotes vigor and flexibility, balance and mobility, and a sense of well-being. Cutting-edge research from Harvard Medical School also supports its healthful impacts on the heart, bones, nerves and muscles, immune system, and mind. There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice has value in treating or preventing many health concerns including stress, anxiety, and depression.
Tai Chi movements are typically circular without force such that the muscles are relaxed and joints are not fully extended. It can be easily adapted for anyone, from those who are very fit to persons who are immobile, confined to wheelchairs, or recovering from surgery. Tai Chi only requires a few minutes each day.
Dr. Peter M. Wayne, a longtime Tai Chi instructor and a researcher at Harvard Medical School, developed a simplified program he presents in “The Harvard Medical Guide to Tai Chi” which includes basic instruction, discussion of health benefits and how it can enhance productivity, creativity, and sports performance.
The Transcendental Meditation™ technique allows the mind to effortlessly settle inward and to arrive at the source of thought — pure awareness, also known as transcendental consciousness. It literally means to go beyond thought. The Transcendental Meditation movement was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India in the 1950s. Transcendental consciousness is described as a quiet silence and peaceful level of consciousness attributed to your innermost self. In the TM state of restful alertness, your brain functions with significant coherence and your body benefits from deep rest. TM is typically practiced for 20 minutes twice a day with the eyes closed.
Numerous scientific studies have found that transcendental meditation positively enhances cognitive function, self-actualization, realization of one’s potential, and mental and physical health.
HABITS AND DIET TO MANAGE STRESS
Vacay, mini-retreats, and time with loved ones!
Mini retreats, a change of scenery, or special outings can do wonders for our well-being especially when spent with close friends or family members. These special times build connection and happy memories and invoke prior memories that reinforce connection, calm our bodies, and soothe the soul. Oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone” is released when we feel love, trust, and comfort. It can be even more powerful than serotonin. If you need a lift, remember the power of simply spending time with your significant other or family members and friends. Even a fun filled or quiet afternoon reminiscing about good times with our loved ones can replenish the spirit. Make time and stay close to your special peeps.
Soak Up The Sun!
Get your healthy dose of 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight each day as often as possible. Sunlight holds distinct advantages over other forms of light. The ultraviolet (UV) light contained within the spectrum of sunlight is much brighter than standard man-made light and occurs at the appropriate time and in balance with our circadian rhythms. UV always gets a bad rap, because too much of it can lead to skin cancer. However, small amounts of UV are important because UV light absorbed through your skin produces Vitamin D and promotes serotonin production. Sunshine, (approximately 100 times brighter than office light) received through your eyes also increases serotonin levels.
Treat Yourself to A Massage
Ahhh, the joy of massage therapy! Studies show that getting a massage twice a week can boost serotonin levels by more than 30%. That’s an incredible return for an already pleasurable experience. In Psychology Today, UCLA researcher, Alex Korb reported that young infants of depressed mothers massaged twice a week for 15 minutes over a 6-week period elevated their serotonin levels by 34%.
Choosing to develop the habit of laughter can add bliss to a mundane day and even propel us through rough times. Laughing releases powerful neurotransmitters and endorphins to promote calm and feelings of well-being. All laughter is good, but shared laughter deepens our connection to others and strengthens the bonds of our relationships.
We’ve all heard the expression, ”All things in moderation.” This does not apply to laughter. More is always better.
Think my hair is too matchy matchy with my outfit?Sometimes we just have to go with the flow and laugh at ourselves.
Good nutrition is essential for physical, mental, and emotional health. Make sure your fridge and pantry are packed with healthy proteins and fats containing omega-3 fatty acids and nutritious fruits and vegetables containing abundant vitamins and minerals. Eliminate high glycemic carbohydrates that rapidly increase blood glucose levels and reduce the amount of processed foods you consume to a minimum.
THE BODYQUENCH HAPPINESS LIFESTYLETM
HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES
Artichokes, Asparagus, Bamboo Shoots, Bean sprouts, Beets, Bell peppers, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Cucumber, Eggplant, Greens (mustard, collards, turnip, others), Green beans, Kale, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Onions, Okra, Peppers, Radishes, Salad greens (arugula, bok choy, endive, chicory, escarole, iceberg, radicchio, romaine, spinach, watercress, others), Squash, Sugar peas, Swiss chard, Turnips, Water chestnuts, Zucchini
High Glycemic – Carrots, Sweet potatoes – eat in moderation.
Avocado Oil, Butter (pastured), Coconut Oil (good for cooking), Macadamia Oil, Olive Oil, Olive Oil Mayo
(Pastured sources have the best omega 3:6 ratios)
Butter, Cheese, Cottage cheese, Cream, Greek yogurt, Sour cream
(Pastured sources have the best omega 3:6 ratios)
Fish & Seafood: Cod, Crabs, Escargot, Halibut, Herring, Lobster, Mackerel, Mussels, Oysters, Prawns, Salmon, Sardines, Scallops, Shrimp, Squid, Tuna
Poultry & Fowl: Chicken, Dove, Duck, Goose, Quail, Pheasant, Turkey
Livestock: Beef, Bison, Lamb, Goat, Pork
Game: Elk, Rabbit, Squirrel, Venison, other
Legumes: Adzuki beans, fava beans, calico beans, cannellini beans (white kidney beans), black beans, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, great northern beans, lima beans, lentils, and black-eyed peas
Nuts: Macadamias contain the healthiest fats
Low Glycemic – Apples, Avocado, Berries (all), Cherries, Grapefruit, Pears, Plums, Tomatoes
Medium Glycemic –Apricot, Banana (small), Grapes, Kiwi, Mangos, Nectarines, Peaches, Oranges (Highly restrict or avoid high glycemic tropical fruits & melons)
Coconut, Macadamia, Legume
Herbal teas, Water, Coconut milk Coffee and Red Wine in moderation
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