By Kate Myer
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As humans living in the 21st century, we are all stressed about something at some given point in time. Be it work, finances, our children, hungry-angry, the person who cut you off in traffic, or even the weather. And the way we handle stress notably affects our overall well-being and health. Do you choose to run or smoke when you feel stressed? Are you quick to lash out at the mailman or try to breathe before asking why your package was not delivered on time? Or, do you cry under the covers unable to function, or strategically plan a way to handle a stressful situation?
There are good and bad ways to deal with stress. Many of them are all-natural and don’t cost a dime. As the resident Health Advisor at TERIMIYAHIRA, my Ph.D. in Social-Health Psychology allows me to share my professional research training experience with you. By disseminating sound research findings and the latest medical studies, the true hope of helping someone here is a blessing.
Here are some things you can do anywhere, anytime to reduce stress. Oftentimes, we forget that making small changes is additive, yet it’s the daily habits that make a lasting effect on our overall health. As always, please consult your physician before embarking on any stress reduction techniques.
Yeah, we know. Close your mouth, then inhale through your nose for 4 counts. Hold your breath for 7 counts. Exhale through your mouth for 8 counts. Do this 3 times and you should notice a markedly reduced feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed. You can do this anywhere, several times a day, and for any situation. This works simply by letting more oxygen into the body and brain, and the act of purposefully slowing down. We can also put meditation into this category, or even light yoga. The purpose is to simply breathe. Please stop if you start feeling light-headed.
Another “basic” concept that gets easily overlooked during the rush of our day. Get moving. It doesn’t need to be 13 miles of running, but a brisk 20-30 minute walk or stretching at your desk during lunch time will do wonders. Many people think exercise needs to happen at a gym, but a walk at a park, beach, trail, forest, even around the neighborhood after dinner will open you up to a whole new level of well-being. Get the blood pumping, help releases built-up toxins, increase the immune system and shoot more oxygen to cells with moderate daily exercise. Teri's personal favorite are in-home 8-15 minute short HIIT workouts (HIIT = High Intensity Interval Training) using an app called 8fit.
3. 30-Second Time-Out
Not just for naughty little 2-year olds, and definitely not applying the rule of 1-minute of time-out per year of age either. This is an exercise where you step away from whatever you are doing, to completely let go of what you are thinking or feeling and relax for 30 full seconds. The goal is to completely disengage, relax your brain and entire body to help you feel some level of peace, thus reduce stress (Friedman & Ulmer, 1984).
4. Drink More Water
You’ve heard this many times before, but water is paramount in helping us stay healthy. A dehydrated body is a stressed, tired, and reactive body. A stressed body, in turn, is a dehydrated body because your heart beats faster and more cortisol is being pumped through your body (Nessler, 2009). And cortisol is the stress hormone that we need to help keep in check throughout the day because too much cortisol leads to a stress response. It’s a vicious cycle that can be easily remedied by drinking 0.5-1 ounce for every pound you weigh to replenish your organs and reduce stress. Here at TM, we aim for at least 100 oz of water per day (and don’t stress yourself out if you can’t hit this kind of high marks!).
5. Mental Gratitude
The act of being thankful does wonders for your soul. Practicing appreciating small, large, mundane, and significant things in life can be a major stress reliever because you are focusing on aspects of life that bring you joy, love, and comfort (instead of focusing on scarcity, lack or general negative feelings). Either through a journal, an iPhone/Android application, or just making a mental note each night of what you’re grateful for has shown in studies to increase the feelings of positivity and foster a brighter outlook on life. Oprah even practices with a gratitude journal (our favorite includes the Moleskine hard cover journals for this), where you write down 3 things you’re grateful for at the end of the day, everyday.
Extra credit stress reduction techniques if the above just aren't cutting it:
6. Free-flow journaling
A new favorite of ours is literally braindumping all thoughts into a pen-to-paper journal. The act of writing out our thoughts, especially if we are stressed, also starts the process of problem solving. Oftentimes, stress is caused by overwhelming feelings of unprocessed thoughts (aka monkey mind). By physically writing our thoughts down, we start to process them and then we are better able to work towards finding solutions or next steps. The goal is both to dump the thoughts out of our brain and also start to find answers to what's troubling us.
This is another all-natural supplement that we here at #teamteri rely on every single day. Tyrosine helps with creating more dopamine in the body (the body's natural feel-good hormone). Always consult with a doctor when taking supplements or making other dietary changes, but Teri personally takes 2 in the morning, more as needed throughout the day, and 2 at night (yes, technically over the recommended dosage! Again make sure to consult a doctor first before trying any supplement!). But this supplement almost singlehandedly has stopped many of Teri's anxiety/panic/stress-induced nervous breakdowns, so it's a supplement worth looking into.
Meyer Friedman & Diane Ulmer (1984). Treating type a behavior – and your heart. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-394-52286-9
Photo Credit: @targetstyle