Stress is a natural part of the human psyche, and an important one in that it can prompt us to make changes to situations we don’t like, which is a positive. If we didn’t feel upset about certain events in our life, we would never feel the need to improve them. However, chronic stress – that which continues for weeks or months or beyond – is very likely to lead to anxiety, depression, and serious health issues.
To deal with stress successfully, we need to know ourselves, the situations we dislike, the causes of our ongoing discomfort, and we need to place them in proper perspective and act to beat them down. Certain strategies are known to be helpful in achieving this end:
A positive mental attitude is the reverse side of a coin, with a negative mental attitude on the other. Remember that coins don’t land on their sides; if you’re not positive, you’re negative. If that’s the case, you must try to flip the coin over and see things differently. This is difficult, though, if you cannot even recognize the negative emotions when they are hounding you. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a way to train a person to spot negative thought patterns so they can flip the coin as soon as possible. In the long-term, this helps to reduce chronic stress and depression.
Get Out of the House!
Stress and depression can make a person reluctant to move physically beyond the bare minimum. Don’t wait for the house to catch fire before running outside. One of the best forms of stress relief is getting back to nature, if only for a little while. It gives you a perspective on life and shows you the world is bigger than what’s happening in your head. Studies repeatedly show that getting out into nature is beneficial for those suffering stress in the way it reduces the associated negative emotions.
Wake Up and Smell the Orange and Lavender
Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy recognized as helpful in managing chronic pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other stress-related disorders. The essential oils of orange and lavender have proven to be most beneficial in stimulating relaxation and reducing anxiety.
Have a Cup of Tea
As opposed to coffee, certainly, which is a stimulant known to keep us buzzing. Tea, on the other hand, has been researched for its calmative effects and has been shown to lower post-stress cortisol levels and increase relaxation, after consumption for a 6-week period. Regular tea-drinking may also reduce inflammation and benefit your heart.
Have a Laugh
It is impossible to feel miserable at those times when you are laughing. Humor is a great stress-reliever. Your immune system benefits from laughter, and your tolerance to pain is boosted. Mood and creativity are enhanced, blood pressure lowered, thus improving the prognosis for a good number of health problems, including cancer and HIV. Humor creates feelings of happiness and happiness is important for high self-esteem and feelings of being in control.
Build a Support System
Good and supportive relationships are very important for your health and happiness, especially for women. Socially isolated women are more prone to high blood pressure when stressed, although loneliness in both sexes is a contributor to stress and leads to less successful outcomes after stroke or congestive heart failure. Elderly people who remain socially active are seen to be less likely to suffer dementia and Alzheimer’s, and cancer patients enjoy a healthier immune system when they have good social support.
Chill to a Relaxing Tune
Music is a very useful tool for relaxation, especially classical music. Both singing and listening to music boosts our own natural pain relief and lowers the anxiety and depression that can accompany low-back pain. Music therapy, including group drumming, has been shown to lift mood and strengthen the immune system in cancer patients, and to boost energy and self-acceptance in multiple sclerosis sufferers. Music prior to surgery promotes relaxation, and when played while the patient is under anesthetic helps to reduce post-operative pain, and therefore the need for painkillers.
Meditation has proven over decades to be more and more popular as a way to promote relaxation and reduce pain. Whatever method you choose, whether concentrating on your breathing or watching a candle flame or anything else, these can all put you in “the zone” where negative emotions start to fade away and you feel more at peace with your reality. Meditation for cancer patients helps lower stress, and may even boost the body’s natural defense against cancer – the immune system.
CD audio-led guided imagery also shows promising results in stress relief and pain reduction, using visualization techniques to promote healing wherever your thoughts are directed.
Embrace Human Touch
Famous American psychotherapist Virginia Satir once suggested 4 hugs a day to prevent depression, 8 to boost psychological stability, and 12 to create personal growth. Similarly, the touch involved in massage is also very useful against anxiety and depression. Massage has also been shown to reduce aggression and improve mood in cases of ADHD, and improve sleep patterns and behavior in autism.
Other therapeutic benefits derived from massage include reduced blood pressure in hypertensive individuals, and less pain, depression, anxiety and sleep in sufferers of chronic low-back pain.
Exercise affects both the mind and the physicality. While the body’s health improves, endorphins are secreted that are known to lift the mood, which is essential for anyone battling illness of any kind. For a more gentle workout for all ages, tai chi improves balance and posture, reduces stress, and may help improve heart and lung function.
The key is to make relaxation a habit, and remember that during those periods when you don’t have the time to relax, that’s when you most need it, so make time.
For Your Health,
Dr. Mark Hardwick and Dr. Mitchell Jacobs