The word “wellness” encompasses a life that is more than just free from disease. Wellness denotes a healthy body, mind and lifestyle. Today there is a booming wellness industry. Thriving on the available disposable income as well as our ever-increasing stress levels and subsequent ill health, this industry gives us a variety of solutions. From outrageously expensive to simple homemade solutions, there are potions, herbs, teas, oils, exercise regimens, diet plans, health drinks, candles, aromatherapy and many other well-marketed solutions.
In today’s wellness column, we will examine stress and find effective solutions that are available for everyone.
Stress, as science would tell us, is the body’s natural response to attack whether real or perceived. The body has a physical response in order to prepare the person to either fight the attack or flee from it. This is known as the fight or flight response. This response releases a complex mix of chemicals and hormones in the blood stream like adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. The mix creates energy needed by the body to respond to the crisis. It also decreases brain function, as the body optimizes the processes most needed to deal with the situation it faces. Stress is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, humankind’s survival depended on it.
Stress becomes a problem when it is a prolonged state the body finds itself in. The reduced brain function does not allow a person to think clearly. The “fight” response makes us aggressive towards others and affects our relationships with them When we are stressed, one of the first things that gets affected is our breathing – instead of deep breaths, the body starts to take in short gasps of air. Needless to say, this type of breathing is not good for health and especially for brain function. The elevated levels of hormones and other chemicals cause the body’s blood pressure and sugar levels to rise causing untold damage to the heart, other organs and bodily functions.
It is easy to say, “Take it easy!” It is far harder to actually take it easy.
Stress levels are especially high when uncertainties surround a person. An entrepreneur who is starting his own set up or running one has much cause to be stressed, as the pressure on them to perform at a continuously high level is always present. The importance of eating healthy and exercising regularly cannot be undermined. But today, we will examine some first steps towards attaining a peaceful calmer state of mind.
One of easiest ways to know you are stressed is to take a minute to check on your breathing. In his book, “Retraining the brain – a 45 day Plan to Conquer Anxiety and Stress”, Dr. Frank Lawlis says that over 2000 organs and hormones can be affected positively and negatively in a matter of minutes by changing breathing patterns. Quick shallow breaths indicate a state of emergency to the brain while deep slow breaths signal that the coast is clear.
The simple solution is to trick your brain into thinking there is no emergency. Deep breaths will actually dial down the anxiety levels in the brain. According to Dr. Lawlis, it helps to visualize good nurturing breath entering your body and mind and think of exhaling your inner toxins and turmoil.
Choose a quiet place, away from phones and distraction and sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and breathe in slowly while mentally counting till 7. Follow the same pattern and breathe out for 7 counts. In 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 and out 1-2-3-4-5-6-7.
This solution has no side effects and is practically free, yet promises to calm your nerves and help you to think clearly.
The human body is made up of 70% of water; the human brain is made up of approximately 85% of water. Knowing that will help you understand why it is so important to stay hydrated. Headaches, fatigue and even seizures can be caused by lack of water. Remember the chemicals released in the body due to stress? They can be diluted in the blood stream by a simple glass of water. According to Neil Shah, Chief De-stressing Officer of The Stress Management Society, “If you’re looking for a simple way to unwind from your stress-filled life, try drinking a glass of water – it will help you cope better with stressful situations.”
From the very simple everyday solutions, we move on to solutions that will mean more commitment but will produce long-lasting results.
We all know the importance of prioritizing. Today we present to you a nifty solution that will clarify your goals and targets for the day, week, month and even the year.It’s called Bullet Journaling. In short it’s a way of organizing your day and thoughts using pen and paper even in this digital age. It can accommodate your to-do list, sketches, diary and more. “All you need is a notebook and pen.” The book has an index, so you should number your pages and fill in the index regularly to find information easily. You make a monthly calendar at the beginning as a weekly planner. Jot down all your appointments, birthdays, events etc. in the calendar and plan out your goals for the week. You can even have a yearly planner with goals that you want to achieve each month listed out. To do lists are coded to make it easy to handle. Tasks are marked with a bullet point. Cross out the task when it’s done or use > to migrate the task to the next day or < to signify the task has been scheduled. Events are represented with an “o” bullet. Notes are represented with dashes and include facts, ideas, thoughts, and observations.
You can read more about bullet journaling at http://bulletjournal.com/get-started/
It has the power to transform your productivity and reduce your stress.
Another kind of journaling is a personal one. Management Guru Ken Blanchard writes about speaker Bill Hybel’s “Yesterday” journal. You write the word “yesterday” at the top of the page and relive the day before in terms of things you did well and things you would like to redo. Start by writing about things you did right. It will help you track progress with goals you are pursuing and habits you are trying to change. Praising yourself in the little successes sets you up for bigger success. Ken Blanchard writes, “Mostly it’s a mindset – thinking more about the good that you do than the bad…It’s just that it’s so easy to get into the habit of focusing on your mistakes.”
And finally there is the gratitude journal. Writing down a list of positive events at the close of the day and why the events made us happy lowered self-reported levels of stress and gives a greater calm at night according to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and University of Florida as cited by Ariana Huffington in her book Thrive.
Experts agree the best time to write a gratitude journal is at night, about 15 minutes before bed. It ensures the last thing you do before bed is sit with a pen and paper rather than at a screen. Jot down a list of at least 5 things or people you are grateful for and why. Just focusing on what is going on well in your life will help you keep the difficult and problematic situations in perspective. You can cover material possessions, family, abilities, situations and life itself as points in your gratitude journal.
And finally let your body rejuvenate by having a good night’s rest. Sleepless and anxiety filled nights are followed by stressful days and create a repetitive cycle that needs to be broken. Apart from staying away from caffeine and exercising during the day, there are some other helpful tips to get a good night’s rest. According to Dr. Larry Rosen, an expert in the psychology of Technology and author of iDisorder, “The anxiety we feel during the day is masked by the intensity of other neurotransmitters firing in our brains. Night is when our bodies tick through vital repairs to ready us for the next day – but because there’s little else going on during this downtime, cortisol takes over and our bodies react even more strongly to the surge of neurotransmitters. This overrides relaxing chemicals like melatonin and serotonin needed for sleep.” Thus people tend to feel more anxiety at night.
Turn off all gadgets an hour before bed and refuse to look at your phone screen.
This time, just before bed, is perfect for journaling and doing some deep breathing exercises. Any stressful thoughts about the day can be jotted down in a notebook by your bed so it can be tackled in the morning. The proverbial warm bath or cup of milk or chamomile tea helps to wind down as well.
To conclude, stress can overtake your life, your relationships and your business if you let it. Don’t allow it to control you. Take the reins in your hands and take charge of your stress, your life and your destiny.
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