Stretching & Stress

Stretching & Stress

When you see a cat doing an outrageous stretch that makes you chuckle, you may not realize these stretches are important for its health. Likewise, regularly stretching your own muscles improves flexibility; prevents muscle stiffness, strain and soreness; and leaves you feeling refreshed.

Because stretching improves blood flow throughout your body, it’s important for muscular health, and it’s the cheapest way to relieve stress. Taking just 15 minutes out of your day to stretch can be incredibly therapeutic — both for your muscles and your mental well-being.

If you sit in front of a computer most of the day, you not only face the mental stresses of your day, you can build up extreme tension in your back, neck and shoulder muscles. It’s important to take a few minutes every couple of hours to stretch — you’ll feel more productive and alert, and you’ll feel less stress.

Here’s a simple stretch you can do in your office to relieve tension and stress. Stand with your feet together and your arms at your side. Slowly exhale, and bend your body at the waist allowing your head and arms to hang loosely toward the ground (your upper body should be completely relaxed, as though your arms, neck, shoulders and torso have “gone limp”). Stay in that position until you have completely exhaled the air from your lungs. As you inhale, slowly stack one vertebra on top of another to stand up straight. When you get to your shoulder area, gently roll your shoulders back and very slowly straighten your neck until your head is upright. Then slowly exhale through your mouth. Not only does this simple stretch refresh all parts of your body, it encourages proper posture and opens your chest cavity for optimal breathing.

It’s important to listen to your body as you stretch. If a particular motion is painful, make the necessary modifications so you don’t over-exert yourself. Keep at it, because the more you stretch, the easier it gets, and the more flexible you’ll become. (Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.)

Reading – The Great Escape from Stress

Reading – The Great Escape from Stress

I just finished the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer and I have to say that I really enjoyed it.  I had shied away from books for a while, but since Twilight is such a big teen pop-culture breakthrough, I finally read the books- and I’m glad I did because now I want to read more often.  Here are some facts about reading:

It can take us to exotic lands, with powdery white beaches and clear azure skies.  It can take us back in time—even to prehistoric days—or forward to the Big Brother world of the 25th century.  It can fill our eyes with tears or make us laugh aloud.  Reading opens a window to the world, giving us a vision of things we never dreamed possible.  But, though you might not realize it, reading can also reduce your stress level.

For one thing, reading can help with problem-solving, which, in and of itself, can relieve stress.   Say you are overweight, and that is contributing to your stress. It seems that the more weight you gain, the more stressed out you become, and the more you eat.

By reading books about good nutrition, you can learn to plan meals that are low-cal and low-fat.  As a result, your weight problem might disappear—and your stress level will be greatly improved.

Reading can also be relaxing.  When you curl up with a good book, you put the rest of the world at bay.  You take time out to travel to distant worlds, to learn about different time periods, and to expose yourself to out-of-this-world philosophies.  You are essentially taking a vacation of the mind—but one that can be relatively cost-free, especially if you live near a library.

Reading can be a source of great hope, which can also help to relieve your stress.  Through biographies, you can read about famous people and learn how they overcame their struggles.  These stories of triumph might inspire you to seek ways to overcome the challenges in your own life.  Inspirational books can send your spirit soaring, enabling you to accomplish things you never dreamed possible.

Of course, there are instances when reading can raise your stress level.  For instance, if you are studying for a test, or reading about tragedies in your local newspaper, you might find your stress level skyrocketing.  That is why it is important to be choosy when it comes to your reading material.  If you’re feeling stressed, pick up a book that will relax you—perhaps a travel book, a cookbook, or a book of poetry.  Resist the urge to read something that could simply make you feel more troubled.

Self-help books are particularly effective in helping to reduce stress.  They allow you to explore your feelings and the triggers that lead to stress.  And they recommend such techniques as listening to soothing music, playing a musical instrument, playing cards, or engaging in deep breathing in order to deal with stressful situations.

Or you might buy a book to learn about a hobby that can further reduce your stress.  Perhaps it’s needlepoint, woodworking, or crochet.  It may be origami, calligraphy, or stenciling.  You can learn how to refinish furniture, paint, renovate your kitchen, or redecorate your bathroom.  You can either build upon a skill you already have, or learn a new one from scratch.

It has been shown that reading novels can relieve depression, so it should come as no surprise that such an activity can also reduce your stress.  When you read a novel, you travel to a distant place, metaphorically speaking.  This allows you to use your imagination freely as you try to picture characters and settings.  It’s a wonderful escape from the pressures of everyday living, and can allow you to return to your life feeling more refreshed.

Reading also forces you to concentrate—concentration which might be otherwise lost due to stress.  As a result, you learn to exercise your mind—an exercise that can bear much fruit.  Thanks to your reading, you may notice you find it easier to remember things which can, in turn, reduce your stress level.

If you find that you don’t like to read, you might start with graphic novels.  These comic book-like creations might appeal to you because of their interesting pictures.  Or you might simply start with glossy magazines.  In the long run, it doesn’t matter so much what you read as how much you read.  Read in the grocery line, at the bank, or while pedaling your stationary bike.  You’ll quickly find that the more you read, the more you will want to read, and the less stress you will feel.

Foods and Tips that Relieve Stress

Strawberies calm stress and reduce anxiety.

Strawberries can calm stress and reduce anxiety.

Good foods to help relieve stress:

Avocados
Nuts
Bananas
Oranges
Soy
Spinach
Strawberries
Turkey

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Stress hormones:

trigger back pain
weaken the immune system.
make blood sugar rise and can promote diabetes.
increases your chances of developing gum disease.
Can cause depression.

80% of fatigue is from stress. Get a 20-30 minute cat nap before 4 pm.

Stress can be produced by drugs, chemicals, infection, surgery, noise, excessive fatigue, psychological upsets, resentments, hatred and hundreds of other factors.

Job Stress Fuels Disease

Studies have shown that workplace stress can lead to serious ailments such as an increase in rates of heart disease, flu virus, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure.

Some studies have found stress can cause unhealthy behaviors, such as eating poorly or drinking more alcohol, which can then lead to health problems. In the new study, the researchers suggest stress can have a more direct effect, disrupting the body’s ability to process glucose, leading to diabetes. Those who are chronically stressed are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. The results held even when factors like age, sex, exercise and obesity were taken into account.

Stress leads to emotional exhaustion, physical fatigue or exhaustion and cognitive weariness (slow thinking).

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Affection signals the brain to release oxytocin, a hormone that boosts feelings of affection and is a buffer against stress–and has even been used to treat depression.

We all need to be touched several times a day. Hug family and friends to raises level of Oxytocin that slows the body’s response to stress. Smooching signals the brain to release oxytocin, a hormone that boots feelings of affection and is a buffer against stress–and has even been used to treat depression.*This is why we al need to be touched several times a day.

One of the best weapons against tension is laughter which lowers levels of the damaging stress hormone cortisol. (Cortisol will cause us to crave comfort foods like chocolate cake.) Laughter reverses the constriction of blood vessels, helps protect brain cells and helps us get rid of the fat stomach that cortisol gives us in times of stress.

Stress is detrimental to the immune system and laughter has the ability to strengthen the immune system. Laughter helps boost the immune function by raising levels of infection fighting T-cells, produces a general sense of well being. It works as a prescription drug but is entirely natural and has no negative side effects.

People who get enough sleep feel significantly more cheerful the next day (plus it helps get rid of the damaging stress hormone cortisol in your stomach which makes you look fat). Lack of sleep can lead to strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, psychiatric problems, weight gain, decreased alertness, impaired memory and cognitive ability and along with the increased stress.
Get plenty of sleep.

Go to bed early (at 9:00, if you have to) and try to wake naturally without an alarm clock. Unplug the phone in your bedroom so you can’t be bothered. Drink milk at bedtime to sleep better and be significantly more alert the next day. Any variety even lactose-reduced, skim, full-fat or flavored will work.

Siberian Eleuthero (aka Siberian ginseng) helps keep you sharp and alert. It helps support the adrenal glands which become depleted during stress. 200 mg capsule twice daily (health food stores)

Vitamin C helps reduce the physical and psychological toll of stress, and even lowered stress-induced high blood pressure as much as 10% when taken regularly. Orange juice is proven to lower levels of cortisol, 1000 mg Vitamin C- completely wipes out elevated levels of stress hormone cortisol.

Grapefruit and oranges and whey protein contain a stress busting ingredient and will help you stay calm tension free. Whey contains alpha lactalbumin that boosts the body’s level of tryptophan, a building block of the feel-good hormone serotonin by as much as 43%. (Serotonin is a brain chemical that reduces hunger and boosts our sense of well being. When serotonin is low (which happens when you go “low carb”) you become increasingly dissatisfied with both food and life, making it harder to stick to a diet. Low serotonin levels make us much more prone to nighttime munchies but when serotonin levels are high we just don’t crave sweets. We need the right cards to get thin.

Foods that are considered sources of tryptophan (a natural sedative) are dairy products, beef, turkey meat poultry, barley, brown rice, fish, soybeans, and peanuts.

600 mg. of Valerian daily for a week. Valerian is a natural muscle relaxant, so it also is an excellent remedy for stress induced insomnia.

Lemon balm- Drink lemon balm tea or take an 80 mg. capsule three times a day (health food store)

10 minutes of sun

Orange scent- a drop calms people and puts them in a more positive mood.

Relaxing also helps you *to unlock fat stores caused by the stress**hormone cortisol.*

Read something fun*instead of stress-inducing “thrillers”.

Chew gum to relieve muscle tension (preferably Big Red, which contains cinnamon which naturally kills bacteria in our mouths for up to 30 minutes after*wards)

5-10 min walk to help reduce stress by boosting feel good endorphins in your body. Stress constricts blood vessels and lowers our immune system and ability to fight off disease.*Just 30 minutes, three to four times a week will keep your stress hormones down. Anything that gets your heart rate up–even heavy cleaning–will work.*

Deep breathing calms the nervous system, lowers blood pressure and heart rate and reduces the level of cortisol.*

Nuts, rich in magnesium , a mineral proven to instantly help people feel calm and content or a cheese plate– the protein boosts serotonin levels in the brain, putting you in a happier, more relaxed mood. Serotonin is a brain chemical that reduces hunger and boosts our sense of well being. When serotonin is low (which happens when you go “low carb”) you become increasingly dissatisfied with both food and life, making it harder to stick to a diet. Low serotonin levels make us much more prone to nighttime munchies but when serotonin levels are high we just don’t crave sweets. We need the right cards to get thin. V-8 stops the munchies Protein helps prevent high levels of the stress cortisol. (Good sources eggs, fish, chicken tofu and beans.

Magnesium rich foods- tofu, cashews, almonds, turkey, spinach, avocados and Brazil nuts-*
strawberries
apples

Wear the calming color of blue (the color red can actually make you feel stressed.)

Listen to 25 minutes of relaxing music daily can lower stress hormone by 25%.

Make sure you are taking a multi-vitamin daily.

Avoid alcohol as it depletes your body of B-Vitamins and magnesium.
B vitamins are very important and should be taken in a complex with all of the other B vitamins. (B-150 at Wal-Mart is a good one.)*Molasses, Brewer’s Yeast and wheat germ are rich in “B” vitamins

Fact: If you exercise to lose weight chances are you won’t stick with it. But if you walk or do other exercise to lower stress, chances are that you will.*

The easiest way to solve any problem is to simply let it go. Let go of the struggle and you will be released.*

Stress increases your chances of developing gum disease.

Lavender, rose and jasmine oil are all natural stress relievers.*

Before entering a stressful situation take a moment to reflect on what’s most important you–ex: your faith. It will tame your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol.

FACT: There is a link between everyday stress, tension and excess stubborn belly fat. High levels of the stress hormone, cortisol can cause lots of excess body fat to accumulate around your waist and tummy…(that weight gain that gives us a big basket-ball like stomach) creating a bulging midsection and destroying your figure. It is a health threat to an estimated 47 million Americans. The harmful combination of everyday stess, overeating, and excess cortisol…all conspires to keep us overweight, tired, and thick around the middle.*

Cortisol, which has also been linked to Alzheimers, causes us to crave comfort foods like chocolate cake.

* Ok….stress–> cortisol –> Alzheimer’s and now they are showing Alzheimer’s has a link to diabetes! .

Chronic stress triggers major biochemical changes that practically give our bodies no choice but to gain weight. When Cortisol is consistently released into the blood stream the digestive system becomes weak and unable to alert the liver that the stomach is full. Cortisol causes a blood sugar flux that sparks carb cravings so intense that sticking to a diet is nearly impossible.

A tongue that is red and bumpy it is a sign of cortisol overload.

Protein (beans, chicken, eggs and fish are foods that counterattack the cortisol.) and helps prevent high levels of the stress cortisol. (Stress slows down metabolism which causes weight gain.)

To ease stress, try this acupuncture trick: Hold out your right arm, wrist straight and fingers relaxed. Measure two fingerwidths down from your wrist; press that point for 10 seconds, then release for 10 seconds. Repeat nine times. Pressing this point sends a calming energy flow to the heart and triggers a 22 percent drop in cortisol almost instantly.

Stress can slow down your metabolism. When the body is faces with stress of any kind–a traffic jam, an illness, an over-wrought boss or even the stress of dieting –it releases anti-stress (adrenal) hormones, particularly norepinephrine. In a well-nourished, fit person, the body recovers quickly from the stress and goes on as before. Most average Americans are existing on what can be termed a “fast food” that depletes their reserves of micro-nutrients. When this happens, the body’s fat-burning ability is impaired.*

To reduce the effect of stress on your body and get your metabolism in high gear you need anti-stress vitamins and minerals (which can also help you control hunger and cravings and help you control stress) and you need to be active. (You may not even feel like being active now but once you get your metabolism corrected you will start losing weight and feel so good about it you will want to be more active to burn more calories.)

The Department of Health lists caffeine along with nicotine and heroin as an addictive substance. Caffeine is also a real stress on the body–one that has a negative effect on your metabolism. The anti-stress hormones are the substances that prepare your body for an appropriate reaction to stress.*

Caffeine causes the release of these anti-stress hormones. Eventually the body’s supply of these hormones is depleted. When that happens you begin to notice symptoms: fatigue, headaches, irritability and a general run-down feeling. What you aren’t noticing is that due to the depletion of the anti-stress hormones, your metabolism is slowing down and your ability to burn calories has been compromised. You simply can’t lose weight effectively.

Anti-stress formula vitamin will help you lose weight because stress slows your metabolism. Get a good quality multiple vitamin and mineral compound containing 10,000 IUs of beta-carotene and approximately 50 mg of each of the B vitamins plus 1,000 mg of Vitamin C, 400 IUs of Vitamin E and 50 mcg of selenium.*

When we eat a candy bar–which contains more sugar than a body can use in a week– blood-sugar levels goes up and the pancreas overreacts, producing an excess of insulin. This flood of insulin depresses your blood sugar severely. In response the adrenal glands release anti-stress hormones, which in turn release the sugar that is stored in the liver for emergencies.

The ultimate result is that you get a brief burst of energy from the candy. Then your insulin level goes up and your spirits fall. Suddenly you feel tired, irritable, moody, depressed–and you don’t know why. But finally your adrenal gland kicks in and you experience feelings of anxiety, including nervousness and sometimes even palpitations. The extreme rise and fall of insulin levels makes you hungry. Sugar is causing symptoms of energy followed by depression followed by anxiety and a constant feeling of hunger.

*Make sure to talk to your doctor about the foods that you eat and the level of stress that you have. I am not a doctor