Six Steps for Handling Stress
Stress starts when your body is confronted with more than it can handle, be it physical, emotional or mental. At first, your body prepares by increasing adrenalin production.
You know the signs: pounding heart, heavy breathing, sweating, tense muscles. However, when stress persists, physical preparation turns into physical deterioration. Here are some simple suggestions how you can decrease the stress in your life.
Step 1: No Caffeine
This ubiquitous stimulant is found in coffee, black tea, chocolate, soft drinks and some medications such as cold remedies, diet formulas and wake-up pills.
It's easy to understand why caffeine ranks as the most popular drug in the world. Caffeine not only wakes you up, it also sharpens concentration and temporarily chases away the blues. Unfortunately, most people use caffeine's stimulating qualities to prop themselves up during tense times. Caffeine is an ideal way to squeeze more adrenalin and norephinephrine out of the adrenals for a boost of energy. This constant jolting is tiring for both you and your adrenals. The result is usually another cup of coffee, exhaustion and addiction
Stress and caffeine build upon one another. You can't sleep at night because of stress; caffeine makes it worse. Stress sends you into mood swings; caffeine pushes you harder. Besides adding to stress, caffeine causes "coffee nerves", that nervous, irritable, anxious feeling. Other complaints include insomnia, increased urination, headaches, irregular or fast heartbeat, stomach pain, breathing problems, excessive sweating, spots in front of your eyes, ringing in your ears and tingling in your fingers and toes.
Give yourself a week to break the caffeine habit. Take extra vitamin C, drink calming teas like chamomile, peppermint and valerian and avoid other addictive substances like refined sugar and alcohol.
Step 2: Rest and Relaxation
Because of stress-and as a way to deal with a busy, stressful schedule-many people skimp on sleep. This is a big mistake. Less sleep not only deprives your body of necessary down time, but it can exacerbate stress and compound other health problems.
Tired people tend to be less civil and more irritable. Productivity and mental clarity diminish (so you drink more coffee Exhausted individuals are more apt to use alcohol and other drugs to compensate for fatigue. The un-rested tend to get sick more often.
How can you tell if you're sleep deprived? Can you nap anytime, anywhere? Do you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow? Do you need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you're not getting enough sleep at night.
So what can you do? First make sleep a priority. Most people need at least eight hours a day. Also, develop a bedtime routine by getting ready an hour before sleep and always retire and awake the same time each day. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and heavy exercise several hours before bed.
Naps aren't just for babies. The afternoon siesta is an honored tradition around the world. If you hit a slump during the day (most of us feel a little sleepy after lunch), catch a few winks. If you can't manage a nap, then relax. Bodies need both physical and mental breaks throughout the day. Instead of pushing through your fatigue, give your body what it needs, a rest.
Step 3: Exercise
One the other end of the spectrum is exercise. Like sleep, it's vital for good, low-stress health. Besides controlling weight, regular physical activity lowers your risk for heart disease, hypertension, colon cancer and stroke. Exercise increases longevity and helps diabetics manage their condition better.
Before you get stressed out, let's look at why exercise should be part of your daily routine. First, it makes you feel better. Once you've been exercising for two months (make that a goal), you'll be hooked. Two, you'll look better. You'll smile easier, walk straighter, shed a few pounds and emanate a