It’s the little buzz of anticipation, elevated heart rate, a glimmer in the eyes, heavy breathing, and a wonderful afterglow. It’s the magical time when we get caught up in the moment and everything else pales in comparison. The deep sense of satisfaction that follows takes our most troublesome thoughts and concerns out of focus for a while. It breaks the cycle of stress and anxiety which feeds on itself and clouds the bigger picture. However, sex, chocolate, and diamonds all require resources that may not always be available to us. You know, things like time, money, the right diamonds, chocolate or partner.
Fortunately, there are unlimited ways to get that relaxed, serene feeling anytime you want it. It doesn’t require large sums of money, a huge time commitment, or a prescription from your doctor. It simply takes you being willing to let go of whatever is bothering you. Simple right? If you are in a constantly worried or agitated state, that may not seem so easy.
The reason that you should be concerned about your stress level is that stress kills more people than all the other risk factors combined. Your body’s response to stress is to release some very powerful hormones into your bloodstream. This is fantastic if you are being chased by a bear, or find yourself needing to pick up a car that has your loved one pinned under it. The glands that make up your adrenal system are small because occurrences like these that require their immediate action are pretty rare. Your adrenal systems stand at the ready to save your life anytime your brain signals anxiety and stress. These little glands have a very important job to help make sure you survive life-threatening situations. Some of the hormones produced by these glands are adrenaline, cortisol, and testosterone. The effect that they have on your body is commonly referred to as the “fight or flight” response. Your heart beats faster, your responses quicken, and every fiber in your body is ready to spring into action. Constant stress causes these and other hormones to be released and flow throughout your body. This is bad for your heart as it is now working harder, beating faster, with elevated blood pressure. Your breathing is shallow and fast, depriving your body of the oxygen it needs. Your liver and kidneys are working extra hard to filter the powerful hormones and the extra toxins produced because your body is working so hard. Unrelenting stress affects every organ in your body.
Another problem is that the adrenals are easily depleted. Creating those powerful hormones over and over again comes at a heavy cost. Over use them and they could become exhausted and stop working. Adrenal fatigue results in extreme tiredness, inability to concentrate, inability to make it through the day without sleeping, depression, loss of sex drive, chronic respiratory illness, insomnia, increased sensitivity to allergens, and shaky under pressure.
The key is to make it alright for you to let go of your troubles for a little while. Daily doses of relaxation can be as simple as watching cartoons with your kids, or 10 minutes of sitting quietly and clearing your mind. More advanced techniques could involve yoga, tai chi, meditation, or breathing exercises, to name a few. There are many forms of yoga depending on what appeals to you. There are individual and group classes, and there are DVDs that guide you through each session. Tai chi is a series of movements designed to move and release pent up energies in your body. It is gentle exercise that is good for people of any age and physical ability. Deep breathing techniques allow you to fully expand your lungs thereby bringing much needed oxygen to every cell in your body. It slows your mind and by concentrating on your breathing it crowds out the thoughts that keep you keyed up and anxious.
When you are feeling particularly stressed, take just 30 seconds to close your eyes and be still. Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it for a second, then let it back out through your nose. Think about the air filling your lungs. Think about how your lungs feel as they expand. Hold that breath for just a second and appreciate it. As you release that breath imagine releasing the tension in your body. Repeat the process and notice how your body responds and relaxes. You may yawn. You may feel a little light-headed. They both mean that your body is receiving vital oxygen it needs. As you do these deep breathing exercises over time your body will get used to the extra oxygen and the light-headedness will stop. Begin with 30 seconds. You can increase to two minutes if you like.
At home, soak in a bath with bath mineral salts. Light some candles or turn the lights down low, and play some soothing music. The bath mineral salts have a relaxing effect on your muscles.
Read a book, play a game with your kids, watch something silly on TV, or do anything that you enjoy that will take your mind off of what stresses you. The more often you relax, the better you will feel overall. Remember, worrying about things that you can’t control is a waste of time and energy. Plan and strategize on how to improve your situation, take advantage of opportunities, don’t sweat the little things, and believe that everything will work out. It always does, it always will, and although it may not happen in the way we think or want it to, there is always opportunity to make the best of it.