When fall and winter will roll around, I know that the time will come when I let stress get the better of me. I’ve been seeking out books, blogs, and any other literature I can find on ways to deal with stress, before stress and overeating mix. Here is something from Change your Brain, Change Your Body by Daniel G. Amen, M.D., a book that discusses how the brain is key towards fixing and changing your life habits. It is not an exact excerpt as I have changed around a few words and phrases to make it easier to digest and understand.
Although most of the book covers highly technical stuff that I am not that interested in, despite having studied biology in college, there is a really great appendix that discusses all the great supplements you can take to help with proper brain functioning and as a result, avoid things like too much stress, lack of sleep, depression and the like.
Calming the Stress in Your Life So You Can Have A Better Body
Here are sixteen different ways to help you calm stress so you can have better skin, immunity, and a trimmer figure. Pick four or five ways that you like the best.
1. Meditate on a regular basis
A brain scan imaging study indicated that a meditation session helps tune people in by increasing attention span and thoughtfulness. It also showed part of the brain calming down, resulting in diminished anxiety and worrying, which in turn helped foster more relaxation. The best part is that a Chinese study showed that it doesn’t take a long time to learn how to meditate. Simply meditating for 20 minutes over a period of five days resulted in decreased cortisol, the hormone that is produced when your body deals with stress (too much of this hormone leads to a lot of bad stuff like depression and even obesity).
One way to meditate: Kirtan Kriya.
2. Take a yoga class
Many yoga classes promote mental calmness, self-awareness, and a focus on being in the present moment–all of which bring about a sense of relaxation and well-being. Yoga has solid scientific evidence that it can be helpful for reducing a number of physical ailments like high blood pressure, anxiety, asthma, heart disease and lung disease.
3. Learn to delegate
You don’t need to attend every party, take on every project, or volunteer for everything that comes your way. Two of the greatest life skills you can learn are the art of delegation and the ability to say no. Too often, just to please others, we agree to do things without first asking ourselves if the request fits into our own lives. When someone asks you to do something, respond with “Let me think about it.” And then really do think about it.
4. Practice gratitude
If you want your brain to work better, be grateful for the good things in your life. A brain scan indicated that the brain looks different after practicing gratitude)than it does after focusing on worries and fears. In fact, the frightened brain indicated decreased activity in two major parts of the brain. The cerebellum had shut down and there was low activity in the temporal lobes, especially the left one.
The cerebellum deals with physical coordination. Low cerebellum activity also disables people from thinking their way out of problems, processing information effectively, and enables them to become more easily confused. The temporal lobes on the other hand, deal with mood, memory, and temper control. Problems in this part of the brain are linked to depression, dark thoughts, violence, and memory problems.
Positive thought patterns change the brain in a positive way. Practicing gratitude literally helps you have a brain to be grateful for. Besides, focusing on the good things in your life can make you happier regardless of your circumstances. Showing gratitude on a daily basis is one of the keys to increasing your sense of joy, happiness, and life satisfaction.
Get started now: Write down 5 things you are grateful for everyday. The act of writing helps to solidify things in your brain. When depressed patients did this exercise daily, they actually needed less antidepressant medication.
5. Get enough sleep
When you sleep sufficiently, you allow your brain and body to get the rest it needs. You replenish it and revive it, making the brain ready to tackle challenges for the next day.
6. Get moving physically
There is no doubt that exercise is a stress reliever. You don’t have to go to the gym and be a slave to the machines. Walk around, go biking, practice yoga, and anything else that gets your heart rate going. Exercise can actually be the single most important thing you do for your brain.
The simple act of breathing delivers oxygen to your lungs, which in turn helps it get delivered to the rest of the body. Controlled breathing also has several immediate benefits. It helps your brain run more efficiently, relaxes your muscles, and regulates your heartbeat.
As you inhale, let your belly expand. This pulls the lungs downward, allowing you to take in more air. When you exhale, pull your belly to push the air out of your lungs. This expels a lot more air than in normal breathing, which helps you inhale more deeply. Keep breathing this way and your stressful feelings can even diminish completely.
8. Listen to soothing music
Music has healing powers that can bring peace to a stressful mind. Classical music, ambient sounds, nature sounds, and even white noise can all help towards reducing anxiety and calming your nerves. On the other spectrum, heavy-metal music and music with lyrics consisting of hate and despair induces stress. If you have children, teach them to love classical music when they are young. A list:
- Don Campbell, Mozart as Healer, Essence, Healing Powers of Tone and Chant
- Compiled by Joan Z. Borysenko, Inner Peace for Busy People: Music to Relax and Renew
- Michael Hoppe, Solace
- David Lanz, Beloved
- Dean Evenson, Arctic Refuge, Ascension to Tibet, Healing Dreams, Healing Sanctuary, Music for the Healing Arts, Native Healing, Peace through Music
Smell is highly connected to the emotional part of your brain. The scent of lavender has been used since ancient times for its calming, stress-relieving properties. Countless studies have shown that lavender helps reduce cortisol levels and promotes relaxation and stress reduction. You can find this natural stress reliever in the form of oils, candles, sprays, lotions, sachets, and potpourri. Other scents that have a relaxing effect include geranium, rose, cardamom, sandalwood, and chamomile.
10. Live in the present
Seethed over a comment from your spouse that was said a few weeks ago? Constantly worrying about whether you will be promoted or not? Living in the present is a simple concept, but hard to implement.
Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now, encourages people to shed the pains of the past, stop fearing the future, and live in the present moment. He believes that the present is all we really have, that we can’t change the past, and that it is what we’re doing right now that shapes our future.
11. Avoid substance abuse
Consuming caffeine, eating sugary snacks, drinking alcohol, and smoking are some of the most common and some of the worst ways to deal with stress. Drinking a large caffeine drink before a test can only amplify stressful feelings than those that you might have experienced normally. Moreover, people often reach for a glass of wine or alcohol to calm the effects of stress. Drinking actually induces stress and elevates cortisol levels (stress hormone). It also diminishes your ability to cope with stress. The same goes for smoking.
12. Laugh more
Laughter counteracts stress and is good for the immune system. Laughter lowers the flow of dangerous stress hormones that suppress the immune system, raise blood pressure, and increase the number of platelets that clot and potentially lead to fatal coronary artery blockages. Laughter also eases digestion and soothes stomachaches, a common symptom of chronic stress. Laughter truly may be the best medicine when it comes to stress relief. The average child laughs hundreds of times a day, whereas the average adult laughs only a dozen times a day.
Read funny books. Watch funny movies and videos. Go to a comedy club. Read joke books (The Far Side by Gary Larson warrants itself here). You get the idea, just laugh!
13. Seek help for chronic stress
People tend to have negative attitudes about seeing psychotherapists, but they are akin to something like a life consultant. When a great business has troubles, it is likely to deal with the problems head-on and find the best consultants to help. We should behave the same way in our personal lives. In dealing with stress, seek out biofeedback therapists, hypnotherapists, and people who do a form of psychotherapy called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, which helps them deal with anxiety, past traumas, and performance enhancement.