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Stress Reduction 101

Do you feel stressed out all the time? Is it hard for you to sit down and relax because you’re worried that there’s something else that you need to be doing?

Whether you’re stressed due to work, personal situations or both, living in a state of constant stress can be a big problem. Not only can stress make it difficult to relax, it can directly affect your immune system, heart and muscles. Over time, stress makes your body weaker and leaves you susceptible to a variety of different long-term problems.

How do you know if stress has become a problem?

Here are a few of the most common symptoms of stress:

  • You feel irritable and cranky all of the time
  • You feel unable to deal with even small problems
  • You feel frustrated and lose your temper more often
  • You feel tired most of the time – no matter how much rest you get
  • You worry excessively over the small things
  • You think that you may be missing out on things
  • You imagine that bad things are just around the corner

In addition to these emotional and mental symptoms, you may have body aches and pains that won’t go away, feel tightness in your chest or suffer from chronic headaches.

Stress Reduction 101

If you can learn how to reduce your stress levels, you’ll reap the benefits for the rest of your life. Stress relief techniques can help restore your inner peace and boost your physical health. Relieving stress on a day-to-day basis is a matter of adopting habits, mental attitudes and physical activities that will remove stress from your life and make you feel more calm and collected.

Look to any of these activities to reduce your stress and help you feel better:

1.  Meditation

Meditation has been used as a spiritual practice for thousands of years – and it is also a good way to relieve stress. Any repetitive action can be used as meditation. You don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor and chant. Swimming, walking, knitting, painting or any other repetitive activity can be used as a meditation. The most important part of meditation is keeping your mind calm and free of distraction. While you’re doing your meditative activity, push any thoughts of your job, your to do list or your relationships out of your mind. Focus on the activity you’re doing in the moment and you’ll calm your mind.

2.  Take Deep Breaths

Stress reduces the level of oxygen in your blood and makes it difficult for your brain, body and bloodstream to get what they need. When you’re stressed, you use shallow breaths that don’t fill your entire lung capacity. By taking deep breaths, you’ll be able to release stress and feel calmer. Start by letting out a big sigh and exhale entirely. Make sure your lungs are empty of air. Then inhale forcefully and feel your belly, then your chest fill with air. Expand your arms if that helps. Repeat this exercise again a few times and you’ll feel naturally relaxed.

3.  Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a mind-body exercise that will help relieve stress and reduce the tension in your muscles. Lie down flat on the floor or on your bed. Start by making all of the muscles in your face tight. Clench your teeth and squeeze your eyes together. Hold this for at least a count of eight and inhale. After the count is done, exhale and feel all of those muscles relax. Next, move to your neck and shoulders and repeat the same process. Continue through the rest of the major muscle groups in your body and feel the tension melt away.

There are several other stress reduction techniques that you can try, but these three are great for beginners. The next time you feel stressed and overwhelmed, give yourself a small break and use one of these stress reduction activities. You’ll be glad you did!

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