This month's Healthy Living Program looks at two related topics: Stress Management and Walking.
According to stress management expert Elizabeth Scott, there are many ways to reduce tension and relax. Here are some stress relievers that offer great benefits for the amount of work and effort involved. Some can be learned in the time it takes to read this page, while others take a little more practice, but there's something here for everyone!
Deep breathing is an easy stress reliever that has numerous benefits for the body, including oxygenating the blood, which ‘wakes up’ the brain, relaxing muscles and quieting the mind. Breathing exercises are especially helpful because you can do them anywhere, and they work quickly so you can de-stress in a flash. The Karate Breathing Meditation is a great exercise to start with, and this basic breathing exercise can be done anywhere!
Meditation builds on deep breathing, and takes it a step further. When you meditate, your brain enters an area of functioning that’s similar to sleep, but carries some added benefits you can’t achieve as well in any other state, including the release of certain hormones that promote health. Also, the mental focus on nothingness keeps your mind from working overtime and increasing your stress level. Here's an article on different types of meditation to help you get started.
It takes slightly more time to practice guided imagery, but this is a great way to leave your stress behind for a while and relax your body. Some find it easier to practice than meditation, as lots of us find it more doable to focus on ‘something’ than on ‘nothing’. You can play natural sounds in the background as you practice, to promote a more immersive experience.
Building on guided imagery, you can also imagine yourself achieving goals like becoming healthier and more relaxed, doing well at tasks, and handling conflict in better ways. Also, visualizing yourself doing well on tasks you’re trying to master actually functions like physical practice, so you can improve your performance through visualizations as well!
Self-hypnosis incorporates some of the features of guided imagery and visualizations, with the added benefit of enabling you to communicate directly you’re your subconscious mind to enhance your abilities, more easily give up bad habits, feel less pain, more effectively develop healthier habits, and even find answers to questions that may not be clear to your waking mind! It takes some practice and training, but is well worth it. Learn more about using hypnosis to manage stress in your life.
Many people exercise to control weight and get in better physical condition to become more healthy or physically attractive, but exercise and stress management are also closely linked. Exercise provides a distraction from stressful situations, as well as an outlet for frustrations, and gives you a lift via endorphins as well. This article can tell you more about the stress management benefits of exercise, and help you get more active in your daily life.
By tensing and relaxing all the muscle groups in your body, you can relieve tension and feel much more relaxed in minutes, with no special training or equipment. Start by tensing all the muscles in your face, holding a tight grimace ten seconds, then completely relaxing for ten seconds. Repeat this with your neck, followed by your shoulders, etc. You can do this anywhere, and as you practice, you will find you can relax more quickly and easily, reducing tension as quickly as it starts!
Music therapy has shown numerous health benefits for people with conditions ranging from mild (like stress) to severe (like cancer). When dealing with stress, the right music can actually lower your blood pressure, relax your body and calm your mind. Here are some suggestions of different types of music to listen to, and how to use music in your daily life for effective stress management.
Yoga is one of the oldest self-improvement practices around, dating back over 5 thousand years! It combines the practices of several other stress management techniques such as breathing, meditation, imagery and movement, giving you a lot of benefit for the amount of time and energy required. Learn more about how to manage stress with yoga.
WebMD has a great article on the basics of walking and the benefits of walking. Walking not only provides a good workout but can also help you deal with and reduce stress. This article includes these thoughts about some of the benefits of walking:
Medically, the benefits of walking are undisputed, says Little Rock, Ark., orthopaedic surgeon John Yocum, MD. Cardiovascular exercise such as walking can reduce the risk of heart disease and improve heart function and muscle tone, as well as lower blood pressure, cholesterol, risk of stroke, and risk of injury, says Yocum.
In addition, he says, "improving strength around the joints can help with degenerative joint disease."
But that's not all. "The benefits are multiple," he says, "not the least of which is the improved sense of well-being or happiness with the increased endorphin levels."
Archer, who coaches many beginning exercisers, says they have a kind of "awakening" when they begin to work out. They begin to feel better, so they sleep better, manage stress better, and get more energy in the process, says Archer. As a result, their self-esteem improves.
Former Olympic marathon runner Julie Isphording, a walking/running coach, author, columnist and host of two health and fitness radio shows for National Public Radio in Cincinnati, says she sees it often in the walkers she trains.
"People start to change their attitude," she says. "It really isn't about the walk. It's about something so much bigger; so much better. You can breathe deeper. You last longer in the day. You're running up steps."
The Town has some great places to walk. First is the Rail Trail which begins in the Oakdale section of Town. Also, the Town has some sidewalks, particularly in the center of Town. Other than a place to walk, the only other requirement is a good pair of sneakers or walking shoes and you are ready to go!
Other Links on Stress Management
American Institute of Stress
Links on Walking and your Health
American Diabetes Association
American Heart Association