April is Stress Awareness Month

Embrace a new strategy to keep stress away

We all know what stress feels like: Your heart races, you feel sweaty or nauseated, your mind can’t stop thinking about possible (bad) outcomes. Alleviating stress and negativity can add years and bring happiness to your life.

Medical studies consistently show the cumulative effects of stress on the body – lowering the immune system, elevating heart rate and cortisol levels. April is Stress Awareness Month and it is imperative to our physical and emotional well-being that we embrace practices that help alleviate stress and bring us back to balance.

Below are many tried and true ways to reduce stress. Adopting one that works for you is the key to success.

  1. Take a deep breath. Meditating is easier than you think. While the thought of meditating might conjure up images of monk-like dedication, meditating is something that can be done practically anywhere and at almost any time. Meditating can be as simple as taking a few quiet moments to focus on your breathing. The technique of breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth will quiet the busy mind. One can simply sit in a comfortable chair or on the floor for a few minutes, visualizing your breath as you inhale and exhale pushing all thoughts that surface out of our stream of consciousness. Develop a morning ritual of meditation for a few minutes and visualize what you want to accomplish for that day.
  2. Get twisted. Although yoga has been around for thousands of years, many people assume the benefits are only attainable if you twist your body into a pretzel. That is simply not the case. Many yoga moves (“asanas”) are easily accessible for all body types and abilities. Yoga moves such “child’s pose” (Balasana) can reduce anxiety and stress as well as calm the nervous system. Some poses such as “standing forward bend” (Uttanasana) are thought to relieve fatigue, stress and even mild depression. Well known sources like Gaiam (gaiam.com) and Yoga Journal (yogajournal.com) offer easy and advanced yoga poses to reduce stress and have videos so you can follow along.

    Try yoga for stress reduction

  3. Take a hike! On the other side of the physical spectrum, often a brisk walk outside can do wonders to lift your spirits and reduce stress. Engage in physical activity of some kind – walking, hiking, dancing, biking, running – and feel the rush of endorphins (those “feel good” brain chemicals) melt away your stress.
  4. Get connected. Take time out to connect with friends and not just through social media. Connecting face-to-face with others can provide connection, a sense of belonging and the shared laughter will lower cortisol, the body’s stress hormone.
  5. Get creative! Embracing your creative side and exploring artistic interests can be heart-healthy and also are a good way to combat stress and anxiety. Adult coloring books are all the rage because they “force” you to slow down, get creative with color, and the mere act of coloring in the lines brings one to a meditative state quite naturally. It’s a win-win for your heart and as stress relief. Try something new on the creative side and see where it leads.

This article is edited from its original format that was submitted to Mature Lifestyles. Written by Misa Acox, Graphic Design & Publications Manager, FiftyForward.

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