Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Defuse some of the stress in your life with these simple steps

Exercise. Regular exercise helps your brain to produce those feel-good endorphins, the hormones that elevate your mood; distracts you from negative thoughts; boosts your energy level and burns calories.

Get sufficient sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends at least 7 to 8 hours nightly for adults.

Share your feelings. Talk with a friend, a family member or a therapist, or keep a journal.

Spend time with friends and family. Studies show that people with strong social support networks - groups of friends and family that provide a sense of belonging, security, and a listening ear - handle stress better.

Meditate. Meditation, or guided thought, takes many forms: a slow, repetitive exercise like yoga or tai chi; relaxation training; stretching or deep breathing.

Indulge your sweet tooth. Yes, eat some chocolate!

SHOOT: The first and best is exercise. It disciplines body and mind and enhances the spirit.

Studies have not proven that stress directly causes health problems, but it contributes to behavioral and lifestyle habits that negatively affect our health. For example, stress does not cause high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association, but the coping mechanisms that Americans use to deal with stress -- most of them unhealthy -- do. These include eating foods high in fat and sodium which lends to being overweight, drinking excess alcohol, smoking and being too tired to be physically active.

Stress can also make you sick. Stress-related hormones affect the immune system, decreasing the body's ability to fight off colds and other respiratory infections. Research has shown that people under continual stress get colds and flu more often, and heal more slowly after being injured. The continual tension in the muscles when you are stressed can lead to neck, shoulder and low back pain. And stress can further inflame joint conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

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