Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Stress Relief

It's probably safe to assume that those of us following the current state of the economy are feeling a bit breathless. So, I'm going to take a departure from farmers' markets and talk about stress management. Don't let your health tank along with your 401K.

Stress is a highly toxic, destructive force on our immune system. It must be dealt with decisively in order to stay healthy and alert. Below are some highly effective stress-control techniques; pick the ones that fit your lifestyle best, and practice them daily - especially when your stress level spikes.

Conscious breathing for stress relief
This one is quite simple: breathe. Take a few moments to tune into the unique pattern of your breathing, following the intake of air through your body as it fills you. Allow your body to loosen and soften, and you'll notice how smooth your breath becomes.

Yawn and Sigh
This is the body's natural way to relieve tension and flood the body with oxygen. Fake it if you must. Make some noise, stretch, and relax your jaw, neck and back and feel your breath.

Deep Nasal Breathing
My personal favorite. Nasal breathing will force air into the lower lobes of the lungs where the majority of the parasympathetic (stress-reducing) nerves are located, while mouth breathing opens the upper chest where the lungs are loaded with fight-or-flight receptors. Breathe into your lower belly - the place between your pelvic bone and the belly button. As you take a deep breath through your nose, let the belly puff out as it fills with air. Gently squeeze your rib cage in as the breath glides back out through your nose.

Relaxation Practices for stress relief
1. Mindful meditation - find a comfortable place to sit, then start with your feet and focus your attention on various parts, working up along your body while noticing and relaxing the muscles.
2. Guided imagery - close your eyes and imagine your restful place. Try to include as many details as you can - see the deep blue sky, smell the seasalt in the air, hear the seagulls, feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, taste the ice cream ;-).
3. Yoga - look for classes that emphasize gentle, deep stretching and slow movement for maximum stress relief.
4. Tai Chi
5. Massage

And finally, ten superfoods for stress relief:
1. Nuts and seeds
2. Oats
3. Berries
4. Avacado
5. Asperagus
6. Dark leafy greens
7. Omega 3-rich fish like salmon, mackerel and herring
8. Lima beans
9. Bananas
10. Water - your body can only absorb 4.5 oz per hour, so don't gulp it, sip it.

There is no more important time to select healthy foods than when you are under stress. There is no one diet that is right for everyone, but by listening to your body, you can find the foods that are best for you. And if you are feeling overwhelmed by the topic, you can always consult an Integrative Health Counselor (wink, wink).

Read more:
Eat Right to Fight Stress
7 Ways to De-stress Your Diet
Cure Your Cravings With Stress-fighting Foods

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