8. Manage your Stress and get Relief. Stress is totally natural. It is what happens every time you flex a muscle, digest food, even breathe. However, there is also stress caused by other parts of life, sometimes in excess and unwanted, which can accelerate aging, increase the chances of heart disease, diabetes, obesity (with all its problems) depression, difficulty sleeping, asthma, gastrointestinal problems and more. When people say they are stressed they are usually talking about that knot in the stomach, anxious, feeling that is a response to something worrisome or frightening. Because of our evolutionary development we respond in a fight or flight way to many uncomfortable situations, even when there isn’t an actual danger that requires that involuntary physical reaction. It’s in our make-up to either fight the predator or flee. When sensing danger animals, including people, react by the release of a number of different hormones, including adrenalin, that prepare us for a burst of energy for fighting or fleeing; the heart beats faster, we breathe deeper and faster, digestion slows down or ceases, we alternate between being flush and pale, sexual arousal stops, blood vessels constrict, pupils dilate and other changes in our bodies occur. Unfortunately, while we don’t often face tigers or are under attack, we also have this reaction when facing non-threatening events, such as getting ready for an interview, meeting a blind date, being late for a train, or watching an action scene in a movie. It is also worth noting that different personality types have different stress levels which affect their chances of having the health risks. Type A personalities, competitive, highly strung, driven people generally are more prone to stress than the laid back Type B. In any case, the stressed out, tense, anxious times, over times are unhealthy and ultimately unproductive.
There are ways to deal with stress. The first thing to do it to learn to recognize the the difference in how you feel when you are stressed and when you are relaxed. In our high speed lives we may not be aware of aware of how much of the time we are under stress because it is our normal. A simple way to recognize the difference is to flex a muscle, hold it tense and then let it go. That relaxed feeling after a muscle is tensed is what not being stressed feels like. Do that with your stomach muscle, since so often when we are tense it is in our midsection. Once you recognize how it feels to be relaxed, you can try to be that way when you catch yourself unnecessarily tense. You can also do the exercise by deliberately tensing up, so you get into the relaxed state when you let go the tension. When you catch yourself in the fight or flight mode when it isn’t called for, you can also take control through your breathing. Unlike your heart or digestion, your breathing is an involuntary action that is easy to take charge of, and when you do the other organs will follow. Take six deep, slow breathes, counting to six as you breathe in, hold it in for a six count and breathe out as you count to six. You will most likely find yourself relaxed. Make a mental note of what that feels like. This is the way you should feel unless you’re in a situation where you need to be at your peak, physical state.
As a lifestyle routine to compensate for a stressful life, meditate on a regular basis and do exercise.