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I have never been very good at handling stress (though a bit of meditation helps), and I wanted some very practical ways of reducing it that I could use during the course of my day. I got some good answers that don’t require a 90 minute yoga class, or flying to a hippie style silent retreat (I’ve actually done one—don’t ask), just simple things that we all have access to. Here they are!
P.S. If anyone has helpful tips for stress reduction PLEASE post them on our Facebook page.
From Dr. Oz Garcia:
"Everyone experiences stress at different times in their lives. Stress can bring on a host of issues such as anxiety, headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and insomnia.
Although finding physical and emotional outlets for stress is crucial, diet can play a big role as well. During times of stress I notice different eating behaviors with my clients. There is the stressed personality that tends to overeat out of nervousness. They use food as a sense of comfort. Usually they don’t crave salads, vegetables, or something healthy. The “Feel Good” foods many times are high in sugar, fat, and carbohydrates. This is why it is not uncommon to see someone quickly gain 10 pounds when they are going through a difficult time. There is also the other extreme where a person feels too stressed to eat at all. This personality type may not have an appetite and gravitate more towards using stimulants like coffee and sugary drinks over eating normal servings of food. The high levels of stress can also rev up digestion and cause frequent bowel movements resulting in rapid weight loss.
When you are stressed, be aware of your blood sugar levels. It is important to eat several times throughout the day and not go hungry. Stress can also cause a surge in cortisol and adrenaline. Some of the best foods for regulating those stress hormones are fresh fish like tuna and salmon. Incorporate healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, as well as pistachios, almonds, and walnuts. Make sure to include green leafy vegetables since they contain important minerals like iron and magnesium. B vitamins are important during stressful times and can be found in organic eggs, oatmeal, tofu, and tempeh.
Your immune system can also become weakened and increase your body's need for certain nutrients. Eating a healthy diet will help you stay energized, focused, and well rested during times of stress. If you are not mindful and eat junk food or frequently skip meals, you are more likely to perform poorly or get sick during stressful times.
Incorporating multivitamins and nutritional supplements can be helpful in replacing our nutrient stores that are depleted during stressful times. Vitamin C helps to boost the immune system and regulate cortisol levels. B vitamins are beneficial for nervousness and anxiety. Adaptogenic herbs such as rhodiola, ashwaganda, and ginseng help to regulate the body and bring it back to its normal function.
Keep up with regular exercise so your body has the opportunity to release all the unwanted energy. Showering before bed can be helpful too. It tends to wash off the stress from a long day to allow you to sleep better. Try to get in bed at a reasonable time so you give your body enough rest to recover. Most importantly, try not to give too much thought to your stress before sleeping. If there is nothing you can do about your situation, it’s best to do something that can be a good distraction like reading a book or meditating. If you wake up feeling refreshed, you may find that your stress will actually lessen the following day."
Dr. Oz Garcia is a New York City based nutritionist. He is an expert in anti-aging nutrition and the author of several books on the matter including “Redesigning 50: The No-Plastic-Surgery Guide to 21st-Century Age Defiance”
From Olivier Bros:
"There is a tool we all have, one of such simplicity and purity, such minimalistic beauty that its power is often and easily overlooked. This tool doesn’t cost a thing, requires no complicated instruction, is available to everyone and can be accessed anytime and anywhere. It is, without a doubt, among the most effective antidotes to stress and a key component to wellbeing that we human beings possess. Let’s consider, for a moment, the power of breathing.
It sounds simplistic, doesn’t it? What’s so special about something we do every day, without thinking, completely automatically? Well, think for a minute about what it feels like when you don’t breathe. We forget to do that often—during a difficult exercise or physical exertion, during moments of stress or when we experience something scary, unpleasant or painful. It’s like our body pushes a giant pause button and everything grinds to a halt.
Not breathing properly equates to stopping or slowing down the flow of energy through our system. The body no longer receives the oxygen it needs to function properly, to eliminate toxins and mobilize the internal organs. The Chinese Daoist master Yu Wen once said ‘Energy being like water, stagnation leads to decay.’ In other words, if we stop the flow of energy and oxygen through our body, inevitably stagnation and illness ensue.
So what’s the best way to breathe to keep things moving, you ask? Let me just encourage you not to over-think this. It’s not complicated. It’s very simple, and that’s why people overlook it. I say just breathe. No fancy techniques, no right way to do it, no mistakes to make. Even the simplest mindful breathing helps get the energy flowing through your body again. If you want to explore the power of breathing further, investigate deep breathing techniques, which have been shown to help boost the immune system, reduce anxiety by recalibrating the oxygen/carbon dioxide ratio in your body, induce relaxation and reduce pain—all important elements in fighting chronic illness.
Be aware of the physical sensations when you’re, in fact, not breathing—the slight tightness in your head, the tension you’re holding in your body—recognize it, and then … make an effort to breathe, mindfully and continuously. It’s that easy and that essential. Breathing is a beautiful and pure way of bringing yourself back into the moment, to not only push the play button again, but to refocus your energy. Have you been breathing while you’ve been reading this? No? How about giving it a quick try? There, doesn’t that feel better in a simple and powerful way?"
Olivier Bros, P.T. is a physical therapist trained in Osteopathy, Homeopathy, Acupuncture and Psychology. Based in New York, he has developed a personalized approach to manual holistic technique.
From Body Studio, London:
"If you don’t begin from where you are, there is no way you can reach where you want to be."
Ayurvedic Oil Self massage
"In the morning massage the body with cold pressed sesame oil which is slightly warm. This helps to reduce the 'air and space' quality in the system which contributes to stress. It calms the central nervous system, centers the mind and the properties of the oil work deep into the layers of the skin, helping the joints, connective tissues and draws toxins out and into the digestive system where they can be removed. On hot summer days use coconut oil or sunflower oil.
Head and Feet
If you have had a very stressful day at work, massage the head with coconut oil or cold pressed sesame oil. Massage the sides of the head, front, and back. Then use the fingertips like you are washing your hair for 2-3 minutes. Then, when you have finished, grab parts of the hair and pull away from the scalp.
Massage the sole of the foot between the second and third metatarsals. If a line is drawn from the base of the second toe to the heel, the point is one third of the distance from the toe. This point is a marma point pada Madhya. Press on this point, and if it is sore press gently and as it releases apply more pressure. This point on the foot calms the mind and relieves stress. Once you have done this on both feet then massage the feet with cold pressed sesame oil.
Head Marma Points:
Press in very small circles in a clockwise direction.
- Kapala: On the midline of the forehead at the start of your hairline.
This marma is helpful if you feel bound by time, constantly in a hurry, or anxious.
- Nasa Mula: On the midline of the forehead in between the eyebrows.
This important marma brings order in the body, mind and consciousness. It steadies the mind’s thoughts and emotions to induce inner calm.
- Hanu is located in the depression between the chin and the lower lips.
This point relieves stress and emotions. Hanu means pride. When this point is unbalanced posture can be affected. Hanu is a very important point to use for stress management."
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From Monica Berg:
"Is it possible that something as simple as water can wash away our fears, worries and doubts, and give us a sense of renewal and certainty?
It’s not a coincidence that after a hard or disappointing day, perhaps being stuck in the rain with your car broken down, or after a bad argument or breakup, there’s nothing your body craves more than a hot bath and also, perhaps a glass of wine.
Everyday we encounter the hustle and bustle of life, especially in our quest to try to do it all, and have it all. In essence, stress is ultimately caused by uncertainty—the ‘what-ifs’ in life. Some of us experience stress more than others, but either way it’s a feeling none of us are comfortable with and we try to find ways to cope and manage. Perhaps the most uncomfortable thing is when we do feel absolutely certain in specific areas of our lives we think would never fail us, like a great love, an ultimate best friend, or a fantastic job, only to have them stripped away from us.
We are all aware of the negative effects on our lives of having a lack of certainty and thoughts of doubt. In fact, there is biology behind it, and a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests certainty can bring us good health. We know that stress can affect our physical and mental well-being. Spiritually we know that the more a person falls into uncertainty, the more they open themselves up to more negativity in their life. When we lose perspective, worry, start getting worked up and upset and asking ‘why is this happening to me?’ what we are really doing is opening the door for more negative things to enter. Once that door is open, it’s even more difficult to get it closed. That’s why it’s important to find ways to reduce doubt and uncertainty from our lives. If we begin to understand that there is a bigger picture at work when things start to bother or stress us out, then we can remind ourselves of this idea: ‘I might not see it, but I know a greater picture exists and thereby I can accept what is happening in my current situation.’
Certainty is accepting the idea that life’s process is really the purpose. All that we experience—even if it's chaos or not what we want—is ultimately for our greatest good and will bring us closer to our true potential. If we practice this certainty, then we can come to a point where even tremendous challenges don’t stress us out.
There is a kabbalistic tool that can be of assistance in awakening the consciousness of certainty. It is called the mikveh, which is simply immersing our entire body in water, preferably in natural flowing water such as a stream, ocean or river. If that’s not available, then a pool or a bath will also suffice. Water represents mercy, and is also our ‘spiritual mother.’ When we immerse ourselves in water, we are attaching ourselves to the greater reality, and the bigger picture that exists, the 99% reality (not the 1% world which attaches us to worries and stress.) As we immerse ourselves in water, we can envision current or past worries and situations that are plaguing us, and let them wash away from us.
Kabbalists teach that everything in our world has four levels to it: thought, sight, words and actions. When we immerse ourselves in a mikveh, it is important to do it at least four times in order to cleanse ourselves of these four types of stresses.
The first time we go completely under the water, we meditate on removing negative, repetitive THOUGHTS that are ruminating in our head. On the second submersion, we focus on removing negative things we SEE that are causing stress and judgment in our life. During the third descent, we aim our attention on how we use our WORDS, and on those words that were directed toward us, in a negative nature. The fourth immersion is for thinking about the ACTIONS other people have done, or actions we have done, that have created stress in our life.
When we consciously connect to the greater reality as we immerse ourselves, we can truly remove—or at least diminish—the stress that permeates our lives. This may sound too simple, that the idea of immersing ourselves in water can bring us a stress-free life, but consciousness is everything and the power of our mind creates our reality.
This is one of the many tools available to us. We should do whatever we can to remove physical stress not just because of its physical ramifications but also because living a life of stress and doubt creates openings for more negative things to manifest. As we close the door to negative things, we can open a new door to let in the blessings that are intended to come to us, and manifest them completely.
Uncertainty isn’t really about self-doubt. It’s about self-discovery. Perhaps a good swim in the sea can do more for you than just cool your body down on a hot, sunny day. More importantly, it can cool tempers and negative thoughts as well. So, when all else fails, it’s worth a try. The worst that will happen is you’ll get a little wet."
Monica Berg is a spiritual teacher, writer and guide who specializes in assisting people as they identify and overcome life’s challenges so they can reach their greatest potential. Monica is one of the founders of Raising Malawi, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping orphans and challenged youth throughout Malawi. To learn more from Monica, you can watch her classes on www.ukabbalah.com, or visit her blog, www.askmonicaberg.com