Friday, February 26, 2010

Dealing with Stress

Stress. It's a topic I come back to quite often. It's a topic that has even earned itself a category heading in my other blog's sidebar.

I'm always seeking to free myself from the tight clench of Stress (even as I willingly climb into his hand time and time again). I decided to enroll in a two-hour class entitled "The Tao of Stress Management."

The presenter started the workshop by emphasizing the direct relationship between stress and nutrition. He argued that when we eat processed foods, we put unnecessary stress on our cells. He railed against refined sugar, flours, pasta, etc.

Then he moved into a segment about accepting personal responsibility for our stress levels. Ultimately, we are the ones responsible for our emotional state. We create stress for ourselves by being too hard on ourselves, wanting to control things we can, escalating stress, or blaming things on other people. Our reactions to external stimuli determine our stress levels (not the stimuli themselves). It made me feel so silly for all the times I let bad drivers frustrate me on the road. Seriously? Why escalate my stress level over something so stupid?

He talked about deep breathing as one antidote for stress. He discussed the important of breathing all the way into your stomach--really letting your belly expand with each inhale. This particular technique has already worked wonders on my stress levels. If I'm really, really stressed, I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth to release all my pent up emotion. I'm trying to condition myself to breathe deeply as a habit.

He also touched on the importance of regular physical activity. Even though I have personally experienced the beneficial effects of exercise on my stress levels, it still helps to hear the message over and over again.

Because he is an acupuncturist, he also discussed the benefits of acupuncture.

In terms of next steps, here's what I generated during the workshop:

  1. Find a natural, whole foods cookbook (maybe this one?)
  2. Set aside time to relax every night before bed
  3. Practice breathing all the way into my belly
  4. Stop complaining
  5. Do yoga (for crying out loud!)
  6. Start taking walks after dinner
  7. Take 25 deep breaths as I fall asleep
In short, I loved his closing summary about how to reduce stress in your life: "Breathe more deeply, eat more simply, and move more frequently."

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spanishteacher83 said...

The Moosewood cookbooks are fantastic whole foods, all natural cookbooks put out by the Moosewood Restaurant. It is one of my life goals to eat there, but for now I am just recreating their menus at home!

Anonymous said...

How about yoga before bed to relax? I'm not sure if it would work. Some people feel relaxed after and some people feel energized. It would depend on what yoga does for you.

Sarah said...

What about getting up 15 mins early and doing a few different sun salutation routines? This has proven to be an excellent way for me to wake up, loosen up, and get ready for the day and it's easier to fit in first thing in the morning. My dogs even sometimes decide to stretch alongside me. They don't call it downward dog for nothing! :)

Kelsey said...

Me too spanishteacher!! I love those cookbooks and recommend them to everyone. I also hope to one day make a pilgrimage!

Molly said...

Those three phrases at the end summed everything up nicely. I am sure those are three things everyone could use more of.

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