Break the Cycle
How to stop stress from slowing down your life
IT'S BEEN A LONGDAY.
A loooooong one.
Between a big work project due tomorrow, a bill collector that
seems to have your number on speed dial and a migraine that
appeared while you spent 90 minutes fighting rush-hour traffic, you
have barely enough strength left to find your way to the couch.
Meanwhile, even contemplating going to the gym or eating a dinner
that doesn't involve a takeout menu is a distant dream.
Taking Back Your Energy
Stress bombards us all the time, and with it comes a personal
drain on our energy levels. Everything from being overworked or a
fear of losing our job to facing a personal tragedy or simply the
everyday commitments of life can cause stress. Debbie Mandel,
author ofAddicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to
Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life(Jossey-Bass, 2008), says
some people crave the high they get from stress.
"Like any addiction, stress gives you a surge," explains Mandel.
"Unfortunately, you crash, you get depleted, then you need a bigger
fix." She says you could then face such health issues as chronic
fatigue syndrome, cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, poor
eating habits and insomnia.
And even if it doesn't make you sick, stress can zap your
energy. Here are some ways to break the cycle when stress starts to
Fill your lungs. "Taking a few deep breaths will calm your
fight-or-flight system and bring your mind and body back into
balance," says Jane Foody, a registered instructor with the Yoga
Alliance. "The best thing to do is to mentally count to five as you
breathe in and mentally count to five as you breathe out.
Book a massage. Massage therapy does
more than just relax your muscles-it can relax your mind as well,
helping relieve symptoms of stress. That's because massage releases
endorphins that calm your nervous system. Research studies show
massage therapy strenghtens the immune system, which can become
compromised from extended periods of stress.
Be contagious. "Goodness and happiness are contagious, and a bad
mood is contagious," says Mandel. Surround yourself with
supportive, happy people. Even if stress makes you want to
hibernate, "being isolated is a recipe for disaster," adds Mandel.
"Friends are your best therapists."
Get moving. Exercise is one of the best ways to alleviate
anxiety and get your endorphins pumping-those "feel good" chemicals
your body produces when you go for a bike ride or hop on the
treadmill. If you can't muster an hour a day, start with a brisk
15-minute walk outside with your dog, and move up from there.
Giggle. "We take ourselves very seriously," says Mandel, who
encourages people to reinterpret stressful moments in their day
with a more comedic take. Learn to laugh off what you can't
control. Or, try "movie therapy," she suggests. "Watch comedies
until you laugh … or cry," she says, noting that both results are
Get it out. Sometimes, it all makes sense on paper. "Get a
journal and write in it," says Foody, who suggests jotting down
your jumble of thoughts as a way to blow off steam. "Gain insight
on what's happening in your life and how you can possibly change it
for the better."
-By Amanda Myers