Reduce stress, live longer

By KRISTI EATON

VIEW ON HEALTH

Stress is a part of everyone’s life. Whether it stems from that upcoming deadline at work or a family get-together, we all experience it at some point. But how one handles it will determine how big of a role it plays in life. Here are several ways to destress and relax.

STRETCH

Stretching improves blood flow throughout the body, so performing some stretches will ease the tension that comes from a build up of stress in the body. A simple stretch that can be done while sitting down includes tilting your head, bringing your right ear to your right shoulder until you feel a stretch along your neck. Perform the stretch on the other side. Another stretch that can be done is the lower back stretch. For this, sit down in a chair and bend at your hips and reach for the floor while keeping your spine in alignment. Try to touch your hands to the floor, but if you can’t, rest your hands on your ankles or shins. Remember the following when stretching: Perform balanced stretching, meaning stretching on each side of the body. Do not stretch one side more than the other. Overstretching should also be avoided. Never stretch to the point of pain or discomfort. Also, go slow, breathe normally and do not bounce or jerk while stretching. Bouncing or jerking while stretching can actually cause injuries instead of preventing them.

SMILE

Research has shown that smiling can help people feel better. According to the facial feedback hypothesis, facial movements can influence an emotional experience. Smiling has also been found to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and release endorphins. In addition, smiling can make someone look younger because it lifts the muscles on the face. It can also attract people. Frowns, scowls and grimaces push people away, while smiling draws people in.

TAKE SEVERAL DEEP BREATHS

Stress can cause people to breathe poorly, resulting in a lack of oxygen. To relieve some stress, close your eyes, sit up straight and take a deep breath. Count silently to two and hold in the air for another second. Repeat the breathing exercise for several minutes. If driving, look at how you are gripping the steering wheel. Are you gripping it too tightly? Breathe in and out and relax the grip on the wheel.

AVOID PROCESSED FOODS, EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

Processed foods — foods that have been altered from their natural state for safety reasons and convenience –deplete the diet of nutrients needed to stay healthy during stressful situations. While grabbing that chocolate bar might seem like the easier thing to do when stressed, it can actually backfire. Sugary foods increase the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps control depression and anxiety, but only temporarily. Your mood may improve, but will soon crash. Remember that not all processed foods are bad, For example, milk is a processed food. But there are many processed foods — canned foods with lots of sodium, sugary breakfast cereals and snack foods such as chips — that should be avoided. For some stress-fighting foods, eat avocados, baked potatoes with skin and bananas, They all contain vitamin B6, a nutrient that is depleted by stress but that helps produce more serotonin. Also, consider consuming asparagus, oatmeal and orange juice which contain folic acid. Folic Acid helps make dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure.

EXERCISE

Exercising helps release endorphins, which makes us feel good. Developing a regular exercise routine can also help combat other health problems that can be weighing you down mentally. Make sure the exercise you choose is an activity you enjoy or else you won’t want to keep doing it.

DRINK PLENTY OF WATER

Dehydration can exacerbate the feeling of stress. Most guidelines recommend that people drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. However, that often doesn’t happen, and adding in exercise increases the amount of water the body needs. In intense exercise programs, it is important to replenish electrolytes — elements such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium — which are released through sweat during intense exercise. For most people, a sports drink such as Gatorade, which is made to replenish electrolytes, is too laden with sugar. Water is sufficient for the normal exerciser.

Additionally, it’s important to stay hydrated before, during and after exercise.

So, how much water is the correct amount?Here are some general guidelines from the The American Journal of Sports Medicine for remaining properly hydrated.Every day: Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water.Before exercise: Drink 15 to 20 fluid ounces two to three hours before, and another 8 to 10 fluid ounces 10 to 15 minutes before exercise.During exercise: Drink 8 to 10 ounces every 10 to 15 minutes. It is recommended to weigh yourself before and after exercise, and for every pound lost during the activity, you should drink 20 to 24 fluid ounces.

GET ENOUGH SLEEP

Sleep is crucial to feeling rested and ready to take on anything thrown our way. WIthout it, normal bumps in the road may seem too hard to overcome and snowball into bigger situations. And for situations that do need our undivided attention, without proper rest we will not have enough energy to tackle them head on.

The National Sleep Foundation says adolescents should get eight and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep each night. Adults require seven to nine hours of sleep per night. However, like most things, pinpointing a “magic number” is difficult. Each person requires a different amount depending on several factors, according to the foundation. The basal sleep need is the amount of sleep people’s bodies need on a regular basis for optimal performance. Sleep debt is the accumulated sleep that is lost to poor sleep habits, sickness, awakenings due to environmental factors or other causes. Adults need seven to eight hours for their basal sleep need, but that can increase if a sleep debt is present. The sleep debt can be worked down. Too little sleep has been associated with obesity, diabetes, heart problems and other ailments. Surprisingly, research has also shown an association between too much sleep and an increase in morbidity and mortality.

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