Monday, July 19, 2010

find your zen

Hello, Monday. You are most likely no one's favorite day of the week. Lucky for me, Women's Health sent me this article today with tips to relieve stress. Ironically, I just finished my Human Stress class last week and was educated on the negative effects of stress, which can be pretty nasty. There are many illnesses and diseases linked to stress (heart disease, depression, digestive issues, cancer, etc.), as well as your general outlook on life. Pessimists might get it right, but optimists live longer.

Here is the 4-1-1 on stress relief per Women's Health:

1. Unplug from the office: With Blackberries, PDAs and iPhones these days, we are "on call" 24/7. I know, it's hard to escape the pressures of work, but keeping your life and work separate is a must. This has not been difficult for me to master. As soon as I step foot out of my office, I'm done working for the day. I don't check email at home (I didn't even set up my work email on my Blackberry) and only the necessary people in my office have my cell number. If you absolutely must check email or take phone calls regarding work at home, set out a block of time for it and only work at home during that time. You can tell colleagues when that designated time is and ask that they respect your evening work hours.

2. Create a chill-out routine: Just like many of us have a pre-bed routine, you need to prepare yourself to relax. When you get home from work, change your clothes to get out of the office mentality. Then change your pace - if you sit at a computer all day, go for a walk or run; if you're on your feet, take a bubble bath.

3. Take it outside: Boost your happy hormone, serotonin, with some natural light. Get your butt outside for some exercise or even have lunch outside for a mid-day pick-me-up.

4. Find a balance between rest and activity: Sometimes we're so pumped for the weekend that we cram 127 things into a couple days. This just makes us more stressed. So schedule a little down time amongst the fun - head to the pool with a good book for 30-60 minutes (don't forget the sunscreen!) or sit on your porch with your morning coffee. And don't turn on the TV unless there is a show you really want to watch. You don't want to waste the whole weekend!

5. Plan long weekends: This has been my sanity solution this summer (I've been off every Friday in July but one). If you can't afford an entire week away, plan some mini vacays. They are just long enough to recharge your batteries with a change of pace and scenery, but not too long that you'll dread your work email inbox.

6. Become an escape artist: Get your mind out of the work gutter using what psychologists call escapism, which transports the mind through different experiences - think movies, sporting events or an art exhibit. If thoughts of the office start to invade while you're at the game, refocus by directing your attention on the cheering crowd or the refreshing taste of your adult beverage.

7. Get a hobby: Focusing on a task you enjoy will lower your heart rate and blood pressure. It works just like meditation. For optimal effect, keep your sessions brief (20-30 minutes).

8. Stop tension in its tracks: Sometimes the stress can be too much, so the next time you feel overwhelmed try one of these tension buster activities: 1. Tear it up. Tearing paper into small bits provides serious relief; 2. Laugh it up. Even if it's corny, share a joke with a coworker. Laughing boosts good endorphins and reduces stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine (and cortisol is bad stuff); and 3. Just breathe. Try heart focused breathing. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, focus your breath on the center of your chest and imagine your tension leaving your body with each exhalation. A couple minutes of this will help reduce stress hormones in the body and slow your heart rate.

Everyone is stressed, I get that. But realizing what your stressors are and developing ways to combat them can help you live healthier, happier and longer. I'll share more info on stress from my class in upcoming posts. Stay tuned.

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