How to manage stress during tough times

July 24, 2008 - 0:0

With news headlines all around us announcing economic changes for the worse, a lot of us are beginning to feel the twist of anxiety. When this stress response comes, the neurochemicals in our brain are thrown off balance.

Sustained periods of stress will affect your brain, leading to chemical imbalance. It will interfere with your memory, focus and concentration making you feel agitated and unable to calm down. It is crucial for brain health and overall peace of mind that you learn to control your anxiety effectively. Read on to learn the ways to quell your anxiety and relax. As always, if you are undergoing serious anxiety, consult a healthcare professional.
-------1. Health in mind, health in body--------- The average person has 60,000 thoughts a day, and nearly 80 percent of them are negative. Imagine what this is doing to your body! This negativity affects your thought patterns and behaviors subconsciously, and this has an unhealthy impact on your body.
Reframe the way you say things to yourself. You can actually change the response to anxiety with repeated affirmations, which will introduce a new positive pattern behavior in your thinking. Instead of being anxious, give empowering messages to yourself: I am strong, I am grateful, I can get through this. Repeat these positive affirmations throughout your day to transform the stress and change your attitude.
-------2. Cut back on stimulants ------
Stress, anxiety, insomnia, and a racing mind are byproducts of taking in too much caffeine, the central nervous system stimulator that works against your attempts to relax the body and calm the mind. To start, try cutting back for just week to see how fewer stimulants affect your overall stress level. Switch to decaf coffee, or better yet, drink herbal tea. Also, cut out sodas and other drinks that are packed with stimulants.
-----------3. Deep breathing calms anxiety ------
If you are in a stressful situation, you may have noticed that you breath very shallowly, up in your throat area. Unfortunately, many adults breathe this way all the time; somewhere along the way, we stopped breathing abdominally, as we did when we were babies. This habitual shallow breathing mimics the bodily actions of stress, which can actually induce your body to feel anxiety.
When you learn to breathe deeply all day - by breathing from your diaphragm - you will reduce general anxiety and gain other proven benefits, such as lowered blood pressure and heart rate. Also, it is estimated that 70 percent of the toxins and wastes in our bodies are eliminated through respiratory breathing. So start deep breathing!
Here's how: Make it part of your every day schedule to practice 20-30 minutes of deep breathing every day, and your body will respond by being relaxed all the time. To learn a method for proper breathing, click here. Also, look into stress-reducing mind-body disciplines such as tai chi, yoga, qigong, and meditation, which all incorporate breathing work into their routines.
------ 4. Herbal help for anxiety ------ Valerian, sometimes called ""nature's tranquilizer, is used to regulate the nervous system and relieve tension, irritability, nervous exhaustion and stress, and anxiety for centuries. As a sedative, valerian is non-addictive and relieves sleeplessness without the morning-after grogginess often associated with prescription sleep medications.
Schisandra berry has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine to revitalize the senses. It increases physical endurance and mental concentration, while at the same time soothing the nerves and taking the edge off anxiety. Take these herbs anytime during the day and before bed in tea or capsule form.
--------5. Try the nutrient GABA ------ A healthy brain needs a balance between neural chemicals that excite the nerves and those that calm the nerves. GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) is the primary neural transmitter for calming the transmission of nerve signals. It can help prevent anxiety-related messages from reaching the brain. Having levels of GABA that are too low can increase anxiety, insomnia, irritability, and depression. My suggestion is to eat a diet rich in GABA including fish, especially mackerel and wheat bran or to take 250-500 milligrams on a daily basis, along with vitamin B6.
---- 6. Get Out of your head by helping others ------- Most of us could sit around all day agonizing in our heads about bad news and working our way into a negative inner dialogue. The way to get out of your own head is by doing something for others. Offer to help someone else and completely focus on his or her needs. Give a friend a hand with moving or planning an event. Volunteer for a charitable cause. It's amazing how taking the focus off yourself can reduce your stress and anxiety.