Health  

How to de-stress all by yourself

PHOTO: DAVINA DIARIES

I really didn’t realize how stressed I was till I almost lost it on a bus driver that hit my car yesterday. I really don’t know where the anger came from. Yes, the incident was based on the driver’s impatience and stupidity, but the damage to my car was minimal and here I was, ready to take out all my frustrations on this guy. Basically, I was stressed. Perhaps I should give you a back-story.

The previous night, my generator stopped working and as usual there was no light. Seeing as I’m as good a mechanic as I am a brain surgeon, I had to sleep with no air-conditioning. I woke up annoyed. Light was restored in the morning, but at such a high voltage that it blew half the equipment in my house, the most painful of which was my laptop charger. The generator guy (we all have a guy) came by and fixed it and off I went in search of a Macbook Pro charger. Three stores later and N18,000 lighter, I was on my way home. While thinking of how I would be burning diesel till the transformer gets fixed, Mr. bus driver struck and I went ballistic.

While my hand was wrapped round his throat, I realized I needed a refresher in stress management and so decided this week to help my fellow Nigerians to de-stress.

Do not under-estimate the damage that stress does to your body, research it and you will see. If your hectic lifestyle has got you down, experts say relaxation techniques can bring you back into balance – some in five minutes or less. Chances are, your ever-growing to-do list doesn’t include one very important task: Relax. Managing stress is key to staying healthy. Think you don’t have time to unwind? Each of these stress-relieving tips can get you from boiling point to Zen in less than 15 minutes.

Meditate
A few minutes of practice per day can help ease anxiety. “Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, a Chicago health and wellness coach.

The process can be simple. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting – out loud or silently – a positive mantra such as “I feel at peace” or “I love myself.” Place one hand on your belly to synch the mantra with your breaths. Let any distracting thoughts float by like clouds.

Breathe deeply
Give yourself a 5-minute break from whatever is bothering you and focus instead on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth. Deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.

Be present
You rush through lunch, hurry to your next appointment, race to finish one more thing on your agenda. Now try something different: Slow down. Take five minutes and focus on only one behaviour with awareness. Notice how the air feels on your face when you’re walking and how your feet feel hitting the ground. Enjoy the texture and taste of each bite of food as you slowly chew. When you spend time in the moment and focus on your senses, you should feel the tension leave your body.

Reach out
A good social support system is one of the most important resources for dealing with stress. Talking to others – preferably face-to-face or at least on the phone – is a great way to better manage whatever is stressing you out.

Tune in to your body
Mentally scan your body to get a sense of how stress affects it each day. Lie on your back or sit with your feet on the floor. Start at your toes and work your way up to your scalp, noticing how your body feels. Simply be aware of places you feel tight or loose without trying to change anything. For 1 to 2 minutes, imagine each deep breath flowing to that body part. Repeat this process as you move your focus up your body, paying close attention to sensations you feel in each body part.

Decompress
Place a warm heat wrap around your neck and shoulders for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and relax your face, neck, upper chest, and back muscles. Remove the wrap and use a tennis ball or foam roller to massage away tension. Place the ball between your back and the wall. Lean into the ball and hold gentle pressure for up to 15 seconds. Then move the ball to another spot and apply pressure.

Laugh out loud
A good belly laugh doesn’t just lighten the load mentally. It lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, while increasing brain chemicals called endorphins that boost your mood. Lighten up by tuning in to your favourite sitcom or video, reading the comics, or chatting with someone who makes you smile.

Continue reading on www.guardian.ng/contributors/maje-ayida

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