Chillax: Four Ways to Relax in the New Year

The holidays can be stressful. Start the new year off to a calmer, more peaceful start.

Fifty percent. Fifty! That’s how much your odds of dying young increase when you’re continuously stressed, according to a study conducted by Oregon State University and published in 2011 in the Journal of Aging Research. If that doesn’t stress you out, I don’t know what will.

As you enter the new year, the stress of Christmas shopping and family gatherings starts to fade and is replaced by the usual day-to-day stresses that many of us face. What will my boss think of my TPS report? How do I stick with my New Year’s dieting resolution? Why hasn’t my girlfriend said “I love you” yet?

This year, take control of your adrenal glands and tell stress to suck it.

How Stress Affects Our Bodies

When you’re stressed, your body pumps itself full of hormones and chemicals. This can lead to a weaker immune system, increased risk of heart disease, and packing on more fat around your abdomen. Love handles? More like “stress handles.” And stress affects everyone, all around the world. For example, the American Institute of Stress calls it America’s #1 health problem, while Statistics Canada reports that approximately six million Canadians label their lives “extremely stressful.”

Four Ways to De-Stress

1. Exercise. Get moving! Exercise boosts your body’s natural stress buffers by increasing the levels of norepinephrine in your brain in the areas of your brain that helps handle and cope with stress. Plus, it also helps you blow off the proverbial steam and release tension in your muscles.

2. Leave work at work. Set boundaries so that external stress factors don’t start creeping into your home. When you’re at work, create “me” time by setting aside 10 to 15 minutes of space every hour or so during which you leave your desk or cubicle. And don’t bring work home with you, nor any of the other negative, external factors that can cloud your life. Home should be a peaceful sanctuary. Defend it like a rabid Greenpeace activist.

3. Try supplements. The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine recommends 5-HTP, a supplement made from the seeds of the Griffonia simplifolia plant, as well as GABA supplements. Of course, talk to your doctor before trying to self-medicate any stress symptoms in your life.

4. Take a deep breath. During stressful situations, your breath often becomes shorter and quicker. This results in mild hyperventilation and a reduction of oxygen in your system, which in turn leads to more stress. Take a deep breath, hold it for a couple seconds, then exhale. Repeat this five or six times. Alternatively, try doing the traditional ardha kurmasana (half tortoise) yoga pose, which brings your head below your heart and helps reduce anxiety and stress. In fact, almost any kind of yoga or meditation has been proven in numerous studies to counter the health effects of stress and anxiety.

By finding liberty from your stress, you have more freedom to pursue the things in life that create positive feelings and emotions in your universe.

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Peter Reese's claim to fame is he once met a bodybuilder in California who had once met Arnold Schwarzenegger. A fitness buff, Peter loves educating people about the importance of exercise. His biggest gym pet peeve: people who walk around locker rooms without a towel.


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