The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, January 30, 2000

Laying stress on de-stressing
By Anup Deb Nath

THE hectic pace of life most of us lead today means that we are constantly in a rush and are very liable to getting stressed out. Different issues and reasons and effects different people cause stress differently. For one stress could mean an impending exam and nightly studying or it could be the stress of a demanding job as well as a home that requires your time and attention or stress could be due to physical or financial problems.

Exercise can help to alleviate stressNo matter what the reason for stress the ultimate effect that the stress has on a person is similar. Initially, the stress affects the mind but ultimately prolonged anxiety can wear the body down as well. Poor sleep, over eating or drinking more than normal, headaches or other signs like nail-biting or repetitive mannerisms such as pencil tapping are often sure indications of stress affecting a person.

  Undoubtedly, the reason for such anxiety attacks cannot be removed which is one way of overcoming the problem. A job that is high on the stress factor cannot simply be left not until you find another job that pays you as well and is less demanding, neither can physical ailments or financial ailments be simply wished away. Though there may not be a simple cure to remove stress from our lives there certainly are ways to reduce it as well as make its negative effect on our physical and mental well-being reduced.

Exercise has not only great physical benefits but can help alleviate stress as well. Particularly, when exercise is combined with music as in the case of dance aerobics, or step aerobics or even simple dance, this has even greater effect. Music has a cathartic effect and can make you feel more relaxed and put you into a better frame of mind. Exercise releases endorphins which give the "feel good" feeling felt so often after an exercise routine. This effect lasts for a while after the exercise is over and therefore is a great way to overcome any feelings of stress.

Many doctors and specialists feel that mental strength and discipline as well as a conscious effort at relaxation can actually help alleviate mental anxiety to some extent. Anxiety can be tackled on various different levels in an attempt to control it. On the mental level specialists feel that before going to bed you should try to empty your mind of worries. One way that they suggest is to take a paper and pencil and write down all the things that trouble you and go on to lead to a stressful situation. Once you have written them, study them carefully and try to see is there any way you can solve the problem you have written down. If the answer is yes then that in itself should relieve a lot of the tension. If it’s a no then just take the pencil and cut out the worry that you have written down. Often the very act of cutting out the written worry on paper does help lessen its impact on the mind as well.

Mostly the tension that we feel shows up on our physical body and the commonest places that it strikes are shoulders, hands, feet and face. Often the shoulders are held to tense and a few shoulder circle movements can relax them. Flap your hands from the wrists downwards to relax them and try to see that when you are sitting you are not twisting your legs either around each other or the chair legs as this is another good sign of anxiety. A few simple exercises that are recommended to help relieve physical signs of stress are:

Shrug your shoulders and lift them as far up to your ears as possible, one shoulder at a time. Circle forward six times and then backwards six times. Try to do these as slowly and in as complete a movement as possible.

Relax your shoulders and gently move your head in a circle first towards the right and then towards the left. Repeat this three times on each side.

Check your sleeping posture. If you are sleeping with too high or stiff a pillow this could also be contributing to the problem and try to reduce its size. If you tend to bunch up your pillow and sleep either try to sleep without one or then a remedy many swear by is using a Chinese pillow. Earlier these were made of porcelain and were almost a rounded wedge shaped pillow.

A warm bath followed by a relaxing massage is also a great way to beat stress and ensure a good night’s sleep. Not only a body massage but a scalp massage as well is very beneficial in relaxing you. The scalp massage need not be one of oil necessarily but a soothing massage rotating the scalp gently with your fingertips while hanging your head down are often enough.

Hair brushing with a natural bristled brush can also be a simple way to ease some of the stress. Try to drop your head sideways and then brush in long even strokes.

Drinking a hot cup of herbal tea sweetened with honey can also help to relax your mind. Particularly beneficial are the camomile tea and peppermint tea. Even a simple glass of hot water with one tablespoon of honey and the juice of half a lemon when sipped before sleeping is said to relax you and help you sleep better.

Increase your intake of thiamine (vitamin B1) which is found in whole grains, sunflower seeds, chicken fish etc. This vitamin is said to be a stress remover.

Exercise well, eat right and try to keep a positive attitude and you will find that most problems though they may not resolve will certainly not be so troubling and will cease to bother you so much.

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