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Stress Relief Strategies

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Millions of people are looking for a magic supplement and herb combination that will increase their health and vitality. People are ingesting Coenzyme Q, pycnogenol, magnesium, Vitamin C, Gingko, Echinacea and thousands of other products and combinations. In many cases, these supplements give a slight energy and health boost. In some cases, the body needs both healthy foods and supplements to help recover from an illness. However, for most people, much of the increased need for nutrients is due in a significant part to a high level of daily physical and/or psychological stress.

Taking steps to relax and body and mind (in addition to getting adequate sleep) can be enormously healing and is highly recommended for those interested in healing acute or serious chronic illnesses or preventing future illnesses. Relaxation techniques can add enormous power to other holistic healing techniques. I hope that you take the time to make gradual changes which will allow deep relaxation and the healing and vitality that comes with it to become an increasing part of your life.

Some Common Signs and Symptoms of Excess Stress

  • Regularly walking, eating or working in a rushed way.
  • Regularly thinking and worrying about the past or future.
  • Frequent tension in the body (esp. neck, face, shoulders, back and chest, and stomach) which often goes unnoticed until one slows down, breaths deep and carefully surveys the body.
  • Feeling of the "weight of the world" on your shoulders.
  • Emotionally "on edge."
  • Regular tiredness during the day.
  • Significant need for outside stimulation to feel good (coffee, sweeteners, food, sex, TV, alcohol, money, accomplishments, etc.)

The Goal

Occasional challenges, both physical and psychological, are not unhealthy for most people. Occasional challenging projects, arguments, difficulties with children, difficulties at work/school, etc. are a normal part of life. These types of stresses are normal and can actually be strengthening. The goal is not necessarily to avoid all stressful events, but to develop the ability to relax during day-to-day activities and during challenging occurences (such as those mentioned above). Persons who are recovering from an illness should attempt to keep challenging situations to a minimum but not necessarily avoid them totally unless they are extremely weak.

Strategies For Stress Relief

As part of the process of curing an illness, promoting health & vitality and preventing illness and premature aging, it is important to gradually move towards a daily life that less stressful.

    Some Strategies to Avoid

  • Attempting to make everything in life stress-free.
  • Focusing on every event and constantly reminding yourself to relax.
  • Regularly avoiding the feeling of emotions (e.g., sadness, anger, joy, fear, etc.).
  • There are a number of other things which will not work in the long run when used by themselves only -- long vacations, execise, etc.
The type of strategy which tends to work is the combination of gradually and gently trying to change one's habits plus regular practices or situations which help put the body in a relaxed state. Both types of strategies are important in promoting stress reduction.

Regular Practices and Situations to Promote Stress Relief

Note: The positive effects of these techniques vary from person to person.

Examples of Powerful and Healing Regular Practices

Taking a class and going to regular group practices can be crucial in promoting a regular practice. Some people have moved into teaching centers in order to be certain they will have a regular practice and promote healing and transformation.

  • Yoga -- This is a wonderful practice for stress reduction and profound healing. I highly recommend printing out the Yoga Chapter, reading it and then taking regular classes.

  • Meditation

    • Holistic Healing Retreat

    • Vacation

    • Massage (Some people practice regularly by exchanging with a partner.)

    Daily Stress Reduction Tips

    Note: As mentioned earlier, there will naturally be times when these tips are not used, but try to gradually incorporate them into your life where possible.

    1. Add something beautiful to your life on a daily basis (e.g., flowers).

    2. Do some enjoyable activities whenever possible.

    3. Walk, work, and eat at a relaxed pace.

    4. Take a short break after meals to relax.

    5. If possible, go outside at least once per day and notice the simple things such as the weather, scenery, etc.

    6. During the day, whenever you remember, notice and tension in your body (jaw, neck, diaphram, shoulders, etc.). Breath deeply and gently stretch and relax any tense areas.

    7. If you notice your mind racing or worrying about the past or future, take a minute to breath deeply and gently focus on something in the moment such as your breath, scenery, birds.

    8. Take breaks during the workday to relax.

    9. Wear comfortable and loose clothing when possible. Take off your shoes when you can.

    10. Avoid holding in feelings day after day, but instead, find a safe place to feel, express and embrace them.
    Please be gentle with yourself. Some people find themselves falling back into excessively stressful habits from time to time. That is perfectly normal. Simply notice that change in a non-judgemental way and move back to the stress reduction practices and tips that promote a healthy way of life.

    Stress Relief Ideas in Specific Situations

    On many ocassions there are situations that come up which can cause significant amounts of stress. Listed below are a few such situations along with some ideas that I have found useful in addressing the situation. As in all of the idea listings on the Holistic Healing Web Page, please do not try to do everything at once.

    • Financial Difficulties

      Financial difficulties can be enormously stressful for some people because our goals and our security is wrapped up in the need to have sufficient finances. Such difficulties often don't magically disappear, but there are some steps that can be taken to reduce or eliminate the stress and worry while working one's way through these difficulties. A few suggestions include:

      • Share -- Tell at least one close friend, family member or religious leader (e.g., minister, rabbi) about your difficulties. Keeping the difficulties secret will often add stress and eventually cause inner turmoil. Some people find support groups such as those formed to work with the above-mentioned book or those seen with Debtors Anonymous (see below) to be very helpful.

      • Faith -- Persons who have a regular Meditation Practice or Spiritual Practice often develop enormous faith that difficulties can be worked through successfully. The potential stress can be reduced many-fold through these types of practices. While it doesn't directly effect the financial situation, these practices can improve health, reduce stress, make it easier to see worthwhile opportunities and make it easier to change habits that may, in some cases, contribute to financial difficulties.

      • Acceptance -- While it may seem strange, having a loving acceptance of oneself in the current situation is often an important key to making a permanent change in the situation. This goes hand-in-hand with having a strong faith. If you look at people who successfully turn their lives around, you will usually notice both a loving acceptance of who they are as well as a strong faith. The opposite end of the sprectrum are the unfortunate souls who have lost their faith and their self-esteem (or never had it).

        Persons who have low self-esteem, having difficulty making simple changes or who have lost their faith may want to temporarily set aside working the steps in "Your Money or Your Life" and focus on choosing one inner transformational tool that addresses the situation. Some such tools are:

        • Meditation Practice
        • Spiritual Practice or Practical Spiritual Program such as Debtors Anonymous discussed below.
        • Affirmation Program such as found in the excellent book, "I Deserve Love."

      • Special -- Persons who have significant debt and/or habits of overspending may want to consider working the program detailed by Debtors Anonymous. Internet resources for the excellent program can be found on the Debtors Anonymous Information page.

        Persons suffering from psychological illnesses which are contributing in some way to the financial difficulties can, if possible, have these health problems treated by a Holistic Healthcare Professional such as an Oriental Medical Doctor, Naturopath, Homeopath, Holistic MD or an experienced Medical Herbalist. Psychological therapy may be warrented as well. See the Directory of Practitioners Web Page to find a practitioner in your area.

    • Tasks and Time Constraints

      There are situations where there is constant time and work pressure and which adds significant stress to one's life. Sometimes these situations are not easily avoidable. In order to start a medical training program with friends (who had planned to start at a specific date), I chose to continue to work full-time, take prerequisite classes nearly full-time and to continue to serve as the webmaster for the Holistic Healing Web Page. In order to come out of situations like these with one's health, it is helpful to consider a few ideas which I have related below.

      • Small Tasks -- Spliting projects and assignments into small pieces and doing a small amount of work on a regular basis on these projects is perhaps one of the very best ways to prevent becoming overwhelmed with work.

      • Priorities -- Choosing appropriate priorities for tasks is an important way to avoid stress. Is it better to performs A+ (4.0 grade) in school and study all of the time or to get a B average and spend the extra time having fun, exercising, etc.? Is it better to work overtime completing projects to earn extra money or job prestige and not see your family much or to somehow avoid overtime work and spend alot of time with your family? These are the types of decisions which are important and can have a significant effect on stress levels. The decisions should be made while keeping in mind what it important in life. In my case mentioned above, I chose to work extra hard for a year in order to start a medical program with my friends. But if such a decision would cause extreme stress that would lead to health problems, I would not have decided to work so hard.

      • Stress Reduction Practices -- Continuing a regular practice of stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation can help one get through busy times with one's sanity. It can be many times easier to develop a regular practice by going to a class. Most people can spare at least 15-30 minutes per day to perform a short routine.

    • "I Hate My Job" Syndrome

      Job stress can be one of the biggest sources of stress for many people. In many cases, people feel hopeless when thinking about solving serious problems on the job, dissatisfaction with the job, or making career choices. In fact, a large percentage of the people I have met have had this situation at one time in their life. It can be difficult to heal a chronic illness if you are experiencing a large amount of stress on the job. In addition, chronic illnesses may become more likely if the excessive on-the-job stress is not addressed. Below are a few ideas which may prove helpful.

      • Program -- The first four ideas suggested for Financial Difficulties above are highly recommended in this situation.

      • Improving the Job -- A couple of excellent resources for making the very best of a difficult situation are 1) the book, "The Corporate Mystic: A Guidebook for Visionaries With Their Feet on the Ground" by Gay Hendricks & Kate Ludeman the article entitled, "The Spirit of 9 to 5" in the December 1997 issue (#137) of Yoga Journal. It only takes a minor effort to obtain these excellent resources and I highly recommend them.

      • Personnel Office -- The Personnel Office in most companies is responsible for helping resolve conflicts with other employees and for resolving and problems you are having with job responsibilities. If discussing the situation with your boss does not resolve the situation or if you do not feel comfortable discussing the situation with your boss, please consider whether the Personnel Office in your company can help find solutions for the problem.

      • Exploration -- Pursuing creative expression in various ways can be helpful in finding goals that may one day become a career. While it may not seem possible upon initial evaluation, many exciting hobbies can eventually become careers. Therefore, it can be helpful to take classes and explore various endeavors while paying attention to what excites you as a possible hobby or career.

    Questions & Answers

      Difficulty Making Changes

      I am having difficulty keeping a regular practice of yoga/meditation as well as eliminating habits that cause stress. I keep falling back into the same old patterns of stressful living and not taking care of myself. Do you have any ideas?

      Having difficulty making changes can have a number of possible causes. Below are a few suggestions to consider:

      • Class -- Taking a class can make an enormous difference in one's ability to keep a yoga or meditation practice going. I know some practitioners who give classes because it is easier for them to keep up a practice by doing so. Try to find a class near your home if possible.

      • Friends & Family -- It can be much easier to make changes and sustain those changes you get regular support and love from close friends and family.

      • Positive Influences -- Spend time around positive, cheerful people whenever possible. There's little that can drag a person down more easily than a lack of positive attitudes in one's life or excessive exposure to negative attitudes. Some people move to yoga or meditation centers or take retreats regularly at such centers in order to learn and to be around people who are positive and taking care of themselves.

      • Programs -- Two different and very simple programs that people have found helpful are described in the following books. I would suggest only doing one program at a time.
        1. I Deserve Love" by Sondra Ray
        2. Primary Domino Thinking: Creating the Life You Want by Anthony S. Dallmann-Jones

      • Meditation -- Inner Transformation techniques such as meditation has proven extremely helpful for many people in making changes.

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