“The mind can go either direction under stress – toward positive or toward negative: on or off. Think of it as a spectrum whose extremes are unconsciousness at the negative end and hyperconsciousness at the positive end. The way the mind will lean under stress is strongly influenced by training.” – Frank Herbert, “Dune”
Stress levels in America – and in many places around the world – are at or near an all-time high. Financial worries, excessive work hours, family responsibilities, health problems – all have contributed to the current stress epidemic.
Want to know the pervasiveness of stress? Google “stress epidemic” and brace yourself. Read some of the material – it’s absolutely horrendous how stress has infiltrated and entrenched our everyday lives.
It’s also troubling how– individually and collectively – we’ve have allowed stress to penetrate our culture. Here’s an eye-opening fact:
According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. And more than 75 percent of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
Reverting to the introductory quote by Mr. Frank Herbert, it is essential that we train ourselves to counteract the effects of stress – and there are numerous ways to do just that. We must take back control; not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
In this article, we focus on five simple, unique and effective ways to reduce stress. We hope that these methods prove useful and beneficial to your health.
Here are 5 things to do when you’re overstressed (that really work):
1. Eat some oatmeal
Oatmeal not only tastes good, it’s a wonderful antidote to stress. Oatmeal has been shown to “reduce levels of stress hormones” and release “feel good” chemicals in the brain.
Oatmeal contains an abundance of tryptophan – an important amino acid and the building block for the neurochemical serotonin. In order for the brain to produce this “feel good” chemical, a sufficient level of tryptophan must be available.
Oatmeal contains some other important elements, as well. Magnesium, a natural relaxant, and prebiotics, which help manage stress levels and aids sleep, are both plentiful in oatmeal.
2. Drink some O.J.
According to an article published in the American Chemical Society:
“Large doses of vitamin C can prevent illness by alleviating the body’s normal response to stress, according to scientists at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.”
The study measured the effects of Vitamin C on the adrenal glands under stressful conditions. The adrenal gland “reacts to stress by releasing corticoids, such as corticosterone and cortisol. These and other hormones trigger the ‘fight or flight’ reaction that allows us to strong into action when in danger.”
Researchers observed that rats that were fed large amounts of vitamin C showed reduced levels of stress hormones in the blood; along with reduction of other “typical” physical and emotional stress indicators.
3. Get a coloring book
Adult coloring books are, well, coloring books with more intricately designed patterns and images. For the uninformed (including this writer), turns out that adult coloring books are selling like hotcakes; including on Amazon, where some related products have outsold many well-received books.
Jane P. Ehrman, M.Ed., and board-certified Clinical Hypnotherapist: “When you’re coloring, all you have to do is stay in the moment,” she states simply, “It gets you out of your head. That’s what’s so great about it.”
There are plenty of related products on the market, as well as free downloadable patterns and images.
Speaking of patterns and images…
4. Look at patterns in nature
Patterns found in nature, including shells, snowflakes, water currents, etc., can be a natural way to calm the brain. Patterns that repeat in an identical or comparable way are known as “fractals.”
In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers showed participants various fractal objects or images, concluding that fractal patterns stimulate “positive perceptual and physiological responses.”
In other words, the brain “appreciates” the aesthetic presentation of intricate patterns. Get out into nature, blow some bubbles, or search for “fractal images” online – and just relax.
5. Practice guided imagery
Guided imagery is “a visualization technique that helps you relax by imagining a calm place, or doing a mental rehearsal of a stressful situation.”
Athletes have been known to use this practice prior to a performance, and to excellent effect. (Michael Jordan, perhaps the best basketball player of all time, was an avid guided imagery practitioner.)
In a 2015 study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, patients who listened to a guided imagery CD for 18 minutes prior to undergoing surgery demonstrated significantly lower anxiety levels than the control group.
Practicing guided imagery is a relatively simple process. “Sit in a comfortable spot, close your eyes, and take three of four deep breaths. Imagine yourself in nature, or walking on a path.” Some practitioners listen to gentle music or nature sounds to aid this practice of mindfulness.