Mind & Spirit

Destress, decompress: 5 ways to feel better

Author: Canadian Living

Mind & Spirit

Destress, decompress: 5 ways to feel better

How do you reduce stress? Share you tips and tricks with other readers in the comments section below.

Stress can be brought on by a number of factors. Whether it's facing big changes at work or at home or dealing with day-to-day anxieties, we live in a world where stress has become a part of our quotidian lives. Identifying triggers and avoiding them whenever possible is the first step in battling stress but as the old saying goes, prevention is better than the cure. So, instead of waiting for stress to build up to an unmanageable point, try these ideas that'll help you loosen up and lighten up before it all becomes too much to handle.

1. Acupuncture
Practiced for centuries in China and other Eastern countries, acupuncture is believed to be a positive method of relieving stress and tension. Simply put, the Chinese theory goes like this: good health depends on the robust condition of the body's energy (known as qi -- pronounced "chee"). Qi consists of equal but opposite qualities, known as yin and yang. If these become out of balance (by triggers like stress, grief or trauma), the body responds by becoming ill. Through acupuncture (inserting tiny needles into the body), the body's energy channels become stimulated, causing the body's natural healing processes to kick in. While this treatment is generally thought to be quite safe when performed by a trained professional, there are certain side effects like fatigue, bleeding and bruising, that you should be aware of. Be sure to consult a trusted professional before you begin treatment.

2. Herbal stress-relief supplements
It seems there's a pill for everything these days, but instead of relying on expensive prescription medications to ease your anxiety, give herbal stress-relief supplements a whirl. Valerian is known to relax the nervous system and promote restful sleep. St John's Wort, while most commonly known as an antidepressant, is also touted for its ability to boost the nervous system and build up energy levels. B-complex vitamins are believed to reduce anxiety. (Be sure to consult with your doctor before taking herbal remedies, as they may interfere with the efficacy of prescription medications.)

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3. Get more sleep
A lack of sleep can have a negative overall effect on your ability to get through the day. Fatigue can prevent you from performing at your optimal levels and can hinder your ability to think clearly, concentrate and focus. All of these factors can lead to stress or can increase current stress levels. As much as possible, try to get yourself seven to eight hours of sleep per night. While some studies suggest that fewer than six hours of sleep per night is detrimental to your health, and other studies suggest that more than 10 hours of sleep is not recommended, the key is to follow your own body's signals.

4. Eliminate caffeine
This one can be a toughy! If you're a coffee addict who lives for your morning cup o' joe, eliminating caffeine may be a tricky proposition. But the rewards can be worth the effort. Caffeine (found in tea, cola and chocolate, too!) is a stimulant that might provide an energy kick in the short-term, but can cause long-term tiredness. This decrease in alertness can diminish your ability to deal with stress. Plus, since caffeine is a diuretic causing frequent urination, the body is losing magnesium, a necessary stress-fighting mineral.

5. Make more ME time
OK, this is the fun one. It's not selfish to take time for yourself and far too often, we forget to do this. So make it a priority. Whether it's a half an hour at the end of a busy day or a weekend away, make "me time" a must-do on your endless to-do list. Whether you spend the time quietly reading a book, playing with a pet or catching up with old friends over a quiet dinner, the point is to indulge yourself in relaxing activities that help you unwind. And the best part is that you can't just do it once. You need to make it a habit.

Read our guide to meditation basics for instant stress relief.

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Destress, decompress: 5 ways to feel better

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