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 Psychological & Emotional Health

January 2010
10 Ways to Banish Stress
Neerja Bhatnagar
Stress and aggression are problems of people who have fragile emotional support systems - a common occurrence in today's pressure cooker existence. They can cause physical and emotional damage that may impact health negatively. The bad news is that these psychological problems can grow at a rapid pace.
Manifestation of stress, anger and social belligerence include tense muscles, headaches, insomnia, depression and irritability. They may hinder memory and concentration, besides putting people at risk of heart attack and stroke. But the good news is that you can learn to live a stress-free life - by applying the following 10 steps to your life.

There is chatter as the family walks up to the table and seat themselves at their designated places to share their week's adventures.

Pet Stress Buster
Psychologists believe that a pet has a very calming effect on people. In a recent study, researchers at the University of California presented a puppy each to patients with heart disease. Within a month it was found that levels of epinephrine — a hormone generated under stress - of the patients dropped almost 17 percent. Most studies show that companionship of pets reduces stress and keeps you healthier. That's because pets give unconditional love, demanding nothing in return.

Take A Walk
Make it a habit to walk at least 30 minutes a day. There are many health benefits to be gained from walking. Besides helping in preventing a host of physical ailments including obesity and blood pressure, walking lowers stress levels and brings about a feeling of well being. It is the most effective and cheapest way to lower stress levels. It helps you re-connect with yourself and pumps in fresh oxygen in your body, elevating your spirits.

Happy Dreams

A few minutes of meditation at night can guarantee you a sound sleep. Sleep is one of the most important stressbusters. It restores physical and mental balance and recharges body's energy levels. Poets, writers, philosophers and doctors have known that for ages and say that of all the functions of the body, sleep is the most important. A good night's sleep is synonymous with a life of peace and relative bliss. Even William Shakespeare realised that, "poor is the wealthy man who doesn't sleep."

Breath of Life
If you have constraints about adopting a pet, change your lifestyle. You might have come across people who claim that the ancient Hindu practice of yoga can work wonders for the human body by ridding it of depressive energy. Breathing techniques like pranayama and sudarshan kriya establish a positive body-mind relationship. Removal of negative thoughts and tensions leads to a positive physiology. Meditation too must become a part of life. Even 10 minutes of meditation can be a great stress reliever and put you in a positive frame of mind.

Stick to Deadlines
Seven to eight hours rest at night will ensure a productive day. If you are sleep-deprived, chances are you may not be able to complete the job at hand. And this can be one of the biggest causes of stress. Unfinished work results in frustration and tension. It is imperative to set yourself realistic deadlines and then finish the work within the set timeframe. That would not just banish stress but give you an elated feeling of achievement, resulting in a happy frame of mind.

Positive Thoughts
If you have a positive disposition, your mind begins to send good vibes to the body. Medical science has started recognising the effect of vibes on the mind - the key to be content in life. Psychologists suggest that one should always be an optimist and give oneself positive suggestions like, "I will take it one step at a time and make steady progress." That is one great way of keeping frustrations and tensions at bay.

Quality and Quantity
Another vital factor for banishing stress is to have a close-knit family. Do things together, and if you are a working man or woman your Sundays should be sacrosanct. Relax, go shopping, play scrabble and do crossword puzzles together. The idea is to squeeze in as much time as possible for the family. Do not spend just quality time, spend quantity time as well. This will ensure all-round happiness. As the saying goes, "the family that eats together and prays together, stays together."

Kick the Butt
Though lovers of the weed may consider that cigarettes help relieve their tensions and calm them down, the truth is that smoking is closely related to rising levels of stress. There is a sense of relaxation after you have smoked a cigarette, but this is the body's response to the craving for nicotine. Once the effect of a cigarette wears off, the craving starts again and the vicious cycle continues.

The Right Diet
Before you scorn at the tandoori chicken or the antipasto platter, take heart. Indulging in the right foods may actually help relieve stress. In the past two decades, hundreds of studies have confirmed a link between certain foods and our ability to feel calm, de-stressed, and even upbeat after consuming them. A balanced and healthy diet keeps your body well nourished, which in turn keeps you happy, satiated and in a happy state of mind.

Music Heals
Switch off the lights and clip on the headphones for a stress-free life. Music has great healing power and mood stability function. It works wonderfully on people who are prone to stress or those suffering from mental tension. It can accelerate metabolism and regulate respiration, besides producing marked effect on the pulse and blood pressure. Ragas such as Darbari- Kanhara, Khamaj and Pooriya were strongly recommended by ancient vaids for defusing tension of the mind.

So banish that stress any which way you can. Quit thinking about what happened — or what may happen. Concentrate on living the moment. Add fun to your life. Cook a favourite dish. Spend time with the family by going for a movie or a picnic. Pray. Listen to great music. Do anything that captures your fancy.

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