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The art of calm

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Managing stress is an art form. Neglect it at your peril.

Stress is in the eye of the beholder. You may be affected by a new phase of life, added work pressure or even a series of minor setbacks. Indicators that stress is affecting your life include changes in mood such as anxiety, restlessness and lack of motivation; physical symptoms like fatigue, sleep problems and stomach pain; and behaviour changes like over or under eating and emotional outbursts.

If stressors remain too long, overexposure to stress hormones disrupts the body’s ability to function, weakens the immune system and raises blood pressure, says the American Psychological Association (APA).

As with most of life’s biggest challenges, there is no quick-fix. Learning to reduce physi- cal and mental stress can be a process in itself. Luckily, stress reduction comes in many forms.

People often push stress symptoms aside, leaving the body and mind to run until they crash from exhaustion. Recovering could take days or even months. Constant and repetitive stress can also be a major trigger for the onset of mental illness such as anxiety disorders.

To prevent major disruptions from chronic stress, the APA says it is important to manage stress on a daily basis through sensible eating habits, physical activity, sufficient sleep and a sense of humor.

Creating a daily stress relief routine doesn’t take much time and there are many forms to try. The most easily accessible is physical activity. A walk during lunch or a trip to the gym may be all you need to lower your stress level.

Yoga and meditation are among the oldest forms of stress reduction and are also becoming more mainstream. In a busy world, yoga studios provide a safe space and guided practice to focus on the connection between mind, body and breath.

There are many forms of meditation, some based on yoga. Meditation is different for everyone and therefore must be preformed individually, even in a group setting.

Meditation made easy

The key is “mindfulness.” Joseph Goldstein, cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society, explains that mindfulness is the key to the present moment. Without it, we simply stay lost in the wanderings of our minds. The key to meditation is being present by acknowledging our thoughts but not attaching emotion to them.

» Start by sitting, standing or lying in a comfortable position. The Buddha (cross- legged) pose is the go-to position, but it does not work well for everyone. Relax your body and allow your breathing to relax naturally.

» Repeat a word or phrase, either out loud or to yourself. Ensure the phrase you choose does not hold strong meaning to you, or you may spend your time thinking about it.

» Visualize your thoughts passing though your mind like a train. As a thought comes in, it also goes out.

» Focus of your breath going in and out. Let the breath take you into silence.

» Join a class where an instructor can guide you through a meditation practice.

» Set your stove timer and start with five minutes.

More Inspiration: Check out this cool article on how your thoughts control your destiny.


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