Spring has blossomed in all her exuberance, bringing the reminder of youth, and the promise of new beginnings. Spring is the time of transformation and growth; the time to renew your energy and change your life. These top tips for Spring wellness will launch your momentum to rise to your fullest Summer potential.
As the days warm and lengthen in Spring you start to feel lighter, in body, emotions, mind and spirit.
These unexpected practices will help you feel your best and at the peak of Spring wellness.
Top Spring Wellness Tips…
Get outside. Play, socialise and have fun, just as a child would.
The sun is up earlier and staying around later. Join him and get outside to watch the dawn. Even if you wake grumpy give yourself the opportunity to get out, feel the earth under your feet and soak in all the rebalancing benefits of grounding as you connect with the Earth.
Instead of letting restlessness irritate you in spring use it to kick-start your exercise program.
Spring is a great time to overhaul – or begin – your exercise routine. Walk, join a dance class, try yoga, qi gong or tai chi, even join a hiking group or cricket team.
Honour your body by not overdoing it, and remember to keep hydrated or you’ll become fatigued very quickly.
As we move out of winter’s chill we need to change our diet. The heavy, salty foods of winter put a big strain on your liver, which is sensitive during spring. Your liver is the main detoxifier in your body so it needs some TLC during spring. Cut back on alcohol, fats, oil and particularly junk food.
Bitter foods cleanse the liver and are essential to good health. Some bitter foods are dandelion greens, radicchio, rapini, endive, kale, rocket, rye, chamomile, unsweetened cocoa, daikon, and even nettles. A salad of mixed leaves can easily include many bitter herbs.
Replace heavy winter foods with light, quickly-cooked ingredients.
With the warmer weather and longer days, Spring is a great time to reconnect with your support network.
Having friends who have your back when the going gets rough, and who really listen to you, is essential for wellness. Having someone you really trust who will hold the space for you to download, discuss, or even rant if you need, helps you stay on top of stress and overwhelm as life gets busier.
Most people don’t get enough sleep. Many have passed the point where they can recognise that they need sleep.
You need between seven and eight hours sleep every night. Binge sleeping on the weekend doesn’t compensate for lost sleep during the week, or the other way around.
If worry is keeping you awake introduce some strategies to reduce the stress.
If your bedroom does not support good sleep use this guide to make changes
Most importantly, don’t sleep with your cell phone anywhere near you, and stop using at least thirty minutes before bedtime.
Spring is the perfect time to set the resolve to manage your stress more effectively.
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation with your health care provider. Do not use this article to diagnose a health condition. Speak to your doctor if you think your condition may be serious or before discontinuing any prescribed medication. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.
December, the end of the year – a time of good will and the ‘Season of Stress’. At this time of the year we are all weighed down with stress – at work, at school, shopping for the Holidays, coping with crowds everywhere we go, financial worries. For almost everyone, everyday stress levels in their everyday life are ramped up right now.
And then there are the parties! With so much going on it’s almost impossible to reach the New Year without crashing in a heap.
There is no point waiting until after the damage is done and the celebrations have finished to try to pick up the pieces. The key is to get on top of the extra stress right now.
Of course, that brings us right back to one of the big the stress triggers – you have no time right now to add anything extra into your busy life.
Fast Simple Strategies To Regain Calm Control
While the stress hormones, adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol, were essential to life in the wild, our bodies have not caught up with our lifestyle. Too much of the hormones designed to save our life in cave-man days surging through our body can have dire consequences on our health now. The constant level of stress we live with keeps them permanently switched on, constantly increasing our stress.
There are many quick and easy ways you can defuse stress in just two to five
minutes. It is simply a case of learning them and then remembering to use them.
Here are ten health hacks that take less than five minutes to get your stress levels down and have you on track to hit the New Year running. Try them all out or just one, but do yourself a favour this holiday season and practice a little self-care.
#1 Sweetly Scent-sual
Far more than just being pleasant aromas, the fragrance of flowers contains volatile plant compounds that can reduce stress as powerfully as certain drugs. Keeping fresh flowers or a plant in your workspace will help, but to get a powerful effect opt for aromatherapy essential oils. Coming in little bottles they can be carried in your bag and quickly sniffed whenever you feel stress levels rising. Lavender is one of the best, and frankincense often the first choice to reduce stress. Rosemary is my favourite to increase clarity and focus, and peppermint is another good choice.
Simply take a long, deep breath from your bottle, or dab on your temples whenever you need it.
Or if you find your stress levels rising when you are out shopping duck into the closest florist and take some good deep calming breaths.
Flower Power can also be accessed through flower essences. These come in small bottles to carry with you, and you simply drop a few drops on your tongue whenever your stress, anxiety or worry levels start to rise.
While many find Bach Rescue Remedy helpful, The Australian Bush Flower combination essence ‘Calm & Clear’ is fantastic for helping you keep your cool. Buy it from you Natural Health practitioner or local health food shop.
#2 Tame Those Racing Thoughts
Sometimes when you are under stress and your mind is always busy, thoughts can go a bit wild, running round and round your head, building up your anxiety and increasing your stress.
When you find this happening simply begin to focus on an object – it can be any object, even just a pen, although I prefer something that is more engaging. You need to really focus on it, concentrate so other thoughts don’t creep in.
Once you are focused start to breathe deeply and slowly, right down deep into your abdomen. If you are not sure about doing this try it out a few times when you are calm to get the hang of the process which you can learn on Mastering The Breath Of Life.
Keep the breathing going for three minutes while you maintain your focus. This is an excellent way to calm your mind and relax you.
You don’t necessarily need to focus and breathe when you feel stressed.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing alone soothes your nervous system and increases your alertness. Once you have mastered this technique it is easy to simply stop and do it. Even just breathing for two minutes can settle you down considerably.
Breathe down into your belly, through your nose, hold for a couple of seconds, then release slowly through your mouth.
#4 Tea Time
How often do you hear someone say in TV shows ‘let’s have a nice cuppa tea’ after some big drama is sorted? Full of antioxidants tea is the perfect way to calm down, especially if you stop rushing around and sit quietly to enjoy it.
Black, green and white tea, all have some calming effect. But if you want the big guns of relaxing teas you can’t go past some of the herbals.
Chamomile is the simplest and is readily available, even in most cafes, so is a good one to fall back on. It is far more effective when it’s brewed up with lavender though and works well in many blends.
Ashwaganda has been used in Ayervedic medicine for thousands of years to treat even severe stress. A great choice while you’re working as it calms your nervous system without sending you off to sleep. As a bonus it induces a sense of wellbeing and clears your mind.
Lemon balm, passionflower, skullcap, valerian, lime blossom and oats are just some of the others that calm and relax.
There are so many herbs already combined into excellent relaxing blends now available that all you need to do is select the combination that you like the most. Try out a few different blends until you discover your favourite.
#5 Talk With A Friend
Whether you vent, speed-talk, shed a few tears, or simply sigh, talking to a good friend who is ready to just listen, can make a huge difference to your stress levels. Research has shown that as well as getting stuff off your chest talking to a friend actually reduces your stress hormones as well as your blood pressure.
Frowning or grimacing, clenching your jaw, or wrinkling your forehead all suppress your immune system and trigger the release of more stress hormones.
Simple smiling boosts your levels of the neurotransmittors serotonin from your thyroid and endorphins from your pituitary gland. These are the ones the one that produce good moods and make you happy. As smiling increases your endorphins it also lowers your levels of cortisol.
The more you stimulate your brain to release these mood boosters by just smiling the more relaxed you feel.
But here’s the amazing thing. You don’t have to feel happy. It’s the simple act of moving the muscles in your face that triggers the action. Putting on a happy face starts the process.
#7 Visualize – Let Out Your Imagination
Your mind is a powerful tool and the gateway to escaping your stress. Remember how good you feel when you are think of your favourite holiday spot? Or perhaps recalling time spent with close family or friends?
Closing your eyes and taking your thoughts inside your minds-eye to your favourite perfect, beautiful scene or happy experience allows you to return to those times when you felt secure, happy and relaxed.
Simply closing your eyes gives you the space to spend a few moments to ground and reduce the stress hormones surging through your body.
Now here’s one many of you will love. Small amounts of dark chocolate really do make you feel better and reduce your stress. Eating dark chocolate increases serotonin and endorphin levels in your brain – the mood enhancers. Plus it lowers your levels of that difficult stress hormone, cortisol.
Just 40 grams of dark chocolate a day for a couple of weeks does the job. And the darker the chocolate, the better. It must be at least 70% cocoa. Sweet, milk chocolate varieties don’t offer the benefits, and don’t even consider white chocolate. But be sure to practice moderation, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.
Not only does meditating calm you in the moment, establishing regular meditation practice changes the way your brain responds to stress.
The image many have of meditation practice is of sitting still for hours with a completely empty mind. But there are many forms of meditation, some still – some active, and some taking just a few minutes.
Have you ever found yourself gazing at something, perhaps a magnificent scene, completely caught up in what you are looking at, your mind a blank? You are in a state of meditation. Anything that totally pulls your focus and allows you to switch off distractions is a meditation.
Sometimes it can happen simply by watching something absorbing, at other times it helps to repeat a simple word or phrase in time with your breath. Words such as relax, I am calm, peace or serenity are all suitable choices. Find one that has the most meaning for you.
Concentrating on your breath is one way to focus and meditate. Zen masters may do this for hours on end but even doing it for just a few minutes has a powerful effect on your whole body – your brain, your nervous system, your emotions, your muscles.
You can even meditate by concentrating on your breathing as you take slow measured steps in time with each breath. LINK??
#10 Meridian Magic
This is a different take on how to relax and calm yourself.
This twenty second exercise is an ancient healing practice that rebalances the energy pathway in the body that affects stress. Realigning this meridian supports your immune system and improves your ability to manage stress and release tension, anxiety and fear.
So simple, quick and effective, you can do it anywhere, and it only takes seconds.
This year, set yourself up to hit the New Year running.
We can’t totally eliminate stress from our life in these times, it surrounds us day and night. But taking simple steps to prevent the effects of that stress building and building in your body until it reaches a level where you crash, just makes plain good sense.
Perhaps even more importantly it gives you back control of your life.
Stress has become such a permanent part of people’s lives that many stressors are now considered a normal part of everyday life, or regarded as a necessary evil of modern life.
The world, and our place in it, has developed at an alarming pace. Although we’re still adapting to the world, it’s at a much, much slower rate. Our bodies and reactions are completely out of synch with our world. Our brains tell us stress is just part of living a modern life, but our bodies tell us the opposite.
Ongoing chronic stress is now considered the number one hurdle to good health.
Stressors can be physical, such as illness or violence, extreme heat or even noisy neighbours. They can be caused by lifestyle practices, such as work stress, alcohol abuse or poor sleep habits. Or the stressors can be emotional, originating in your mind. These can be the most complex and lead to the greatest impact.
Stress can have many widespread effects on the body. Sometimes anxiety develops as a result of ongoing stress. But the effects of even low-grade stress are significant:
Blood pressure increases
Muscles tense up
Breathing rate increases
Heart rate increases
Brain waves slow down
Of course these are all signs of the ‘fight-or-flight’ response kicking into action. This is fine in the short term but detrimental to your health when they are ongoing.
When stress is ongoing it leads to widespread problems through the whole body.
Weight Gain – Stress alters the way fat’s distributed in the body, depositing it around the midriff where it poses the most danger to health.
Faster Ageing – A study from the University of California found chronically stressed mothers aged faster. Another study linked prenatal exposure to the mothers stress to accelerated ageing in the child.
Serious Disease – Stress is known to increase free radicals incidence which leads to the development of serious chronic disease.
While anxiety is often the effect of stress, not everyone who’s stressed is anxious. People who suffer from stress often appear calm. So it’s worth learning to recognize other body cues that occur when you’re stressed. If you learn to notice and recognize the signs in your body you can take steps to reverse them.
Do you recognize or experience any of these signs that you are under stress?
Your neck gets tight and stiff and you develop a tension headache at the base of your skull.
Your shoulders and back tighten.
Your chest wall feels constricted. If you cross your arms to compensate it simply further constricts your breathing.
You get a feeling of a tight ball or knot in your belly.
Your jaw clenches, your forehead tightens, as do your lips.
Your fingers feel tight, your hands clench.
People looking at you can easily see your stress – your shoulders hunch, your head bows, your face is clenched and you may even seem to be wearing a defeated air.
You may even experience some more serious problems which include palpitations, stomach upsets, sleep problems, impotence, reduced sex drive, raised blood pressure or a stroke or heart attack.
Perhaps most importantly, stress has been shown to lead to an increase in free radicals throughout your body. Free radicals lead to inflammation and are now seen as the forerunner of serious chronic and autoimmune diseases such as cancer, SLE lupus, other autoimmune disorders, ageing, cataract, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.
YOUR DE-STRESS TOOL KIT
While it can be virtually impossible to eliminate many ongoing, underlying stresses from your life, adopting some simple techniques to use in times of increased stress can help you feel better in moments. When you take steps to reduce your stress response you also create an immediate effect on the stress hormones released through your body. Having a few tools suitable for crisis control can restore your sense of wellbeing and help you cope in difficult situations.
Being able to reduce stress and anxiety without having to fall back on medications will help build your health in the long term.
Some techniques will work better for you than others and so it is worth searching out those that you find most effective. Try any technique you come across, even the esoteric ones, you can never be certain which will work for you. Allow them all the benefit of the doubt and give them a fair try. It is likely you will need to combine more than one technique, so be on the watch for any improvement and don’t reject anything if it is only partially helpful, it will still be making some difference.
Learn the technique before you are caught in a difficult situation. Memorise it and practice it – you need to be able to use the skills automatically. Most important, don’t give up – stress can make you restless and inclined to not stick it out.
There are many ways to manage the symptoms of stress. Acupressure, massage and diet are some of the better known. Flower essences and homeopathic remedies are excellent and very effective. Herbals are available in many forms. But there are also certain simple techniques and practices that you can do wherever you happen to be, right in the moment you need help.
SIMPLE TECHNIQUES TO USE
Often when your muscles are tense you are not even aware of it. Relaxing is a very basic and simple technique which will not only help you to release the tension, it will also bring you awareness of the state of your muscles.
Sit, stand or lie. Tense up one set of muscles in your leg or arms as tight as you can. (You can even start with just your toe muscles to be more effective). Then let them go so they are quite limp. The contrast between the two states will show you what ‘relaxed’ actually feels like. Concentrate on that feeling as you then tense and relax the other muscle groups in your body – your toes, feet, legs, buttocks, back, abdomen, hands, arms right through to your head. Pay particular attention to your jaw and forehead.
Ninety percent of people breathe inefficiently.
Before you begin, reassure yourself that consciously controlling your breathing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to control anxiety and stressful feelings, and to diminish the effect of stress on your body.
Find somewhere quiet, clear your mind and start breathing deeply into your abdomen. Place your hand on your belly, you should feel it rise and fall. Breathe slowly and don’t raise your shoulders.
If you struggle, breathe as you count backwards from fifty. Breathe in on ‘fifty’, out on forty-nine and so on. Keeping your mind focused on synchronizing your breath with the numbers slows down your breathing and forces you to breathe deeper.
You can read more about the technique of deep breathing, and learn how to make effective breathing a normal, unconscious part of your life here – “Mastering The Breath Of Life”.
Frowning triggers the release of stress hormones and smiling decreases them. In addition, smiling causes the release of endorphins, the chemicals that make you feel ‘oh-so-good’.
Simple but very calming! Do it as slowly and gracefully as you can. There are three co-ordinated actions involved:
Controlling your breath
Raising your hands and arms
Stretching your whole body from toes to fingertips
Stand. Let your arms, wrist and fingers go limp. Bend your knees slightly, entwine your hands loosely and turn your palms upward.
Slowly breathe in. Raise your hands towards your mouth and start to straighten your legs.
Slowly breathe out, turn your palms outward and stretch your body. Slowly exhale totally, reach your arms up, face your palms to the ceiling. Stand on your toes.
Now reverse the action
Repeat at least five times, slowly. Take a few minutes afterwards to relax and do nothing.
Your subconscious is a powerful force. Affirmations tap into your subconscious and are extremely effective if they are worded well and are used routinely. Given the impact and complexity of emotional stresses, affirmations are a useful tool because your subconscious cannot tell the difference between what is real or what is not, it only knows and directs according to what you tell it. If your thoughts are always that you can’t cope or you have no money, that’s what your subconscious believes and will direct accordingly.
The exact words you use form your affirmations are very important and can make or break the effectiveness of the affirmation. It is just as important that they become a regular part of your day and so the way you integrate them into your life needs to be considered.
Keep your statements in the present tense, as if they already exist. “I want to…” or “I can…” or “I will” relate to what you want to achieve and are not as powerful as “I am” or “I (do)” which relate to a state already in existence.
You will find some guidelines to creating and using affirmations here.
It can be useful to consult a practitioner to set up an affirmation technique that really works for you.
If you are a visual person imagining a big screen showing a scene that you find calm can be useful.
Close your eyes and choose an image that reflects how you would like to feel, perhaps an idyllic tropical island or a peaceful waterfall.
Next imagine this image on a big screen in your mind.
Keeping your eyes closed ‘examine’ the image – the long stretch of beach, the ferns beside the water.
When you see it clearly, step inside. See yourself in the scene as if you are really there. Notice what you are wearing, what you can hear, smell. Feel the sand or grass, the breeze in your hair.
Once you feel you are really in the scene, reach for the ‘controls’ of the screen and turn up the volume and picture. As everything around you becomes brighter and louder and your physical feelings more intense, you become calm and relaxed almost immediately, as if you were really there.
Relax, keeping the calm with you.
One of the most common symptoms of stress is a clenched jaw and clenched teeth. Releasing the jaw is a simple technique to release much of the tension of stress.
First become aware of the tension in your jaw. Clench tighter, then release it.
Lightly press your tongue against the roof of your mouth behind your teeth.
Part your lips slightly and feel your jaw relax.
Repeat several times a day.
The Emotional Freedom Technique, or tapping, is SO simple and SO effective. Anyone can teach themselves the basic routine and use it to create all types of changes. It can be very effective for creating calm.
It simply involves a routine of tapping on acupressure points in the body, while saying a set of statements. The process lodges any change in thinking within the subconscious. Changes occur with EFT extremely quickly.
Discover the basics of EFT, watch a demonstration and learn how to do the basic technique yourself right here. If you would like to learn more, many EFT practitioners run free information and demonstration sessions.
If all else fails eating small amounts of DARK chocolate helps calm anxiety. The theobromine in chocolate helps to elevate your mood and the tryptophan in dark chocolate improves your levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences mood and contributes to feelings of wellbeing. Many people with anxiety are known to have low levels of serotonin.
Importantly, remember to try the techniques out when you are feeling ok. Get to know them so you can move straight into doing them whenever you need, without having to think them through. If you struggle to remember what to do it will only add to your stress.
Do you have a technique that you find really helps when you are feeling stressed?
Leave a reply below and tell us about it.
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.
Wilson, P. Instant Calm, Penguin, 1995
Hartley, A. Love The Life You Live, Hart Publishing, 2000