Tips Help You Through Tumultuous Times, Stressful Holidays

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Equinox is well aware that these days, stress has become a four letter word, add to that stressful holidays and it's quite possible that all of this could be making us sick. Research has shown that stress may play a part in 50-80% of all diseases and may be responsible for up to 90% of doctor's visits. And since health insurance is sky-rocketing, here's a guide to stamp out stress (and the problems it can cause) before it starts.

Liberate Your Thoughts - The mind, as they say, is a terrible thing to waste. But unfortunately, most of us use our brain to dwell on the past or to worry about the future and many studies show that this agonizing causes untold anxieties. A better bet? Using our noodles to focus on the "now" and what needs to be done to achieve our goals at hand. Accentuating the positive is another way to stay cool. Studies show that optimists have a greater sense of well-being than pessimists. To curb negativity, make mental lists of the things/people/situations for which you are grateful anytime you find yourself grumbling. The more you remind yourself about the good things in life, the easier it will be to have an uplifting outlook.

Just Say No - Most of us don't excel at refusing requests and if we do, we feel guilty. But being a "yes person" usually means taking on more than can be accomplished--a surefire stress inducer. To avoid biting off more than you can chew, Geralynn Coopersmith, Senior Manager of The Equinox Fitness Training Institute, suggests telling the person asking for the "favor" that you'll get back to them. Then take as long as you need to decide if you realistically have the time and energy to grant their wish.

Get Organized - Can't find your keys? Forgot what groceries you need when you're in the store? To nip these irritating events in the bud, Coopersmith recommends taking a few minutes to put everything in "its place" and to organize your day. "It helps calm the chaos of every day life," she notes.

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Work Your Body - Exercise, be it cardio or weight training, improves circulation--bringing additional nutrients and oxygen to the brain, which will help you have a clearer head. Plus, it boosts the body's levels of endorphins and dopamine, the pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter. Meanwhile, evidence suggests that fit people can handle pressure better than couch potatoes. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous activity most days.

Catch Your ZZZZS - Not getting enough sleep can cause you to produce excess amounts of the stress hormone cortisol and can also mar your judgment. "Studies have shown that sleep deprivation impairs cognition in much the same way as alcohol," Coopersmith says. Most adults need 7-8 hours to function at optimum levels.

Free Your Spirit - Studies show that people who meditate regularly have more activity in their left frontal cortex and less activity in their amygdala - both of which are associated with more serene emotional states--than people who don't. To try it at home, Heather Lilleston, an instructor at New York City's Pure Yoga, suggest finding a comfortable seated position with your spine perpendicular to the floor and setting a timer for 15 minutes or more. Focus on taking slow, deep breaths--visualizing each one-- until the alarm goes off.

Watch Your Drinking - Limiting Starbucks runs is another surefire way to prevent agitation. Caffeine can not only make you jittery but also causes both blood sugar and insulin fluctuations. It can also make you dehydrated, which can create an electrolyte imbalance and cause your body to produce more adrenaline, both of which can make you irritable and anxious, notes New York City medical doctor Jeffery Morrison, MD, who specializes in nutrition. Keeping happy hour to a maximum of 60 minutes on special occasions is also key. Alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to spike then plummet and disrupt sleep. Plus, some research suggests that it ups stress by increasing the release of stress hormones from the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands.

Eat To Win - All the sugar packed-foods that give an instant boost are also the ones that cause dramatic shifts in blood sugar levels. Instead of reaching for a candy bar, Morrison suggests eating foods that keep your blood sugar levelsbalanced such as, Irish oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, organic eggs, turkey, chicken and white fish.

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