Monday, January 12, 2009

Stop the Stress!

It's been a rough couple weeks, financially. Between overspending during the holidays - and then being forced to fork out several hundred more dollars to fix my dying vehicle - I'm definitely in a bit of a financial hole these days. And that's not the best place to be in this troubled economy. But rather than throwing myself a pity party (and believe me, I'm a fabulous hostess!), I'm trying to look on the bright side and not get overwhelmed by my monetary stress. After all, at least I have a job, right? That's more than some of my friends can say, several of whom have been the victims of recent layoffs.

Also, I just came across this Health Magazine article that provides some valuable tips to dealing with stress. I plan to follow as many of these as possible. Check it out!

1. Headaches
Researchers once blamed tension headaches on tight muscles in the face and neck. But now they think that stress-induced fluctuations in neurotransmitters - like serotonin and endorphins - also activate pain pathways in the brain, leading to headaches. Just 10 minutes a day of mindful relaxation - like deep breathing or meditation - can ease the muscle tension that can trigger a headache. Studies have shown that simple, deep-breathing exercises reduce blood pressure and promote a sense of well-being.

2. Breakouts
A bad day really can go straight to your face: Chronic-stress hormones can increase oil production in skin glands. The result can be blemishes or full-blown acne. The Chinese tradition of drinking hot water with lemon helps detoxify your skin. Also try slowly rubbing a dry loofah up your body, starting from the ankles. This helps blood circulate and is invigorating and calming.

3. Stiff neck
Sometimes that pain in the neck from the office goes home with you in the form of sore, stiff muscles. After tensing up all day, trigger points within the muscles can go into tiny spasms and cause intense neck cramps, integrative-medicine expert. Massage - from hot stones to ischemic-compression therapy, during which trigger points are probed - can help relax tight muscles in your neck or upper back. Or try Kneipp hydrotherapy: Sit in bathwater that’s as cold as you can tolerate, then warm up the water; alternate between cold and hot three to four times while soaking. You can also take a cold shower or splash cold water on sore muscles for 10 to 60 seconds; the dramatic change in temperature may constrict and open blood vessels, removing toxins like lactic acid and improving blood supply and lymph flow. A recent study also showed that cold-water therapy can reduce fibromyalgia pain.

4. Fatigue
If you can’t stop yawning, it’s probably because you’ve spent hours in bed ruminating instead of sleeping. Too many restless nights, and your days will be shot - memory is impaired and you may feel more irritable and moody. If stress is keeping you awake, practice “thought stopping." Picture an actual stop sign every time you start worrying. Progressive muscle-relaxation is another anti-insomnia technique: Beginning at your toes, tighten the muscles in that area, hold for 5 seconds, then release; continue with each muscle group, going up the length of your body. Breathe calmly throughout the exercise.

5. Weight gain
Stress could be causing that upward tick in the numbers on your scale. Some studies suggest that our stressed-out bodies are becoming immune to the continuous secretion of adrenaline. Instead of burning more calories, our hyped-up systems produce more cortisol, a stress hormone that encourages the storage of fat. Add to that the fact that “some women overeat in times of stress." The stress-plus-increased-eating combo is like putting out a welcome mat for fat. Instead of snacking on junk food the next time you’re under pressure, take a good brisk walk. Studies say exercise relieves stress and burns calories. Replacing high-fat snacks with healthier options can help you relax too. Carbohydrate-rich foods like yams increase serotonin in the brain, which promotes good feelings. And whole grains, bananas, avocados, chicken, spinach, and broccoli all contain vitamin B, which can boost your sense of well-being.

6. Bloating
Your body's response to stress may cause it to divert blood away from normal digestive processes in the abdomen to large muscle groups elsewhere. The result? An upset tummy, painful bloating, diarrhea, constipation, even irritable bowel syndrome.
Placing a hot-water bottle on top of your belly may relax the smooth-muscle tissue of the bowel and eliminate pain, distention, or bloating. Eating more foods with plenty of fiber - such as a handful of almonds, peanuts or soy nuts, or a steamed artichoke with vinaigrette dressing - may also help.

And here are a few fiber-rich food recipes, which may hopefully help reduce some of that stress. Hope it helps!

Bean Trio with Citrus Cumin Dressing

Sweet Potato Orange Cups


Anonymous said...

I hear ya! Thanks for the reality check and the good recipes !!! :)

Anonymous said...

Talk about stress...

Don't know about you, but in our office it's GIRL SCOUT COOKIE time and I am grinding my teeth trying to stay away from the order forms!!! I'm determined to be sugar free since I realize it's like nicotine with me - definitely an addiction. But I didn't take into account those delicious Thin Mints.

God help....

Katie said...

Those cookies are hard to resist! I also love the thin mints, but am also a sucker for the tag-alongs and samoas. YUM!