How to Relax Your Mind to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

High-anxiety situations create racing thoughts that stick with you for hours or even days. If you don’t know how to relax your mind, your worries can make it difficult to enjoy what’s around you.

When you’re stressed out, you never really enjoy the present moment. Not to mention the physical harm that comes from stress — increased blood pressure, intense muscle tension and erratic heart rates. A chronically stressed out mind is not good for your overall wellbeing.

That’s why learning how to relax your mind is essential to stress reduction. Read more

How to Relieve Stress in 10 Ways

Walking into an average office, it’s easy to pinpoint a handful of people who are unwell. When so many are juggling a hectic job, family life and bills, it’s easy for people to struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Many of us wonder how to relieve stress but feel too overwhelmed to start.

Up to a certain point, stress is something that challenges us and helps us grow. However, stress levels build over time to the point when stress makes us chronically unhappy and physically sick. Too much stress leaves no room for your body and mind to rejuvenate, leading to wear and tear. Read more

How Does Exercise Reduce Stress? (And How to Use It To Your Advantage)

Think about the last time you were stressed – did you exercise that day? We are betting that the answer is “no”. It probably didn’t occur to you that exercise would help. While we all know about the physical benefits of exercise, we rarely think about exercising to improve our mental health.

But exercise isn’t just for physical health. It is one of the best things you can do to develop a healthier brain and reduce stress levels. If you feel regularly stressed and aren’t frequently exercising, a bit of physical activity might be just what you need.

Let’s dig into the science behind how physical exercise reduces stress, and then cover a few ways you can start using it to your advantage. Read more

How Sleep Affects Weight Loss

Do you struggle with getting enough sleep? Do you also happen to struggle with losing weight? Well, these two things share a stronger association than you might think, and research continues to suggest that improving one will have a mutually beneficial effect on the other. That’s right, a growing body of evidence is destabilizing our notions of eating less and exercising more as the ultimate key to attaining our desired weight loss, and enlightening us as to what might be the most relaxing weight loss regime we’ve ever embarked on – simply, getting ample sleep.

Astonishingly, 40% of adults report either short term or chronic insomnia, a fact that may also help explain the rise in obesity across the country. We’ll go through the evidence of some of the subtle and more obvious ways that sleep and weight are interconnected, and hopefully convince you that healthy sleeping habits are key to maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. Read more

All The Facts You Need to Know About Stress

Stress is a constant presence in everyday life. At moderate levels, stress can serve as a motivator, but it is not always so innocuous. For people with post traumatic stress, generalized anxiety disorder, and other stress-related disorders, it can be crushing. However, with the right approach, you can mitigate the negative effects of your stress response. Here are some stress facts that may help.

erik cid 224157There is such a thing as good stress.

Despite the bad rap stress tends to get, it isn’t always a bad thing. There are two types of stress: eustress and distress. The type of stress we are most familiar with is distress, which is defined as something unpleasant, causing anxiety or concern.

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How to Use Exercise To Help Reduce Anxiety

Trying to find ways to manage your anxiety can be hard. When you are in the middle of periods of high anxiety, trying to set your fears aside long enough to find something that helps can be as difficult as giving a presentation at school or work. There are many ways to treat anxiety, but sometimes those treatments can have complications.

For some, the side effects of medication makes them think twice about even giving them a try. However, these aren’t the only anxiety treatments available. In fact, many studies show that exercise can be just as effective as medication. Exercise is easier for many people to get into, and has many benefits that will help reduce your overall anxiety levels. Read on to discover some of the downsides of current anxiety treatments, as well as how exercise can help you avoid those downsides.

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How to Identify Stress Before It Hurts

Almost all of us experience stress from time to time. It’s our body’s natural response to a change. However, even though it’s a natural response, stress is often associated in a negative light. In some ways, that association makes sense. When you hear people say “I’m stressed”, it usually means they are dealing with a tough situation and are tense or anxious about it.

Does it deserve the bad rap it gets? What is the real story behind stress?

Let’s take a closer look at stress so we can better understand the effect it has on our physical and mental well-being.

Defining Stress

The term stress used in a biological setting is defined as a mental, physical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.

The term was first coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye. He also discovered and documented that stress is “stressful” whether the situation is positive or negative. In order to distinguish between the two, Selye labeled positive stress as “eustress” and negative stress as “distress”.

Stress may also be defined as your body’s fight or flight system. When you feel threatened, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol. These two hormones are responsible for speeding up your heartbeat and pulse, tensing your muscles, raising your blood pressure, sharpening your senses, and quickening your breath.

Stress gets you ready to fight or flee the threatening situation. So in theory, stress should be good for you because it keeps you on your toes and ready for danger.

When our ancestors could fight against a predator like lions, their stress would be released. But in the office, during tense meetings, we can’t and don’t always let go of that stress. In the modern age, our body’s stress response is regularly triggered even though our life is not directly in danger. This prolonged stress is detrimental to health.

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What Stress Does to Your Body

There are three major hormones involved with stress: epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol.

When you hear, see, or feel a threat, your amygdala is the portion of the brain responsible for responding. The amygdala plays an important role in the processes of decision-making, memory, and emotional reactions. When the amygdala receives the signals, it triggers the hypothalamus.

The hypothalamus controls the production of the stress hormones and releases them when danger is present. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are the key hormones involved in the fight-or-flight response of the body. You may also know them as adrenaline and noradrenaline. They increase blood flow to muscles, cause the pupils to dilate, and increase blood sugar. In the brain, the two hormones work together to increase arousal and alertness.

Cortisol, the third hormone, works at the same time as the epinephrine and norepinephrine by telling the body to access more energy and use it efficiently. It does this by increasing blood sugar, suppressing the immune system, and aiding the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.

With these three hormones working hard, your body should be ready to fight off the danger. But that’s rarely what actually happens. Here’s a look into a few things that happen when these hormones are released.

The Good

When there is danger, these three hormones are the greatest tools your body gives you to fight back. In fact, these hormones can help you surpass the normal limits of your body. That’s what happens when you feel stress without anxiety; it’s one of the best ways stress can be helpful.

Stress can also strengthen the connection between neurons in your brain and improve cognitive function. This study on lab rats showed that “brief stressful events caused the stem cells in their brains to proliferate into new nerve cells” which increased cognitive performance.

In short bursts, stress can be very beneficial. As the blood flows to your muscles and your brain, it can help you solve the problem at hand.

However, your body also needs to be able to come down from its heightened state. When we’re constantly causing our bodies to work extra hard, it can be detrimental to our health.

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The Bad

Yes, stress can make us productive and focused up to a point. According to the Yerkes-Dodson law, performance increases with physiological or mental arousal but only up to a certain point; after that point performance drops.

On top of decreasing productivity, stress also affects physical health.

Your body is getting ready to escape danger so muscles are tensing for a fight. When we’re feeling stressed all the time, there will be times where we don’t get to release the tension. With prolonged stress, neck and shoulder pain become prevalent and persistent.

Stress can also increase your chances of getting sick. Cortisol suppresses the immune system, telling the body that that energy needs to be used somewhere else. When you’re constantly stressed, your immune system isn’t getting the support it needs, making it easier to get sick and harder to get better.

Besides the common cold, stress has been linked to cardiovascular disease, certain skin diseases, and an increased risk of stroke.

Chronic stress can even affect your genes. In this study, researchers found that the overexposure to stress changed the way genes were activated in the immune cells and created an increased expression of genes that lead to inflammation, which can raise the risk for serious health conditions.

On top of the physiological effects of stress, your mood and behavior are also impacted. Stress influences eating behavior and appetite – whether it’s to eat less or overeat. Stress negatively affects your sleep, causing you to lose sleep which can cause a lot of other health problems. Plus, stress causes tensions in relationships – whether at work or at home. It’s easy to become emotional when you feel anxious.

When you’re constantly stressed out, you’re not living life to its full potential.

How to Manage Stress

It’s ok to feel stressed every so often, but it shouldn’t be detrimental to your physical and mental well-being. It’s important to manage your stress so that you can use it when you need to be focused and let go of it when it’s not important.

If you want to act proactively to stop stress, Spire is a great tool to help. It tracks your breath, noticing when your breath changes, and will give you a gentle notification when it senses that you might be stressed. After receiving the notification, you’ll get tips on how to decrease your stress levels by using your breath.

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Meditation is a great tool for managing stress and anxiety too. Just a few minutes before your day begins can give you the resilience and peace of mind you need to tackle tough tasks. Give it a try with these meditation techniques or follow along with renowned meditation guru Deepak Chopra here.

Practicing mindfulness is another great method for manage stress. Mindfulness is a gentle way to bring your mind back into the present moment, instead of worrying about future or past events. Mindfulness-based stress reduction has been proven to be particularly powerful in reducing stress and anxiety. Try a few exercises and meditations for mindfulness-based stress reduction here.

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Exercise is not only good for your overall health, but can be used as a way to reduce stress. Think of exercise as mindfulness in motion.

Lastly, if you’re feeling tense and anxious, laugh. Laughter is an easy way to release stress-busting endorphins quickly. A deep belly laugh can help you relax, decrease stress hormones, and increase creativity. So find a funny movie, read a humorous book, or tell silly stories with friends.

Stress is a part of life, but it shouldn’t consume all of your life. We will all run into stress eventually, so it’s important to deal with it in a healthy way. Let stress help you when you need it but make sure to let it go when it’s not necessary.

4 Tips for a Healthier Holiday

Let’s face it, the holidays are not an easy time of year for those of us trying to keep our health goals in check! In fact, most of us give it up entirely from Thanksgiving through the New Year and then set resolutions that are hard to stick with and prone to fail.

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