On Monday my blog explained how Chronic Stress hurts your body.
And the good news? How you actually perceive stress, rather than the actual cause of stress, is what leads to harm. Kind of like a light bulb. You can turn it on. You can turn it off. And it all just involves the power of your mind.
If you can find ways to inoculate your body against overreacting to perceived stressors, you will halt the flow of inflammatory chemicals and stop the unnatural damage to your cells’ telomeres. One famous study found that people who practiced transcendental meditation for 16 weeks had significantly improved blood pressure, insulin resistance, and heart rate readings when exposed to stress compared to those who didn’t meditate.
This all becomes even more important as you age, since studies find that your body’s reaction to stress increase with age.
Here are five things you can do today to safeguard yourself against the aging effects of stress and changing your conscious perception of the stress you encounter.
Just choose no.
There’s an old expression: “Don’t take the bait.” It means that when given the opportunity to get angry or stressed, choose not to. Make this your mantra. The next time someone does something that would normally anger you or increase your stress, choose not to react that way. Smile, let the hostile emotions pass right by, and deal with things calmly. Over time, you can teach yourself an amazing amount of healthy self-restraint, even in the face of constant pressure. Not only will you improve your health, but you’ll also be in a better mind-set to successfully deal with the underlying issue.
Anytime – and I mean anytime – you can feel your heart rate rising due to stress or anger, excuse yourself from the situation and do what it takes to recover. Breathe deeply, think positive thoughts, go outside, have some cold water, force yourself to smile, and remind yourself that you are in control. Re-enter the situation only when you know that you can handle it calmly and positively. You’ll not only help your health but also prevent challenging situations form deteriorating further.
The skillful use of attention is noticing the things that come up in our mind or environment that compel our attention or that our attention gets stuck on. One you notice where your attention sticks, you can begin to redirect it to an object, or thought of your choosing. For instance, you might choose to redirect your thoughts about a big car bill to the day you spent last year fishing with your son. Experts find that people who do this every day for about 30 minutes, not only do their stress levels go down, but their sense of feeling overwhelmed drops, while their sense of being able to cope increases.
You can learn this form of mindfulness meditation through classes, tapes, or books.
Turn on the Beethoven
People who feel stressed are more likely to listen to music than they are to do anything else, including eating, crying, or sleeping. Who can blame them? Numerous studies find that listening to music during stressful situations, including surgery, reduces stress hormones.
Make yourself laugh
Really. Start by smiling. Then say “Ha, Ha,Ha.” Then think about how ridiculous you look and get out a real laugh. Laughter helps shut down your body’s stress response, cutting off the release of harmful stress hormones. When researchers compared people who received an hour of quiet time to those who had a hour of humor and laughter, they found that the laughter group showed significant drops in blood levels of several key stress hormones, while the group sitting quietly had no change.
Some great ideas for helping you perceive your stress in a more healthy way. Stay tuned for my blog on Friday where I give you Nine more ideas on how to change how you perceive stress.
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