Our lives are busier today than ever. We work longer hours and have hectic family lives, too. All of this activity can lead to higher stress levels, and the physical symptoms that accompany such high stress levels.
High levels of stress can lead to headaches, vision troubles, joint stiffness and other physical symptoms. Over time, these symptoms can turn into more significant physical problems. Long term exposure to extreme stress causes serious back and neck problems, psychological problems and even high blood pressure in some people.
In addition, stress causes our bodies to release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol often causes weight gain; meaning that too much stress can often make you fat. There are two important pieces to managing stress in your life.
The first piece to managing stress is reducing it where you can. Take a look at your life and remove the things causing you stress wherever possible. For example, does your high traffic commute cause you to arrive at work already stressed out? Consider public transportation, carpooling, working from home or altering your hours to avoid traffic.
Is your family life too hectic with sports and activities? Consider reducing the number of activities your family participates in. Keep the ones that bring the most pleasure, but allow your family a few nights at home with no activities.
The second part of preventing stress from causing you physical and emotional difficulties is managing the stress you can’t avoid. No matter how hard we try, none of us will be able to completely rid our lives of stress.
So, get rid of stress where you can, but then learn to manage the stress you have left. How you react to stressors in your life is critical, and it is something you can have some control over.
Employing stress reduction techniques on a regular basis can have a powerful influence on your ability to manage stress. Some of the most popular stress reduction techniques include:
Exercise – Not only is exercise good for the body, it’s good for the mind, too. Exercise can relieve physical symptoms of stress like tight muscles and can relieve psychological symptoms, too, since focusing on the physical and rhythmic elements of exercise can often relieve the stress that’s weighing on your mind.
Yoga – Yoga and its relaxing stretches can be a great way to soothe the mind and work out the kinks in the body. Like other forms of exercise, yoga helps free your mind from your stresses and worries, too.
Meditation – Many people swear by their meditation routine. Meditation teaches your mind to “turn off”. Whether your meditation consists of 5 minutes of sitting in a quiet room with your eyes closed or a more complex routine including music and guided meditation, it’s a very successful stress reduction technique. When you teach your brain to “turn off’ for a few minutes, you’ll also find that you’ve taught it to focus more intently when needed. This can be beneficial when you need to concentrate to work out problems.
There are numerous other stress management techniques that work for many people. Pilates, crafts and hobbies, music and dance can all be great ways to relieve stress. The key is making the time to do the things that help you to cope with the stress in your life.
Watch What You Eat and Drink
When you’re under stress, your diet can either help or hurt you. Eating nutritious foods can make you feel better. On the other hand, foods full of sugar and fat can weigh you down, making you feel worse than before. So, eat a healthy diet to stay at your best even when stress is getting you down.
Some studies have suggested that you can benefit from drinking tea when you’re under stress. In particular, a study conducted by the Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Natural Products in China studied the effects of tea on women under stress. Fifty five Chinese women were studied over a period of time while under a regimen of oolong tea. The women’s stressors and physical symptoms of stress were monitored.
The women were divided into three groups. One group received daily doses of oolong tea, one group received barley tea and the third group received water. Barley tea is a very popular beverage in Asia and is made from barley kernels rather than the camellia sinensis plant, where regular tea comes from. Barley tea is considered to be an overall healthy beverage.
During the study, participants received their test beverage twice in the morning and twice in the evening. They were also subjected to work and deadlines designed to cause stress.
The results of the study concluded that the women who consumed tea showed reduced signs of physical stress related symptoms like headaches, stiffness in the neck and back and eye fatigue. Those participants receiving oolong tea showed greater benefit than those receiving barley tea. However, participants receiving barley tea showed greater benefit than the participants receiving water.
In addition to relief in physical symptoms, participants receiving oolong tea also showed a reduction in the amount of cortisol released by the brain.
This study’s conclusions provide powerful help to those of us trying to reduce the stress in our lives. Simply ensuring that we drink tea on a regular basis may help us to cope with the stress in our lives more easily and may help us reduce the physical problems that go along with stress.
We may even be able to decrease the amount of cortisol released by our bodies during stress, avoiding the weight gain that so often accompanies periods of high stress in our lives.
Tea is a delicious and healthy beverage. It has no side effects and is generally well tolerated by everyone. There’s no reason why we can’t all add tea to our diets to help us manage stress more effectively.