We all know that experiencing a high degree of stress, especially for a prolonged period can be debilitating and even deadly. Scientists have known for some time that conditions such as cancer and heart disease can be induced by living a stressful life. Stress can also affect our mental state resulting in anxiety or a complete mental breakdown. The costs to individuals and to society can be dramatic, so it is important that we learn how to handle it and modify its effect.
It is important once we are over 50 that we start to take better care of our bodies so that we forestall the effects of long-term stress with its accompanying effects on ageing. The image of the person greying quickly, because of ongoing stress, is something that we can all relate to. So how do we cope with periods of sustained tension?
Wait a minute; we all breathe, otherwise, we wouldn’t be alive. However, many people breathe in a way that accentuates stress. Most of us breathe by taking in the air and raising our chest. This “chest” breathing actually reduces the volume of air in the lungs.
A way to really relax and oxygenate the blood is to breathe from the belly. Pushing the belly out lowers the diaphragm when you inhale and expands the lung capacity. Relaxing the breath then pushes out a larger volume of air. Try it by putting your hand on your belly and feel it expand outward as you breathe in through your nose. Hold the breath for a count of three, then push the air out through your mouth. You will feel your body let go.
Meditation involves focusing on your breathing and your body. It is highly effective in stress reduction and is known to reduce some of the symptoms of tension such as high blood pressure and headaches. You can either do it yourself with an app on your phone or tablet or take a class. Either way, it takes a bit of practice to get good at it, but it is definitely a worthwhile way to take the pressure off.
- Change your environment
Often people take holidays as a way to get away from the hectic world of home and work. We can alter our environment without going on vacation. If you live near the ocean or a river, walk or drive there and take in the beauty of your surroundings. It will change your mood.
If you live near a mountainous region, either drive there or park in an area where you have a dramatic view of the landscape. It will change your mindset. Even if you live on a flat plain, there will always be parks that you can visit to alleviate your stressful state.
Exercise is a great tension reducer. You don’t have to be a highly active individual. All you need to do is take a walk, explore the area around where you live, or explore the areas in a different environment.
Why not look at taking some exercise classes, whether they be water aerobics, yoga, or cycling groups. Exercising changes your physiology and the change in body chemistry alters the brain and how you perceive your attitude to your tension. You may in fact come to a realisation of how you can minimise your stressful situation.
- Minimise Coffee Consumption
Caffeine can raise blood pressure, and in some individuals, it will increase the heart rate, while for others, there is a reduction. Some people also suffer from an irregular heartbeat from coffee consumption.
As stress affects the heart, do you really need the added adverse effects on your cardiac system? The idea is to calm your heart and blood pressure.
- Write A List
Make a conscious effort to record all aspects of the source of your stress. If it is money, write down what the money issue is doing to your life. Then put your mind to work and list how each feature can be a benefit to your life. You may find this difficult, but if you can break through and see the perceived benefit of every part of your stressful situation, you will experience a more balanced mental state.
- Get Help
This may appear obvious, but it is surprising how many people hold their stress inside themselves. If you have friends who you trust and can confide in, share what you are feeling. Unloading your feelings can have a cathartic effect.
Ultimately, all else failing, seek professional help. It could be a psychologist, therapist, or even a religious confidant such as a minister or rabbi.