Stress? We begin to know it as babies, though resisting it is not impossible. Certainly, the difficulties of everyday life are many and you cannot eliminate them, but we can learn to confront them without giving way to a spiral of frenzy, and, indeed, stress.
The word stress, strictly speaking, simply means the way in which we adapt to external stimuli. Naturally, to adapt to a situation, it is necessary to put some strategies into action and these can be more or less successful. For example, if you are very cold, you can cover yourself or turn up the heating. When a negative stimulus persists, despite all our attempts to resist it, it ends up feeling overwhelming: at this point that state of discomfort that we all know well arises and, if protracted over time, becomes that which scientists call distress, or pathological stress.
To live well it is not necessary to eliminate every source of stress, as, among other things, this is almost impossible, but it is sufficient to put into action a series of strategies able to protect us and to confront difficult situations with the right tools. Here are some counter-measures to put into practice in everyday life.
Give up trying to do everything – Multitasking is a myth and by now this is recognized by science: make a list of your priorities, focusing on the most important, really indispensable things and leave the rest aside. Learn to live without continually running: get into the habit of making a list of things that you should do (in your opinion), then dismiss at least two and include in the list something enjoyable or a moment just for you. Learn to delegate: and if things are not as perfect as if you had done them yourself, notice that the world keeps on turning.
Choose your friends with care – Give priority to meeting with positive people who know how to confront life with a smile on their faces, and escape those who always see the darker side and seek to dismantle your enthusiasm.
Learn to breathe – It seems like nonsense, but your well-being can really depend on this simple action. Learn to breathe using the diaphragm, that is the low part of the thorax. If you cannot manage it, lie down on your bed and relax as if you are going to sleep: you will note that, as every breath starts, your belly rises and your shoulders stay still. This is correct breathing: learn to sustain it throughout the day. In moments of stress, for example in a traffic jam or in a busy city street, puff to expel all the air, then inhale deeply, as if about to yawn. Feel your belly swell and observe your surroundings as if you were outside your body: this is the first stage of meditation.
Indulge in a little sport or a dynamic hobby – Go to the gym or pool, or at least take an evening walk. Stretch your body and move as much as you can. Dedicate yourself to gardening or to another anti-stress hobby, or book a massage or a spa day. All this will help you to create a physical and mental space in which to forget everything and recover energy.
Choose anti-stress food and drinks – Discover the calming power of herbal/fruit tea and herbal medicines. If you prefer, you can also take them in supplement form. As well as chamomile and valerian, try hawthorn, passionflower and griffonia that, as well as regulating sleep, help to combat attacks of emotional eating, typical of stressful moments. Eat healthily, prioritizing fruit and vegetables, and limiting alcohol and smoking as much as possible.
Prevent stress – Ask yourself which situations you consider most stressful and seek to eliminate at least some of them. Faced with an uncomfortable situation, you are not forced to suffer, but can find a solution. If you find yourself trapped in traffic that makes you crazy, leave the car at home and take the bus, at least for some of the way, or join up with a colleague you like, sharing a means of transport: the journey will seem shorter.
Learn to express what you feel – Give yourself the space to free your emotions: it is unhelpful and counter-productive to repress everything, like a pressure-cooker. Although a certain dose of self-control and diplomacy when communicating our thoughts is indispensable, expressing our opinions is vital for our health. It is enough to do so with a little tact and without hurting others.
Learn to say NO – It is unhelpful always to tolerate everything at any cost. Do not blame yourself if you cannot satisfy everyone. (And read back over the first point of this article).
Take a pause and dedicate yourself to an enjoyable and relaxing activity, forget every thought and also have the satisfaction of creating something beautiful and useful: the satisfaction of certain simple activities open to all and that are also very on-trend. Creative hobbies are widespread and practiced with intense satisfaction by an ever-growing number of people. Here are some to try on the basis of your personality.
Are you patient and introspective? Choose coloring. It is a little complicated to define such a simple activity, namely coloring the designs in special albums, available in almost all bookshops, with crayons, pencils or other techniques. As demonstrated in much research, coloring relaxes the mind and stimulates a good mood, so much so that Art Therapy is a recognized discipline for combating anxiety and stress. The only skills necessary are a little precision and patience: coloring liberates the imagination and the sensation of being a child again.
Do you have a practical spirit and love useful things? Try knitting. Work on relaxing and fun projects: this enables you to create a unique and stylish piece, to wear with pride or to give to a loved one. If you do not know where to start, you can take advantage of an online community, for example We Are Knitters, which also offers a complete kit with everything necessary to knit happily. There are also numerous tutorials available on the Web, or else you could go to a knitting bar, where groups of enthusiasts meet periodically to work together, perhaps under the guidance of an expert. Begin with the most simple items, such as a scarf or a small blanket, then you can try your hand at sweaters, jackets and others. A relaxing effect is guaranteed: as demonstrated for example by studies at The University of British Columbia, which showed that knitting helps people affected by digestive disorders, and The University of Cardiff, which showed that the soothing effects of knitting lead to better levels of cognitive function.
Do you like to share? Experiment with creative cooking. It is one thing to make something to eat every day for your family; it is another to make food preparation a really creative act through which to experiment, invent, innovate. You do not need professional equipment or expensive ingredients: a little imagination is enough to invent a new sauce, or create decorated desserts according to cake design guidelines. Also in this case, you will find on the Web a huge variety of video lessons, blogs and specialized sites that demonstrate and explain everything there is to know for achieving good results. And what is great is that, at the end, the results of your work can be put on the table, for a moment of joyful conviviality and collective satisfaction.
If you like to move around, gardening is the hobby for you – you do not need to have a lot of space available: some vases or plants in the living room or on the balcony are enough to create a green corner that can give you much satisfaction. Take advice from shops or nurseries about which species are best adapted to the microclimate of your home and which are most adapted to purify the air, working against domestic pollution. And if you discover that you have green fingers, you can partake of a little vegetable garden on your balcony.
If you like to socialize, discover music. Perhaps you have never thought of it, but singing in a choir can be a source of great enjoyment and considerable well-being. It has been demonstrated by numerous clinical studies that singing, as well as having a positive influence on mood, helps to reduce and normalize blood pressure. If you fear being out of tune, remember that a short introductory course is all you need to learn to control and use your voice. Playing music with other people is an excellent opportunity to make new friends and share passions and interests.
In 2009 I began with a resolution: “Return to running every morning, before going out to work.”
You might be thinking that I was crazy! Yes, I admit it, the first three mornings I did not feel very… normal! 😉 But, within one month, I can say that it was one of the best habits that I could have established. In those 30 days however, I fought with a very powerful enemy: sleep.
To carve out enough time for my morning run, I had to get up at least one hour earlier. It is not a great sacrifice considering the advantages that I gained, but in that month I learned to make the most of the few hours of sleep I had.
Well, here are the five strategies that, for me, are most effective for improving sleep, while sleeping less:
1. Focus on quality, not quantity.
For a long time I thought that if I did not sleep at least eight hours a night, the following day I would be shattered; I like to call this the “Eight hours’ sleep syndrome”.
Improving the quality of my sleep, I realized I actually needed less sleep. I have already told you the five practical tips to sleep better; well, here are three more pieces of advice to improve the quality of your sleep.
2. Follow your grandmother’s advice
Remember when you were a child when your grandmother sent you for a nap after lunch? The society we live in has abolished the healthy habit of an afternoon rest. And yet, various scientific studies have demonstrated that a siesta makes you more productive. Only now is the English-speaking world discovering the power of napping: but our grandmothers understood it 50 years ago!
If you think that dozing off at your office desk is not really… professional, you could take 20 minutes of relaxation on your return home: besides recharging you, a nap of 20 minutes has the power to make your brain believe it has recovered from any fatigue from the previous night.
3. Take it step by step
You cannot suddenly decide to sleep three hours a night: your well-being and your health would be affected. If you spend too much time sleeping and want to reduce it (or you are forced to), you should do so gradually. Try to reduce by 15 minutes at a time. When your body has found its equilibrium, reduce by another 15 minutes. The aim is not to sleep two hours a night: that would be stupid! The purpose is to find your ideal amount of sleep: not too much, not too little.
4. Try this focusing technique
There are focusing techniques that can be used in moments of tiredness. These techniques are able to bring your brain into a state similar to sleep. Here is an example:
“Try to imagine your body is like a calm ocean. Imagine the sensation of peace and tranquility. Visualize immersing yourself into this calm ocean. Try to feel this sensation of total tranquility on your skin, in your muscles and on your body. Imagine losing yourself completely in this ocean of tranquility.”
Driiiiiin!!! Wake up!!! This article is not finished yet.
5. Deceive your mind
I have talked to you in Point 1 about the “Eight hours’ sleep syndrome”. Well… there is a trick to overcome it. A little before you lie down, try to think that you will sleep for 24 hours. As soon as you wake, no matter how long you have slept, repeat the same thing, by thinking that you have slept for 24 hours.
Does this trick seem… stupid? Well, try it; it costs nothing. Our beliefs can have extraordinary power. If our minds are truly convinced of having had 24 hours’ sleep, tiredness and anxiety connected to too little sleep, simply… vanish.
How many hours do you sleep each night? Is it enough or would you like to improve the quality of your sleep? If you have not been sleeping and have read this article until the end… leave me a comment. Thank you.
Everyone has experienced seeing the bed as a place of torture rather than a place where to rest. It’s one of the most frustrating experiences you can have.
You keep turning but with lo luck, you don’t check the time but you are aware that you have only a few hours left before you have to get up. Sleep gives way to anger and automatically you start thinking on how you feel the next day…. headache, no energy, lack of strength and motivation and so on.
Improving you sleep means also improving your day. Do you ever find difficulty falling asleep, angrily turning over, constantly checking the time and knowing that tomorrow you’ll wake up be a zombie?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the lining of the smaller joints, such as fingers and toes. As time passes it can also affect the knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders, and in the long run can cause erosion of the bone and joint deformities.