A survey for Mind suggests that one in 11 British workers has been to the GP for stress and anxiety from the financial squeeze.
Stress is unavoidable
Stress is a fact of life so it’s impossible to avoid it. The only answer is to find ways of coping with it better, but it’s easier to start to build up our strength and ability to cope when we’re having a good time. Once everything appears to have gone wrong it’s incredibly difficult to be positive and try something new. See also Are You Stressed?
Experts agree that there are various ways of relieving stress:
- Leading a sociable life and having good friends;
- Having at least one person to confide in;
- Plenty of exercise and time outdoors;
- Healthy eating and avoiding junk foods which actually sap the brain;
- Talking to a counsellor or stress management trainer;
- Having regular massage;
- Not overdoing alcohol intake;
- Relaxation techniques and meditation;
- Yoga and t’ai chi relax the mind.
Learning to relax
Twenty minutes of meditation a day is said to be equivalent to a night’s sleep so practising it every day makes you less tired, more full of energy, healthier and improves memory and concentration.
It prolongs the body’s anabolic process of cell production, growth and repair and reduces the decaying process;
It is believed to reduce blood pressure and it is claimed that if a roomful of people are meditating, anyone who passes by will also experience a slight drop in blood pressure levels!
Transcendental Meditation involves sitting quietly for 10 to 20 minutes with eyes closed and focusing on a mantra – a word in the ancient Sanskrit language – which is endlessly repeated to attempt to get the mind to still.
Some people can do this by just counting one on an in breath and two on the out breath, but most find that it takes some time before thoughts stop interrupting!
According to The Sivananda Book of Meditation, ‘After the age of thirty-five our brain cells die off at a rate of 100,000 a day; meditation reduces this decline, preventing or minimising senility.’
Read the book Stress – The Essential Guide by Frances Ive, £8.99 from www.need2knowbooks.co.uk
Sit down and close your eyes for 10 to 20 minutes every day, and imagine a favourite place by the sea, in the mountains, or wherever, to refresh mind and body
Buy one of the many relaxation CDs to talk you into a relaxed state
Transcendental Meditation-National Communications Office, 08705 143733, http:// www.t-m.org.uk
London Meditation Centre, http://www.londonmeditationcentre.com
Inner calm and a perfect body are just two of the claims made for yoga, but in reality you don’t have to be Geri Halliwell or Madonna to benefit. Yoga suits people of all ages and sizes, and if you’re not supple it’s an even better reason to do it. It’s not competitive and you do everything taking into account your own ability, rather than trying to achieve.
The roots of yoga go back thousands of years in Indian culture;
It is integral to the Ayurvedic system of medicine which has a holistic approach rather than a purely medical one;
The word yoga means union in Sanskrit, as its aim is to unite mind, body and spirit for health and wellbeing.
In a typical yoga class there are a number of different postures performed while standing, lying and sitting, as well as breathing exercises, meditation and deep relaxation.
Physical postures are designed to tone and strengthen muscles, stretch the body, improve the functioning of all internal organs and the cardiovascular system. They help you to
concentrate the mind
sharpen the intellect
attain inner peace
and improve posture and balance.
The amazing popularity of yoga is reflected by the different types now available, the most common of which are Astanga, Iyengar, Sivananda, Hatha, Satyananda, but they are all based on the same concept and have similar far-reaching benefits.
Yoga enthusiasts claim that their body becomes supple and flexible, and that they can cope with stress better. Instead of becoming stiff and finding movement more difficult as they grow older, they feel fit and healthy and more in control of their mobility.
Yoga for Health
Joy Mankoo of the former organisation Yoga for Health which used to run courses and does remedial yoga for those with MS, cancer, ME, arthritis, cancer, breathing problems and Parkinson’s, explains:
‘Yoga relieves stress and calms the mind, improves muscle tone and posture and exercises the joints. Because of emotional and mental stress many people aren’t breathing well and their diaphragm does not move freely.
‘Stress becomes stuck in the muscles making them tight. In yoga full respiration is restored through both the breathing and stretching exercises. Breathing naturally and fully improves the flow of energy, relieves pressure on the chest and enables more air to be drawn into the lungs. Blood is naturally drawn back to the heart encouraging the circulation of blood and lymph, while slow, calm breathing also has the effect of calming the mind.’
British Wheel of Yoga, 01529 303233, www.bwy.org.uk
Chinese people have been practising t’ai chi for centuries and they believe that it is rejuvenates them and leads to a prolonged life. In the west it has gained in popularity as we struggle to find ways of dealing with our stressful lives.
T’ai chi means literally supreme ultimate which indicates the spiritual level which people practising it hope to achieve
Originally a martial art it is frequently practised in a non-aggressive but gentle therapeutic way, as well as a method of self-defence
Both t’ai chi and chi kung – which is similar but aimed specifically at improving health – consist of a series of graceful movements or ‘forms’.
The forms help to relax and calm the mind, body and soul, while gently toning muscles, improving balance and posture, boosting circulation and reducing stress. The slow gentle movements stimulate the body’s energy or chi, massage the meridians – the lines which run through the body in the acupuncture system, and give a complete inner and outer workout.
Linda Chase Broda, teacher of t’ai chi, explains, ‘Traditionally the doctor and the kung fu master in Chinese and other eastern cultures were one and the same and t’ai chi was associated with keeping healthy, energising and repairing the body.
‘The slow rhythmic movements performed in a long sequence allow the body to resonate with its own natural rhythm, heartbeat and breath. The gentle exercises stimulate circulation, but not at a fast pace like aerobics but more at a normal pace as if walking across the street.
‘Both T’ai chi with its long series of movements and Chi Kung with its shorter movements concentrate the mind, bringing awareness into the functioning and process of the body and begin to promote relaxation and a feeling of wholeness. Movements are not physically strenuous so you can start practising at any age and carry on forever.’
Linda claims that the gentle and graceful movements of T’ai Chi and Chi Kung:
Maintain suppleness and mobility of the joints;
Help to improve balance and stability which deteriorates with age – particularly helpful in fall prevention;
Are very good for concentration and untangling the mind – because you have to focus the mind and remember what comes next.
Linda Chase Broda is Course Director at the Tai Chi and Chi Kung Forum for Health and Special Needs, Manchester
For details of practitioners contact: T’ai Chi UK, 0207 407 4775, www.taichifinder.co.uk
There are a whole range of Bach Flower Remedies that help people to deal with difficult emotions, and they can provide a way of coping without the need for antidepressants. There are now plenty more flower essences and remedies from around the world, including Australian Bush Flower remedies to help cope with emotions.
The original flower remedies were developed by Sir Edward Bach to help people cope with a range of emotions. They are homeopathically prepared from plants and flowers and they help to balance negative thoughts and feelings which bring people down.
Sceptics should try Rescue Remedy and see how it instantly calms you down!
- Star of Bethlehem is for times of grief and great unhappiness due to a shock or trauma;
- Oak is for people who are struggling on in the face of adversity but need to be strong because others depend on them;
- Sweet Chestnut helps to relieve extreme feelings of distress which seem absolutely unbearable;
- Elm is for when someone feels that they are doing their best but they don’t feel that they can carry on;
- Larch is for anyone who lacks confidence and needs a boost.
|Star of Bethlehem Bach Flower Remedy||Bach Flower Remedies||20ml||£6.40|
|Sweet Chestnut||Bach Flower Remedies||20ml||£6.40|
|Elm||Bach Flower Remedies||20ml||£6.40|
|Rescue Remedy Pastilles||Bach Flower Remedies||50g||£5.65|
|Oak||Bach Flower Remedies||20ml||£6.40|
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