In our fast-paced world of overstimulation and overextended schedules, we're always being warned about the damage produced by chronic stress. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were a magic answer that could make it go away? According to the new research by the American Physiological Association, there is!
The findings in the study suggest that chronic stress can be managed (keeping those precious blood vessels undamaged) with aerobic exercise. Their research compared equally stressed subjects—in this case, rats—that did aerobic exercise with those that did not. Turned out there was a significant protective factor produced by cardiovascular health in the rats that exercised. There are plenty of ways to sweat off your worries.
First, let's address a myth regarding stress: that all stress is bad. But it's not! An example would be the start of a new job. There's some stress in starting something new. But you've acquired a position you've been working long and hard for! That's good stress—you're growing and learning. And think about lifting weights: Placing stress on muscle and bone creates resistance that strengthens and builds them.
Stress is a natural and needed part of a balanced life. Unmanaged stress—being "stressed out"—is what we most often picture when we think about stress. It's the balance of stress (or lack of balance, rather) that causes trouble: Too much stress, too few ways to deal with it.
So what else can protect us from stress and create more balance other than exercise? How about something as basic as deep breathing? You may be thinking, "Come on, I'm breathing all day." But all too often our breathing is not actually restorative. Deep, slow controlled belly breaths trigger a chemical release in our brains, sending messages that it's okay to relax, we're safe and it's all going to be all right.
Meditation has risen in popularity in the past decade. There is enormous scientific evidence showing its benefits in managing stress. Unfortunately, often people try it a few times and it seems too hard. Or they're convinced they just can't do it. (See: Meditation for Beginners.) But give it a try! Begin with three minutes of quiet time with yourself. Remember when you were a kid and time flew by when you were riding your bike or coloring? That's the place you're aiming for. To be free of overthinking or going over tomorrow's schedule in your mind. You want to be centered and mindful in the moment.
Begin adding a minute a week to your meditation, or alone time. You may find that time with yourself is more valuable when you don't let yourself judge how well you're doing it. You don't have to see beams of light and a vision of your great-grandma, may she rest in peace, to be successful at meditation.
Take it easy on yourself and make self-care a priority with exercise, breathing, and mediation. You'll be amazed at the positive effects minimal changes can have on your mental and physical reactions to stress.
(via Fitness Magazine)