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5 Easy Ways to Reduce Stress

Sue Frederick | , Special to Informer | 1/30/2012, 9:04 a.m.

In our fast paced world, stress is something we live with - day in and day out. It isn't going away. We need to learn to live with it - and get the upper hand. Or it will take its toll on our health.

Stress is defined as our reaction to the external environment as well as our inner thoughts and feelings. It isn't only what happens to us that creates stressful feelings, but it's how we feel about what happens to us. Learning to control our thoughts through meditation, yoga, and other mind quieting techniques can be very helpful in reducing stress levels. Like the Buddhists say, become the calm in the center of the storm.

No one can live without experiencing some degree of stress all the time, according to Hans Selye, M.D., the father of modern stress research. He writes in his book, The Stress of Life: "Stress is not even necessarily bad for you; it is also the spice of life, for any emotion, any activity causes stress. But, of course, your system must be prepared for it."

During times of increased stress, our body's nutrients are used more rapidly to meet these needs so we require increased amounts of many of these nutrients. The antioxidant vitamins A, E and C, the B vitamins and the mineral zinc, selenium, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, sulfur and molybdenum are some of the nutrients that are commonly depleted by stress.

Fortunately there are a number of ways to prepare the body for stress. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Meditate, pray, or do yoga each morning. The simple technique of quieting the mind, following the breath, and relaxing the body can put you in the right frame of mind for getting through a stressful day with a positive mental attitude.

At Work. During the day the stress mounts, whether at home or at your place of work. This can result in tension, headaches, back pain or lack of focus and general unproductivity. A few simple ways to help reduce these stress symptoms is to: Change your position or take a quick walk around the office, drink some water, stretch, or do a yoga exercise. One great way to accomplish this is right on your computer, Reduce Stress at Your Desk on Holistic.com has 4 free different streaming video exercises designed to be done in your chair that target your neck, back, shoulders and upper back. They run from 4-6 minutes each and have proven to be effective.

2. Exercise. Walking 20 minutes per day can change body chemistry in a way that calms the nervous system and reduces stress levels. Aerobic exercise is especially good for producing endorphins in the body - which are natural soothing hormones released during sustained exercise.

3. Make dietary changes. Reducing sugar, carbohydrates, caffeine and alcohol in your diet can go a long way towards getting your body back into a healthful balance. It's now recognized that when we eat carbohydrates, these foods turn directly into sugar in our bodies. The more sugar we eat, the more depleted our B-vitamins become. B-vitamins are essential for a healthy nervous system.