The Seven Secrets of Reducing Stress and Increasing Happiness

Feeling stressed? Read on for seven ways to cope.
What is stress? It is certainly a word that we toss around a lot and loosely. When was the last time you were "stressed out"? Was it work related? Family? Financial? Relationship? What happens to your body when you are stressed out? How do we find stress relief?

Most of us have heard the expression that "all disease is stress related", but what does that really mean? The changes that take place in our bodies are certainly real. Our diagnosis is real. So, how does 'stress' contribute to DIS-EASE in the body…DIS-COMFORT?

Ponder this: if we do not listen to our thoughts and feelings, then our issues will haunt us in our dreams. If we continue to ignore the messages that our dreams are attempting to deliver, these 'issues' are likely to SOMATIZE. In other words, we develop physical symptoms. Which ones, where, who? We all have inherited from our families a weakness in some organ or system in our body that seems to take the brunt of our stress. Under prolonged stress you may develop malaise or a malfunction. It might be a migraine headache, asthma, colitis, skin problems like psoriasis, heart/ circulatory, nervous system problems such as anxiety, depression or much worse, and even some cancers. Learning to find stress relief is vitally important to your health.

This is the way it works: if you are stressed out, your body is not able to produce the necessary hormones and endorphins you need to keep your immune system working efficiently and effectively to keep you well. The germs are always there. It is about your body's ability at any given time to fight them off.

Our immune system protects us from dis-ease; however when the body is subject to lingering stress, our ability to ward off infection is compromised. Because stress causes the body to release a hormone called ACTH, which in turn stimulates the adrenals to release another hormone called cortisol, our body is so busy trying to lower the pressure that it cannot ward off the invasion of the germs.

When your adrenal system, is working overtime pumping cortisol…even while you try to sleep, it will inhibit the production of the 'healing' endorphins and 'beauty rest' you need for good health. The result is that the YOU become run down, exhausted and susceptible to attack by germs.

You are on the fast track, it's a rush, your heart is pounding, and you are overwhelmed, over-committed and on the go: are you having fun yet??? Sometimes we think that it is fun to be in hyper drive, but is it really? Isn't it curious that many people tend to get sick after final exams or too much partying, an all-nighter, or a difficult situation that has evoked anxiety and/or sleeplessness? You may feel yourself fighting a cold, but really, the 'germ of the day' catches you.

What about the person who is living with a virus that attacks the immune system such as HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis C, cancer, or other immune system disorders like chronic fatigue and others? It is essential to keep in mind that if under the best conditions, chances of becoming ill are exacerbated due to stress; these people must take this reality seriously.

With this understanding of how the immune system is weakened and made more vulnerable when we allow the pressure to build, or take on too much, or do not 'deal with our stuff' at the thought level, we can now make better decisions about our health.

Guided meditation stress reduction techniques have been proven to produce healing endorphins, akin to your well known 'beauty rest'.

So now what do you do? How can you protect your body from your psyche? Awareness is the first step.

TELL A FRIEND: I have the 20-minute rule. When something is bothering me for more than 20 minutes. I do my best to address it. If it means taking action in a timely fashion, or first sharing my concerns with a friend, then that's what I do. If that means putting it on my To-Do list, then so be it. Talking it out with a therapist, a caring, or other objective outside party is also a powerful tool for de-stressing, or de-charging your stress, and prioritizing your wants vs. your needs. One cannot minimize the power of talk. Sometimes we don't even know what is really bothering us until we express it verbally.

EXERCISE: A routine, consistent exercise regime is vitally important to both your mental and physical health. Find something you like to do, and then do it. Take a walk in the woods, or by the water.

MEDITATE: if only for five minutes a day or even every other day. Guided meditation stress reduction techniques have been proven to produce healing endorphins, akin to your well known 'beauty rest'.

THINK POSITIVE THOUGHTS: Negative thoughts perpetuate anxiety and stress. This sort of inner dialogue is toxic! Stop it! Don't even go there! Write positive affirmations and re-train your thinking. How does this one sound: "There is more than enough time in the day for all that I need or want to do"? I find myself repeating that one during the night if I wake up and start to worry that I have too much on my plate. I have a mantra that I repeat when I walk the beach each day. I suggest that if it is difficult for you to focus, make yourself a hypnosis tape, or buy one, or have one custom made for you. It should be positive, powerful, and affirm what YOU wish to be true for you NOW! Be sure to visualize perfect health, perfect love, perfect peace, and massive abundance coming your way. Take the time to really see the outcome of your wishes.

BREATHE. Remember to breathe deeply. It is very important. Did you know that slow relaxed deep breathing is important because it draws in relaxation and exhaling releases tension? Relax, breathe, and now breathe again.

PRIORITIZE: Are you doing what you really want to be doing? If you need help figuring it out, there are good books on the subject, or you can call a personal coach and get involved in a life coaching process.

REST: Remember to sleep enough, rest enough, think positive thoughts, and take time to small the roses.

Written by Joyce Dolberg Rowe for YourTango.com.

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