Stress is a good thing. Strain however is not. Stress means that you are facing situations, challenging yourself and dealing with them based on the resources you have. We have learnt in physics that stress is force upon area. In life force is the external circumstance like a test or an appraisal coming up. Area is the resources you have to deal with the force, the time you have to prepare, the expertise to deal with questions or comments etc. When stress is overtime, your body and mind get negatively impacted and you feel the strain. This could be because the force is overwhelming or that the resources you have are inadequate.
Thankfully we do not have to feel overwhelmed. Stress does not have to become a strain. We live in an exciting, challenging and therefore a highly stressful period. This means our successes will be larger than ever before and likewise the strain we experience is unprecedented. Rather than wishing away challenges what is needed is to increase the resources that can calm us down. We shall explore physical practices, foods you can eat and fun activities you can do to help soothe those nerves and find peace.
Practices to release stress
Calming down, relaxation, resting are all related to the Parasympathetic Nervous System. So in order to reduce stress it is important to make friends with your PNS. Yoga is universally known to activate your PNS. The yogic breathing or the full abdominal breathing is the simplest and fastest way to release tension. The practice involves slow long inhalations where your abdomen expands and then the chest expands. The exhalations are longer and ideally double the time taken for inhalations, during breathing out the chest falls followed by the abdomen. 10 long yogic breaths is the typical prescription to deal with stressful situation.
Principally Yoga postures that offer the forward bending of the spine or inversion have a calming effect. The best is the Headstand or Shirshasan. 8 minutes is said to be equivalent to an hour’s deep rest. However it requires assistance from a trained instructor to learn. Shoulder-stand that is Sarvangasan and partial shoulder-stand Viparita Karni are the next choices among postures. Downward facing dog or the Adho Mukha Svanasan, Childs Pose or Balsana, Seated Forward or Bend Paschimottasan are simple yet effective poses to deal with stress. Wind up with simple spinal twists to neutralize the spine and follow with Corpse Pose or Shavasan. A yoga style known as restorative yoga that uses pillows, bolsters and props to put you onto deeply relaxing poses is highly recommended for those who are finding it very hard to cope with stress.
How to do the balasan or child pose
• Stand on your knees
• Slowly sit on your heels and stretch your body down and forward towards the floor
• Once fully stretched, extend your arms forward, resting your forehead on the floor.
• Feel the abdomen pressing against the thighs as you breathe deeply and slowly.
• Enjoy the stretch in your lower back, shoulders and feel he mind calming down
3 techniques that utilize the mind are known to have calming effects. Pratyahara or withdrawal from the senses; mindfulness where you become impartially aware of the totality of the moment and meditation where you increasingly move to a state of lesser and lesser uncontrolled thoughts. Mindfulness is ideal and simple for those in the daily grind. Mindfulness is an invitation to live in the moment. This is done by becoming aware of the air around you and how it touches your skin, the various sounds you can hear, the scents and odors that are present, the fall and play of light etc. By doing this we are no longer giving undue emphasis only to the things that are stressing us but embracing the complete experience.
We may have noticed that some of us over eat while others cannot eat while their mind is stressed. Some of us munch on crispy snacks, others load up on sugars like ice creams and cakes. So what should we ideally eat to relieve stress?
Our food effects not just the body but also the mind. A new way to look at what to eat to lead a wholesome healthy life is the stress free diet. It is founded on the principle that the food we eat should enliven us. We already know that processed and refined food causes stress to our body. We already know that most of the diets to lose weight causes mental stress. Stress free diet propounds food that causes least stress to the body and to your lifestyle. Today we explore stress free diet tips to reduce the mental stress we experience.
Must haves for a stressful life
Orange , Lemon and Gooseberries are amazing sources of Vitamin C as it helps reduce cortisol the stress hormone. Spinach a rich source of magnesium can reduce headaches, migraine and fatigue. Soups, juices and stir fries wit spinach helps soothe the mind.
Unsalted Almonds, pistachios and walnuts – almonds packed with B and E vitamins, helps boost immunity and pistachios and walnuts help to lower blood pressure. Reach out for them instead of chips.
Avocados – The monounsaturated fats and potassium in avocados help lower blood pressure. Bananas contain tryptohan that helps in dealing with depression. Think of a smoothie with the two to jump start your day.
Apricots (Dried) are rich in magnesium, which is a stress-buster and a natural muscle relaxant as well.
Sweet potatoes preferably organic helps you deal with sugar cravings. A baked sweet potato could be your replacement for the tub of ice cream. They are also packed with beta-carotene and other vitamins, and the fiber helps your body to process the carbohydrates in a slow and steady manner.
Vanilla and Chocolate enhance moods. Go for dash of vanilla and dark chocolate shaving on your oatmeal.
Among herbal teas, chamomile can soothe and pepper mint can perk you up. Take your pick and try not to go for that sachet of sugar along with it. A study by nutrition journal indicates that a vegetarian diet makes you happier and stress free as meat and fish contain arachidonic acid that cause mood disturbing brain changes. However if you must then mackerel, salmon and turkey are your best bet when stressed.
Communities that have rituals have greater endurance and success in dealing with stress. Rituals are routines that are done with awareness or are replete with symbolism that help focus on something greater than ourselves and our problems. When we are stressed, the body releases certain hormones like Oxytocin that promotes bonding. Those who genuinely care and give towards a good cause are less likely to be stressed. Armed with these three insights I often teach people to bond with people who have a positive outlook to life, go out at least once each month and do a good deed. It could be helping plant a tree, meeting and helping at a children’s home. Do this as a fun ritual and soon you will find troubles fading and joy increasing.
Nuthan Manohar is the CEO of Me Met Me, that promotes self discovery through Yoga, Food and Fun. Her workshops and residential retreats are a blend of yoga, aromatherapy, eastern wisdom with modern day sciences that help achieve health, happiness and harmony. Beautiful Life is a series of workshops she has designed specifically for women to help release stress, pains, reclaim joy and feel empowered. Through her Learn to Fly and Me Time she promotes leadership skills and helps clients realign with their life purpose. She has trained participants of Miss Kerala, Midukki, Celebrity Cricket League, employees of Times of India, Manorama, Mazhavil from topics ranging from developing confidence, releasing negativity, to building teams that sense and connect. She can be contacted on +919567366250, hello@ memetme.com and is on Facebook as Me Met Me
- If stress makes you angry opt for breathing and meditation practices.
- If stress makes you depressed opt for slow paced hatha yoga sequences or restorative yoga practices. Make sure you keep your gaze lifting skyward.
- If stress reduces your competence and makes your restless internally then opt for fast paced yoga styles.
- The scent of lavender and chamomile has a calming effect and ideal if you find it hard to sleep. Sandalwood oil is well known to soothe the mind.
- Sit comfortably near a table, stack palms one on top of the other on the table, rest your forehead on the pal, relax your shoulders. Become aware of the center of the forehead touching your palms. Exhale longer than you inhale. Continue for 3 minutes. This will help you access your Vagus Nerve that will activate your PNS.
- Learn to gaze lovingly, a loving gentle gaze is the simplest, most effective way to beat stress and yet it is the hardest to actually put to practice.
Beautiful life at Miss Kerala 2014
Nuthan Manohar has been training participants of Miss Kerala, Miss South India, Midukki etc to have a beautiful mind in a beautiful body. Her sessions at Miss Kerala 2014 were blend of Eastern wisdom and modern science. The sessions included postures, breathing, discussions, aromatherapy to help release stress and pains, reclaim joy and feel ready to face the world with a smile. Beautiful Life included therapeutic application to help soothe aches pains after hours of practice -legs, back, shoulder. Breathing techniques to release stress, exercises for a fit body, mind control to access subconscious were also taught.