Tips for Easy Living

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Relaxation techniques to calm your nerves

Since 2007, the American Psychological Association has commissioned an annual nationwide survey to examine the state of stress across the United States and understand its impact. The 2013 survey found that people continue to experience what they feel are unhealthy stress levels, with 42 percent of adult respondents reporting that their stress levels have increased over the past five years. In addition, 44 percent of survey respondents feel they aren't doing enough to manage their stress, painting a potentially troubling future for people who cannot find better and healthier ways to manage their stress.

The picture is none the rosier in Canada, where data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey revealed that nearly 23 percent of Canadians aged 15 and older reported that most days were "quite a bit or extremely stressful." While those figures marked a slight improvement from the previous year's survey, it's apparent that stress is still a considerable concern for people throughout both the United States and Canada.

Though many people unfortunately regard stress as an inevitable side effect of adulthood, it's important that men, women and even children avoid characterizing stress as simply a byproduct of a difficult and/or successful life and career. Even momentary stress, often referred to as "acute stress," like the kind that appears when stuck in a traffic jam, can have a potentially devastating impact on overall health. According to the American Institute of Stress, acute stress causes an increase in heart rate and stronger contractions of the heart muscle, and some medical professionals have suggested there is a link between repeated episodes of acute stress and heart attack.

Regular use of relaxation techniques to reduce stress can help to counteract the effects of long-term stress, which the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine notes can contribute to depression, digestive disorders, headaches, high blood pressure, and insomnia. While it's always best for anyone, and especially those people with heart disease, epilepsy, certain psychiatric conditions or a history of abuse or trauma, to consult their health care provider before attempting to address their stress on their own, the following are two popular relaxation techniques that may help relieve stress in a healthy way.

Meditation

There are many types of meditation, but in general people who meditate employ certain techniques when meditating. These techniques may include maintaining a specific posture or finding a quiet, distraction-free location to meditate. Many practitioners of meditation choose to recite a positive mantra that they repeat throughout their session. While many people question the effectiveness of meditation, research has suggested that routine meditation sessions can alter the brain's neural pathways and make a person more capable of combatting stress.

Yoga

Yoga has grown increasingly popular in recent years, and much of that can be traced to the multitude of health benefits that have been linked to this typically low-impact practice of the mind and body. The NCCAM notes that studies have suggested yoga is effective at lowering heart rate and blood pressure and can even relieve anxiety and depression. Those are beneficial side effects for sufferers of stress, which over time can contribute to high blood pressure and arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) and even cause people to worry too much about minor things or suspect bad things are about to happen.

More information about stress and coping techniques is available at www.apa.org.