How to de-stress when you have a busy lifestyle

It’s no surprise that most of us are living lifestyles that are busier than ever before. Time is becoming a precious commodity and the rise of the ‘time poor’ culture is definitely upon us. The busier we become the more stressed we tend to be, but it doesn’t have to be this way. While it may seem that we are ‘too busy’ to concern ourselves with our health, taking a few moments each day to de-stress can make a significant difference to our mental health.

Some simple ways to de-stress include:

Exercise

Exercise is such a great way to de-stress. The type of exercise varies for everyone, but the studies conclusively show that consistently participating in some form of physical exercise is good for both your physical and mental health. The type of exercise doesn’t really matter and will differ for everyone – the main thing is to get moving! If time is an issue try to schedule your exercise on the way to or from work. Ride your bike or walk to work or fit in an exercise class on your lunch break. You’ll feel better for it and you might just enjoy it!

Leave the Office!

Even if you’re so busy that you don’t have time to take a break, at least take a location break. Grab your laptop or iPad and go to a local café with Wi-Fi or hotspot to your phone and work at the park. A simple change in location (especially if accompanied by a nice cup of coffee) can put you into a much better mood. The work is still getting done, but the change in scenery will be helping your stress levels to decrease.
how to destress when you lead a busy lifestyle

Schedule in your ‘de-stress’ time

Think about the one thing that you can do each day to ease your stress and put it in your diary. Treat it like any other appointment and stick to it. What you choose to do will be different for everyone. For some it may be a new hobby, a long walk, a session of yoga or a visit to the gym. For others it could simply be a cup of coffee and a chance to flick through a magazine or read a book. Either way – prioritize it and make sure you do it!

Get enough sleep

It’s a common misconception that the more busy and stressed we are, the less we should be sleeping. In fact the opposite is true. By prioritizing sleep, you will increase your productivity and be more alert and better equipped to deal with the stresses that the day throws at you.

how to destress when you lead a busy lifestyle

Out source

If you’re finding it stressful to do it all, sometimes it might be worthwhile to outsource some of your tasks. This could be as simple as having your groceries delivered or getting a gardener to mow the lawns, but in reality almost everything can be outsourced these days. Think about the tasks that stress you out the most and see if someone else can do them for you instead.

While it may seem like stress is just a part of life when you’re busy, it really doesn’t have to be. In the long run, taking the time to de-stress is hugely beneficially to all aspects of your life. Why not start now? Choose one activity that you know will decrease your stress levels and just do it!

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5 hobbies that can help reduce stress

Did you know that taking up a hobby can help reduce stress? There is actually science behind the benefits of having a hobby. While it may seem like yet another thing to do when your life is already packed full, there are many choices of relaxing hobbies you can pick up that will be good for your health. Here are some of our suggestions:

Crochet and knitting

What used to be brushed aside as a pastime for old people has made a great resurgence in the last couple of years with the younger generation. Perhaps it is the combination of tapping into creativity and being productive, or maybe it is simply a relaxing thing to do. According to a study in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, doing activities like knitting or crocheting “decreases the risk of mild cognitive impairment, a possible precursor to Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia”.  Lower the risk of cognitive impairment plus creating something useful, it’s a win, win!

hobbies that help reduce stress

Baking and cooking

Over the years, mental health experts have found that baking and cooking actually helps people deal with anxiety. A study in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy revealed that baking improves concentration, which leads to increased coordination, which then builds confidence and leads to an increased feeling of self-esteem. A report on the Wall Street Journal also supported this saying that a treatment centre for teens used cooking lessons to help treat mental illness and addiction. It gave them something to focus on instead of the stresses of their day to day lives. It has become a popular mode of therapy because it is goal-oriented.

hobbies that help reduce stress

Gardening

Black, green, red or blue, no matter what thumb you have, gardening is still one of the best stress relievers around. Not only does it force you to move your body and relax your mind, it is also good for the environment and allows you to grow your own food. It’s like a mega win for everyone. Moderate intensity level of physical activity for 2.5 hours each week is said to reduce the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and more. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers gardening as moderate intensity level activity. Now is a good time to get your gloves on and start digging.

hobbies that help reduce stress

Gaming

This may come as a surprise to others but for those who regularly play video games, they would understand. We all went through the age of spending time at the arcade, playing Pacman and Super Mario Brothers during the pre-iPad, pre-Playstation era. Over the years, technology has made gaming a more accessible pastime for everyone. No matter what your preference is – puzzle, simulations, adventure, MMOs, RTS, action, stealth shooter, combat – the fact is studies have shown gaming has valid benefits to your health. According to Psychology Today, gaming improves cognitive flexibility, working memory and abstract reasoning. One study even found that “such play led not just to cognitive improvements but also better self-concepts and enhanced qualities of life in elderly participants”. Another study showed that men and women who play video games long-term actually end up “adopting mental skills to handle stress, become less depressed and get less hostile during stressful tasks”. Whip out your iPad or video console and try out some free games now.

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5 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress

We now live in such a connected environment that it is so easy to always be ‘on’. With email and social media at our fingertips it’s so difficult to actually switch off and this is one of the many reasons that people are experiencing more and more stress. Reducing stress isn’t difficult, it’s just an issue that is often overlooked.

This year we’re encouraging you to take a quick time out each day to take time for YOU and here are 5 easy ways that you can reduce your stress levels:

Walking

Sometimes the simplest strategies are the best. When you feel your stress levels rising, go for a walk. Leave your phone behind or use it to listen to your favourite music (no checking emails!) and just walk. Even the experts at Harvard agree that walking is a great stress buster.

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Say no

It’s no joke that we are a society that is getting busier and busier. Often our days start with breakfast catch ups and end with after work drinks and down time is becoming rare.  If your life feels like a never ending round-a-bout then it’s time to start saying no. No one will think less of you for declining events and choosing to stay at home instead.

Unplug

Often we are so connected to the world, especially with our phones and social media that we never actually have the change to switch off. Gone are the days of leaving work and not thinking about it till you get there tomorrow, or going home and reading a good book. We are always checking Facebook, comparing our lives to those on Instagram and receiving emails and messages till all hours. To really relax try to un-plug. Switch off your phone (yes really – it will turn back on I promise!), turn off the TV and laptop and enjoy some tech free time. You’ll be amazed at how good you will feel.

Exercise

It really is true that you’ll feel better after some exercise. It also combines a few of the strategies above. Add your exercise time to your calendar, say no to conflicting appointments and unplug while you’re exercising. I promise you it will make you feel better when you’re done, no matter how much you try to talk yourself out of it to start with!

Read a book

Reading seems to be a lost art these days, but escaping into a good fiction novel is a great way to forget about the worries of the world. Studies show that reading really does release stress. In fact this article shows that reading for only 6 minutes will start to reduce your stress levels significantly. Go on, grab a great book and start reading!

I encourage you to put aside the time to do at least one of these things each day. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of day to day life, however taking 30 minutes to an hour a day to focus on stress reduction will be worth it. What are you waiting for?

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You can also take a quality supplement to help reduce stress. Hivita Stress is a complete multivitamin formula that helps relieve stress, nervous tension and mild anxiety. It may also reduce tiredness, elevate mood and boost energy levels

5 Things to do when anxiety creeps in this festive season

It’s supposed to be a time of joy and time spent with loved ones, and for the most part Christmas and the festive season is all of that and more – but for some of us, it can also bring about an anxiety that creeps its way into these moments and makes you wonder why you bother to be a participant in such a busy and often chaotic time!

It’s not surprising that anxiety can come and find you during the holidays. Maybe you’re worried about Christmas lunch being at your house this year, or perhaps there are certain members of your family you would prefer to avoid. There’s also the exhaustion that comes with trying to keep up with the Christmas functions of your work, your partner’s work and your children’s school or kindergarten.

Here’s 5 things you should definitely try when faced with anxiety this festive season

1. Exercise

Walking is a great way to reduce anxiety. If you’re feeling overcrowded or consumed by all the ‘busy’ then a walk can help you regulate your breathing, provide distraction and clear your mind. If walking isn’t your thing there’s also running, yoga, pilates, dance, weights or anything else that gets you moving!

2. Eat Well and Boost Your Nutrition

When you’re feeling anxious you will probably just want to reach for the rest of your Advent calendar or the ice cream tub, but eating well is what you really need. Swap alcohol for water and dish up a delicious seafood platter to get those Omega 3 fatty-acids into your body. Your physical and mental health will thank you for it. For an extra boost, try Hivita Stress: a complete multivitamin formula to help fight stress and fatigue and relieve mild anxiety.

3. Take a Nap

If you’ve had a lot of late nights or your mind is just tired of all the rushing around and commitments then put your feet up and take a nap. It can be easier said than done, but if you lay down with your phone out of reach you might find yourself nodding off. You’ll wake up feeling refreshed and focused.

4. Adjust Your Priorities

If everything is considered ‘high priority’ on your list, then you’re bound to become anxious. If the anxiety starts to wash over you, immediately adjust your priorities. Take a few things you thought were top priorities and reconsider them. They can become a low priority or something that can be wiped off the list completely. Once you say ‘no’ to something you’ll free up time to relax and you’ll feel better for it.

Tell a Friend

Some of us might want to crawl under our bedcovers and ignore the world for a while when stress and anxiety loom, but talking a friend might actually help validate your feelings and they might offer you a fresh perspective on how to handle a situation.

If you’re feeling stressed and anxious during the festive season, always remember there’s a solution and it won’t last forever! Keep on top of your physical and mental health and you’ll find yourself relaxed and enjoying yourself. Look no further than Hivita to find the best vitamin range to suit you and your family during the festive season and any other time of the year.

Thanks to Angela from School of Mum for sharing her tips with us. 

Christmas anxiety

21 ways to immediately reduce stress

Everyone feels stressed from time to time, and it’s rarely a pleasant experience. But before you grab that tub of ice cream or hit the shops, take a few deep breaths and try one of the options below. You can also take a daily Hivita Stress during times of increased stress to help relieve nervous tension, stress and mild anxiety.

Simple techniques to immediately reduce stress

  1. Take a walk and feel the sun on your face.
  2. Practice yoga.
  3. Run, bike, swim, dance — anything that makes you sweat. “Runner’s high” can come from a release of endorphins, which can improve your mood and act as a pain reliever.
  4. Burn an aromatherapy candle.
  5. Dab lavender or chamomile essential oils on your wrists.
  6. Drink soothing tea like chamomile.
  7. Enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate.
  8. Sip a nutrition-filled smoothie. The sweetness will be comforting while the nutrients will help keep your body on track.
  9. Take a bath with Epsom salt with chamomile essential oil.
  10. Meditate, even if it’s as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on a few deep breaths.
  11. Take time out with a warm shower.
  12. Take a short break from technology, especially your smartphone.
  13. Call an old friend or family member. Talking to someone else can help you put things in perspective, laugh, reminisce about the past, or relieve stress just through venting.
  14. Pet an animal.
  15. Smile, even if it’s forced.
  16. Snuggle, kiss or simply hug a loved one to relieve stress hormones and increase positive feelings.
  17. Write out your feelings. Burn them later if it’ll help you let go.
  18. For ongoing relief, start a gratitude journal. Writing just a few things every day that you’re thankful for can have lasting positive effects on the writer’s happiness.
  19. Put it in perspective. Make a list of immediate actions you can take and the things you can’t change.
  20. Find video clips on YouTube that make you laugh. Funny cat videos if that’s your thing.
  21. Sing loudly to your favorite tunes.

What’s your favorite way to reduce stress? 

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What makes yoga so effective?

Ommmm…

Erm?

We’ve already mentioned that when it comes to types of exercise that relieve stress, yoga is great. But why is it such an effective all-round work out, and why has it been embraced by so many different people from world-class athletic coaches to rehabilitation specialists, from lithe spiritualists to muscle-bound footy players?

One of the great things about yoga is that there are many alternative styles, and while they all stem from the same belief system of body, mind and soul working in together through a sequence of poses or asanas (yoga roughly translates as “to unite” in Sanskrit), there is enough variety across them to allow each of us to find a method that suits. Here’s a handful of examples:

  • Ashtanga – a vigorous practice, flowing rapidly through established series of poses, known as Vinyasas
  • Bikram – Based on 26 postures followed in strict series, and taking place in a heated room @ 38-40 °C. It’s hot and energetic.
  • Hatha – all encompassing term for the physical styles of practice in Western cultures, but when used by an Australian studio to describe a class, it usually means an introductory practice that covers basic postures, sequences and breathing techniques
  • Pre-natal – postures developed specifically for pregnant women, to counter some of the discomfort faced while carrying, ideally speeds up time spent in labour, and can also help you get your body back into shape after birth.
  • Restorative – A passive style of yoga that uses props such as straps, bolsters and rugs to prop the body into a slow series of simple poses, spending 15 or 20 minutes relaxing into each one for maximum benefit. Great for rehab, it’s also become a popular class for stress-heads, creating a relaxing environment where they’re obliged to chill out.

Even those of us who introduce yoga into our life for purely physical reasons – for example as a disciplined route to stretching safely, or as complementary exercise to our gym schedule – we soon learn to appreciate the meditative aspects of the practice, and eventually embrace the idea of body and soul working in conjunction to focus, support, heal and relax.

The benefits of yoga are plentiful

  • The controlled yet rigorous poses rapidly build muscle tone.
  • The focus on core strength improves posture and balance, and with that comes empowerment from confidence in your own body.
  • The mental acuity developed with regular practice serves to improve concentration and memory.
  • Menopausal women who take part in yoga classes have reported a reduction in incidence and severity of hot flushes. Indeed, the anecdotal evidence of yoga’s ability to reduce anxiety has led to the US’s National Institute of Health sponsoring major empirical research to clarify these links.

Regular practice offers satisfying feedback on improvement in your body and concentration – the consistency of poses allows you to compare progress week on week. And yet it is a completely non-competitive form of keeping fit. You can work at your own pace, and – with the help of your teacher – find poses that accommodate your weakness, and stretch your abilities. And ultimately, this is the great appeal of yoga: although images of expert yogis in extreme postures can seem so intimidating, the nature of the asanas and the practice of expanding your limitations is such that you begin to believe that the impossible may just be achievable, one day…

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Does “adrenal exhaustion” exist?

Adrenal exhaustion – what is it?

Adrenal exhaustion is a complaint that affects thousands of Australians. It is physiological imbalance of the adrenal glands, which rest on top of our kidneys, leading to their under-function. This reduces the production of their key hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, as a result of intensive and persistent mental or emotional stress.

Our adrenals are able to cope best with intermittent stress, allowing time for recovery and restoration of their hormone reserves after the stress has passed. However, under conditions of prolonged mental pressure, the constant demand for these hormones depletes their levels until symptoms of fatigue, lethargy and weakness arise. Inability to cope with daily mental or emotional stresses and erratic mood changes happens as our adrenals start to shut down. If the stress persists this can mean feeling like a car running on two cylinders instead of four.

In the early stages of adrenal exhaustion the fatigue occurs typically in the mornings, making it difficult to get out of bed to start the day. An initial slow energy trickle starts to surge after lunch, when there is often a rebound burst of cortisol from the adrenals, which elevates energy levels that carry you through the rest of the day. This often makes it difficult to slow down in the evening and to get to sleep at night, resulting in more tiredness the next day. I describe this a bit like running on a low car battery, which takes a while to “kick in” and start the car, then you are running on your reserve petrol tank.

People who “live on their nerves” tend to keep their foot on the accelerator, even when their fuel level is low. In later stages of adrenal exhaustion morning cortisol response is flat and does not rise significantly throughout the day, a bit like having a low car battery which cannot turn the engine over to get the car started and putting your foot on the accelerator makes no difference. At this point your adrenals need jumper leads and a tank of petrol!

Is it possible to recover from adrenal exhaustion?

Adrenal recovery is possible when the early signs of exhaustion are heeded and action is taken to support these delicate glands. If not, the adrenals will shrivel and eventually be replaced by scar tissue and become non-functioning, which is an irreversible state.Hivita Men's Multi

Removing sources of stress and mental pressure is the first step to recovery. Create space in your life for your energy recovery. Supplementation with the full complex of B-vitamins plus vitamin C in suitably high doses is essential to assist with cortisol production (Vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6 in particular). Withania somnifera / ashwaghanda (a herbal ingredient found in Hivita Men’s Multi) is an adrenal tonic herb, which supports adrenal function when taken daily long term to improve mental and physical stamina. Magnesium and calcium are needed in a balanced ratio for managing muscle tension and reducing stiffness and tension. These minerals also regulate blood pressure, which rises with constant stress and high cortisol levels.

Support these nutritional supplements with treatments like acupuncture and therapeutic massage and practices such as meditation and Qi gong to conserve energy and rebuild adrenal tissue and hormone stores.

If you fit the profile for adrenal exhaustion, get started on the powerful adrenal support supplement, Hivita Stress. Review the things that cause pressure and unhappiness in your life and make a plan to remove those commitments that not really essential. See your naturopath for an evaluation of your adrenal health and specific herbal tonic prescription to support the Hivita Stress once daily supplement.

Relieve stress through exercise

Chronic stress is ugly.

It has many, serious physical symptoms, such as exhaustion, insomnia, depression, weight gain and muscle wastage.  All of these have been attributed to an individual’s inability to cope with pressure.

The human body secretes cortisol when it’s stressed. Normally, when released, cortisol helps keeps us going throughout the day – keeps our energy levels steady.  But also, if we feel threatened, the adrenal glands release an extra surge of cortisol, altering metabolic function through the release of stored sugar into the blood stream for a quick energy boost. Cortisol does increase the heart rate (getting more oxygen into the bloodstream in preparation for the fancy footwork of “fight or flight”), but also acts by suppressing the immune system and increasing blood pressure.

Cortisol is the body’s short-term response to stress. But, if we are in a state of real stress – not ever getting the chance to relax – the adrenal glands become overworked and just can’t continue their baseline functions. And this is where the physical symptoms outlined above come into the equation.  What’s more, elevated cortisol production can create such a chemical imbalance the body becomes unable to produce the other hormones it needs to survive.

We encounter thousands of stressful events, and each individual copes in different ways, so there needs to be a plethora of approaches to addressing the resulting. If you’re worried, talk to a healthcare professional: discuss your personal situation, and all the options that are available to you.

However, you can be pretty certain that any holistic approach to the treatment of chronic stress and its symptoms will include a conversation about how to relieve stress through exercise. The capacity for improved fitness to attenuate the physical symptoms of stress is seriously significant.

How exercise helps relieve stress

  • A sedentary lifestyle means the body doesn’t have any way of clearing the cortisol from its system. That shot of energy created to help you flee will actually get burned off if you go for a run.
  • The basic repetitive actions of some forms of exercise (such as swimming or riding a bike) allow your body to get into a rhythm, which in turn helps soothe the mind.
  • Research into the effect of the endorphins and serotonin released when you exert yourself is ongoing, but the thinking is that these natural painkillers and mood lifters released by the body create that “runners’ high” reported by the fittest among us.
  • Also, studies are looking into the basic idea that working out raises the body temperature, which makes us relax and feel better in the same way that a hot shower washes the cobwebs away!
  • Exercise can help smash the negative cycle of insomnia, if that’s an issue for you. Regular exercise creates “good” fatigue. Sleep better – or longer – at night, and feel more able to face the stressors of daylight.

Exercise can be very personal – time spent pounding the footpaths or cycling fire trails alone can free your mind to focus on your immediate and individual needs, rather than getting bogged down in process and other people’s problems.  Even simple breathing exercises can lead to increased self-awareness through a semi-meditative state.

Or (depending on your personal preference) take the opposite route, and get into social sport. Get competitive on the netball pitch, and find it easier to relax in the workplace. Join a running club, and enjoy the company of a whole new set of people who have no preconceptions or expectation of you – other than busting a gut on the track.

Find something that works for you, and keep working at it.

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4 best exercises to relieve stress

Exercising and moving more will always make you feel better. Sometimes its hard to get motivated, especially after a crazy busy day and when you’re dealing with a work (and life!) load that you never seem to be able to get under control. But once you’ve made the commitment to get moving, you may find that some workouts are better than others when it comes to relieving stress.

Here’s the top 4 exercises which we find are most effective for helping you wind down and manage your stress levels:

1. Yoga

Yoga is a great way for anyone to keep their body strong and mind relaxed.

Good teachers will guide you through the positions and sequences (asanas), helping you understand your own strengths and limitations – and to push those boundaries as your practice develops. The concentration required for balance poses will push the week’s most stressful moments out of your mind. And the power spent in the Warrior Asana 1, 2 and 3 will increase your stamina and get those endorphins pumping. A bit like a 5 kilometre run.

The meditative state is very personal, and can seem very peculiar – even awkward – in the early days. But it’s not just that you get used to it; rather, you can begin to positively crave those moments of quiet and contemplation at the end of an energising session. A perfect way to de-stress and unwind.

2. Swimming

Swimming is a great form of resistance training. Almost like lifting weights without the load bearing. But its the sensorial benefits of flotation, and the rhythmic patterns of your stroke as you plough up and down the lanes that are as beneficial to your mental well-being as they are to your bone-density. It’s especially true if lack of control and feelings of helplessness are major causes of stress for you.

3. Boxing

How you experience stress is different for everyone. If your experience of stress is often expressed as anger, then forms of combat exercise can be really helpful in relieving some of that hostility – but in a focused, controlled way. Also the discipline that a boxing gym engenders in its training sessions can be another great channel for re-directing aggression.  Martial Arts such as Taekwondo and Judo are great outlets for this too.

4. Pilates

The uninitiated often think that Pilates is calisthenics for wimps. But we’ve witnessed grown (fit!) men weep as they attempt to stretch out their ITB on a foam roller. And the reformer bed is certainly not for snoozing!

Designed as a comprehensive rehab program in the early 20th Century, the central principles of Pilates are as fundamental to mental health as physical fitness.  Based as they are around breathing, control, relaxation, centring, precision and flow; the concentration required to prompt lazy muscles into moving the way they should, and maintain great posture throughout, helps create a lasting sense of self-awareness and confidence that is priceless.

The thing to remember, though, is that ultimately the best exercise for relieving stress is the exercise that most appeals to you, and that you find easy to fit into your schedule. If the thought of 60 minutes of Tai Chi suddenly makes the ironing pile look mighty interesting, then it’s obviously not the right fit.

If its hard to get (and stay!) motivated, team sport for adults might be more your thing.

Explore what will work for you and what makes you feel good.

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How to live longer

The people of Okinawa, an island southwest of Japan’s main landmass, are known for living longer than other people. No, they haven’t discovered the fountain of youth, but here are 9 things which characterise their way of life and have helped them live longer:

1. Embrace an ikigai.

An ikigai is one’s reason for being, or one’s purpose in life. Older Okinawans can readily articulate the reason they get up in the morning. Their purpose-imbued lives gives them clear roles of responsibility and feelings of being needed well into their 100s.

2. Rely on a plant-based diet.

Older Okinawans have eaten a plant-based diet most of their lives. Their meals of stir-fried vegetables, sweet potatoes, and tofu are high in nutrients and low in calories. Goya, with its antioxidants and compounds that lower blood sugar, is of particular interest. While centenarian Okinawans do eat some pork, it’s traditionally reserved only for infrequent ceremonial occasions and taken only in small amounts.

3. Get gardening.

Almost all Okinawan centenarians grow or once grew a garden. It’s a source of daily physical activity that exercises the body with a wide range of motion and helps reduce stress. It’s also a near-constant source of fresh vegetables.

4. Eat more soy.

The Okinawan diet is rich foods made with soy, like tofu and miso soup. Flavonoids in tofu may help protect the heart and guard against breast cancer. Fermented soy foods contribute to a healthy intestinal ecology and offer even better nutritional benefits.

5. Maintain a moai.

The Okinawan tradition of forming amoai, or a gathering of people, provides secure social networks. These safety nets lend financial and emotional support in times of need and give all of their members the stress-shedding security of knowing that there is always someone there for them.

6. Enjoy the sunshine.

Vitamin D, produced by the body when it’s exposed on a regular basis to sunlight, promotes stronger bones and healthier bodies. Spending time outside each day allows even senior Okinawans to have optimal vitamin D levels year-round.

7. Stay active.

Older Okinawans are active walkers and gardeners. The Okinawan household has very little furniture; residents take meals and relax sitting on tatami mats on the floor. The fact that old people get up and down off the floor several dozen times daily builds lower body strength and balance, which help protect against dangerous falls.

8. Plant a medical garden.

Mugwort, ginger, and turmeric are all staples of an Okinawan garden, and all have proven medicinal qualities. By consuming these every day, Okinawans may be protecting themselves against illness.

9. Have an attitude.

A hardship-tempered attitude has endowed Okinawans with an affable smugness. They’re able to let difficult early years remain in the past while they enjoy today’s simple pleasures. They’ve learned to be likable and to keep younger people in their company well into their old age.

Foods to fight stress

Woo hoo – Chocolate helps fight stress!

Well, kind of…

There had to be a reason that we reach for those comforting squares of yummy loveliness every time we feel overwhelmed. Well, the milky sugary stuff, packed full with caramel filling – that doesn’t help us at all. But it is true (scientists say so, definitely more than one of them!) that good dark chocolate has been proven to lower cortisol levels in people who record consistently higher levels of stress.

Another treat that’s also a great stress-buster is almonds. High in zinc, a mineral which some believe is essential for helping maintain a balanced mood; and all-important iron – which, among many other things, helps avoid mental fatigue by supporting brain function.

Magnesium is another of those incredibly useful minerals that should be present in many foods we eat, but gets diminished by modern processing methods. Seek out foods high in this mineral to help keep your energy levels up: leafy greens, such as spinach and kale. Gently steam them, or eat raw for maximum benefit.

Look to other colours in your food too – orange and yellow pigments tend to indicate decent levels of vitamins A & C, as well as folate and antioxidants: mangoes, papaya, carrots, capsicums. These fruits and vegetables don’t just make you happy because they look jolly on your plate, they can work as mood enhancers, and help repair and protect cells in bodies that are stressed.

And here’s quick run down of other things to look at increasing in your daily intake. These not only make you feel better, but also combat the negative effects that stress places on the body.

Foods to fight stress:

  • Depression has been linked to low levels of folic acid: asparagus packs a punch-full, as do citrus fruits, broccoli and legumes.
  • Eat foods high in B Vitamins for healthy nerves and brain cells. Links have been identified between anxiety and reduced levels of B Vitamins, so try a warm glass of milk which carries B2 and B12 as well as calcium, potassium, and protein.
  • The potassium in milk (and bananas, potatoes, nectarines and dried apricots) can help relieve the cramps and muscle spasms brought on by tension.
  • Omega-3 protects you from spikes in adrenalin and cortisol levels during difficult moments. Protect your heart by eating a wide variety of foods full of these amazing fatty acids: salmon, walnuts, black beans, enriched eggs and wild rice to name a few.
  • Bolster your immune system, which can be so compromised by stress and anxiety, with foods high in Vitamin E; super foods almonds and spinach fall into this category again, as well as other nuts, sunflower seeds, avocados and wheat germ oil.
  • Tryptophan is an amino acid. As the body digests it, it signals the brain to release serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter that can trigger the warm fuzzies and sometimes sleepiness. It turns up in dairy foods (cottage cheese is a good one), turkey and lettuce (Peter Rabbit falling asleep in Mr McGregor’s vegetable patch, anyone? Check with your four-year-old.)
  • Whole grains are relatively easy to incorporate into your daily diet – in fact they’ve been encouraging us to do so for years, for all sorts of reasons, and now there’s yet another: they’re full of magnesium, contain tryptophan, and their low GI means they satisfy us easily and give us healthy, long lasting energy.

And the most basic of all – remember to drink plenty of water. It’s really easy for dehydration to creep up on us; it strains the body immensely, and can make anxiety worse. A simple glass of water can go a long way to knocking the edge off it!

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Embrace stress and live longer

Stress is bad for you – we all know that, right?

Actually, not quite…

It’s true that many studies have concluded that the negative effects of chronic stress can ultimately be lethal. And so we’ve all been trying to work out ways to minimise the long-term effects of a stressful lifestyle.

But earlier this year respected health psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, gave a TED talk outlining some new research that turns part of this thinking upside down. What the new science of stress reveals is that it’s not the experience of stress that is harmful, but how you perceive it.

When life gets particularly tricky and the adrenaline starts to pump, the heart pounds, you get slightly breathless and break into a sweat. If you believe that this is dangerous for your health, then it will be: what can actually happen is that the blood vessels around your heart constrict, limiting its ability to function properly.

However, if you can train yourself to view the stress as potentially beneficial, although your heart still beats faster, instead of tense, constricted blood vessels they stayed relaxed, as they do when we experience happiness – a much better cardio-vascular profile.

How can stress be regarded positively? Well, think of the increased heart rate as preparing you for action, and that breathing faster is pushing more oxygen to the brain. Meet the situation head on, and your response to it becomes healthier.

Moving away from physical specifics, consider a more holistic view of stress: maybe you were feeling stuck in a rut, and now here’s some excitement in your life. Or is it an opportunity to educate yourself? Does being backed into a corner push you to seek support from friends?  In fact, amongst the detail of Ms McGonigal’s talk there’s commentary on exactly this, and the positive effect of Oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone” that fine tunes your social instincts and enhances empathy. Really interesting stuff.

We’re not suggesting you create mountains out of molehills purely to increase your longevity, but having confidence in your ability to survive a stressful event can only help your physical and mental response.

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Holistic tips for managing stress

Stress plays havoc with your health if you let it take hold of you. Its important to remember that you have choice in how you deal with day-to-day stresses.

Rather than tackle stress head on, why not become more fluid in dealing with challenging situations and flow around obstacles rather than butting up against them?

Here are some holistic tips to managing stress

1. Get the easy matters out of the way first at the start of your day

For example, try to not engage in difficult discussions with people who create conflict in your life, but rather write them an email or a letter. Don’t open the “heart sink” emails until you have dealt with the important matters of the day first, because they drain your energy and create mental distraction that can throw you off course.

2. Plan in catch-up time in your diary

If you are continually running late for appointments and deadlines, look at the number of commitments you make in a day and try to defer some to the next day to create “catch up time”. Plug some spaces into your diary for a herbal tea break or a 20-minute meditation to reset your nervous system to a lower level of tension – a bit like winding the volume down on your amplifier.

3. Give yourself healthy rewards

If you use alcohol or tobacco to reward yourself with a break, or to calm your nerves, find a safer, less-addictive alternative to create relaxation and a more enjoyable atmosphere at that time of the day. Have an aromatherapy bath surrounded by scented candles after work to soothe and unwind your body and mind. Save the money you would spend on wine and cigarettes for a weekly massage, or see a play with a friend, or put a deposit on your next holiday flights. There are loads of ways to immediately reduce stress. Just think about what soothes and calms you.

4. Go with the flow of life

Getting into “the flow” of life means taking the free-flowing path with less turbulence. Avoid obstacles, take on less challenges that might lead to conflicts. Think like a stream and create a path within the obstacles you face rather than trying to change them to suit ‘the plan’. Try to choose relaxing and enjoyable pursuits in your free time, such as a swim in the ocean or walking the dog. Caring for pets has been shown in scientific studies to reduce blood pressure and heart disease risk, as does having a creative pursuit such as painting, writing, playing music or gardening.

You can also relieve stress through exercise, and by changing your diet. Taking a high quality supplement can also play an important role in managing stress.

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Identifying different sources of stress

Are you overwhelmed at work? At home? Under financial pressures? It’s easy to tell when you’re feeling out of sorts, but analysing the real source of your anxiety is not always straightforward.

Here are a few clues to consider:

Workplace:

  • You keep leaving meetings feeling disappointed.
  • Are you underappreciated?
  • You’re being criticised but don’t understand why.
  • Is your role clearly defined?
  • There are never enough hours in the day.
  • Is your workload exceeding your capacity?

Home:

  • There’s a nagging, guilty feeling that won’t go away.
  • Are you a working mother, with friends & family who don’t fully understand your ambitions?
  • Everything’s changing constantly and you can’t keep up.
  • Have you got hormonal teenagers in the house?
  • You dread the end of the month.
  • Are family expenses consistently exceeding your income?
  • You’re exhausted.
  • Do you do all the family laundry, shopping, cooking and cleaning?

Major life events:

  • You feel like you’ve been hit by a truck.
  • Are you experiencing any of the following? (All significant events on the Holmes & Rahe Stress Scale, 1967)
  1. Death or terminal illness of a loved one
  2. Moving house
  3. Divorce
  4. Personal injury or illness
  5. Pregnancy

These are all legitimate reasons to feel stress and anxiety, and there are many more lurking out there. If life really is overwhelming, please seek help from a healthcare professional. Left untreated, the long-term effects can lead to serious illness, including cardiovascular disease, depression, IBS, insomnia, loss of fertility and serious skin conditions.

But remember, stress isn’t always a blanket negative.  Once you’ve identified what’s truly the problem, take all that nervous energy and channel it to find a solution.

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Managing stress when you are a workaholic

Are you a workaholic?

The ‘Workaholic” is a classic example of the individual who does not read the signs of stress and pushes through the warning signs, running the risk of developing a stress-related condition. He or she often experiences fatigue, has a poor diet and therefore poor general health. High stress levels, over-committed schedules, high caffeine intake and increased nicotine/alcohol intake lead to complications such as dependence on these substances for sustained performance.

The workaholic often is in denial of their stress problems, often becoming angry, impatient and manipulative. This can lead to communication breakdowns at work and home, refusing to acknowledge the dramas they are creating around them.

5 Signs you are a workaholic:

  1. Are you feeling tired, weary or run down?
  2. Do you have trouble sleeping?
  3. Can you feel your pulse or heart racing?
  4. Does your last meal feel like it is still processing?
  5. Have you had recurrent minor infections?

The common denominator between these complaints and conditions may be stress – mental, emotional or physical

How to manage stress around your busy schedule:

1. Natural stress evaporators:

  • Calming herbal teas and tisanes especially passionflower, lemon balm, St John’s wort, lavender, vervain and chamomile can soothe the edgy nervous system. It is best to drink three cups of calming herbal tea daily to sustain the relaxation effect of these herbs. They are also beneficial for  digestion and memory enhancement.
  • Sedative herbs, such as hops, valerian and zizyphus can improve the depth and duration of sleep for restorative benefits to the brain and nervous system.
  • Superfoods such as maca, spirulina, pomegranate and berries can be added to a predominantly organic diet to optimise the body’s nutrient stores so that they can be utilised f or replenishment and repair of tissues and organs affected by stress.
  • Essential fatty acids (from krill, oily fish, flaxseed) buffer the nervous system against the impact of stress and prevent chronic anxiety states and reduce phobias.
  • Replace nutrients to recharge neurochemicals and balance your nervous system, especially the B-complex of vitamins and cofactors such as choline, minerals (potassium, magnesium) and amino acids (lysine, glutamine).

These need to be sourced from a comprehensive diet or supplement regime. A high quality stress-relieving nutritional supplement should include high levels of B-vitamins, in particular a blend of nicotinamide and nicotinic acid. Cortisol metabolism requires adequate intake of vitamins B5 and B6 in particular.

 2. Stress relieving therapies:

Acupuncture and shiatsu can provide relief from tension, anxiety and depression, release stress and support systems recovery. Therapeutic massage is more than just a treat, it is necessary touch for relieving muscle tension, reducing pain and improving circulation. Yoga is the best stress antidote activity f or body, mind and spirit and meditation has been extensively researched and found to manage stress-related conditions impressively. In fact, it should be the core component of any stress­ management protocol!

3. Exercise relieving benefits:

Exercise reduces tension and the effects of stress, it also improves sleep, resets tone of nervous system, balances stress and sex hormones, improves libido, sexual function lowers blood pressure, improves circulation and improves digestion.

4. Making sure you are optimising your nutrition

Optimising nutritional uptake, so making sure your diet is healthy and you are supplementing your body appropriately, assists cellular regeneration, reduces cancer risk, reduces obesity, diabetes risk, reverses chronic lung disease, balances immunity, prevents dementia, prevents anxiety and depression, increases happiness and wellbeing, creates longevity, delays cellular ageing… All very good reasons to make sure you are considering complete wellness in your lifestyle.

To help manage your stress, don’t forget to:

  1. Eat a highly nutritious, unprocessed diet for strong cellular foundations
  2. Do regular stress-relief activities to defuse the tension
  3. Take a high-dose nutritional supplement to support the nervous system’s ongoing requirements under stress conditions
  4. Have a medical/naturopathic check-up to evaluate any complications of handling long term stress
  5. And importantly, develop a positive attitude and a sense of optimism, keeping work in perspective to greater wellness

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Are you stressed?

According to 2012 research published in the Australian Psychological Society, Australians reported significantly higher levels of distress and lower levels of well-being in 2012 compared with 2011, with 22% of Australians reporting moderate to severe levels of distress.

Younger adults continued to report much higher levels of stress and distress and lower levels of well-being compared with older Australians. Students and unemployed Australians  reported significantly  lower levels of wellbeing and higher levels of stress and distress than most other Australians.

Stress statistics in Australia:

  1. One in ten Australians reported depression and anxiety symptoms in the severe to extremely severe range, which is comparable to findings from 2011
  2. Younger adults reported significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression symptoms compared with older Australians, with this finding similar to 2011
  3. Unemployed Australians reported significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety symptoms than working or retired Australians

The most commonly reported cause of stress last year was financial issues, with close to 50% of Australians identifying personal finances as a cause of stress. Most surprisingly 40% of Australians reported that trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle was a source of stress.

Are you stressed?

Here is a checklist of the signs that give away that you are stressed

  1. Blotchy, clammy palms
  2. Pale complexion
  3. Nail biting
  4. Dilated pupils
  5. Scalloped tongue edges
  6. Elevated blood pressure
  7. Hair thinning and loss
  8. Dry skin, dry eyes, dry throat
  9. Impaired cognitive functioning
  10. Indigestion, bloating, flatulence, constipation
  11. Unexpected weight loss
  12. Weight gain in midriff region
  13. Menstrual irregularity
  14. Impotence

5 Strategies for managing stress:

  1. Watching TV or movies is Australia’s No.1 f avourite stress-busting pastime
  2. Spending time with friends or family
  3. Listening to music and reading are affordable and effective
  4. Consciously avoiding people or situations that are stressful
  5. Adjusting expectations and focusing on the positives

A good diet and exercise can also help relieve stress, as can a good night’s sleep and the power of perception. Taking a quality supplement such as Hivita Stress can also help relieve stress, nervous tension and mild anxiety.

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(Lynne Casey PhD MAPS, stress and wellbeing in Australia in 2012: A state-of-the-nation survey”, October 2012)