Stress Solutions

10 Stress-Free Minutes a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

It is true that most of us cannot avoid stress, especially if we want to continue to be an active  participant in the world. Stress goes with the territory of juggling a career, a family, and a social  life. Most of us understand only too well the dangers of continuing to schedule full days, of  adding new projects to an already overlong list, and still trying to find some time for ourselves  at the end of the day. We routinely overbook ourselves. Some of us have the grace to promise  to do better next week and might even believe that we can make it up later. But, can we?  Chronic stress is now linked to so many problems related to illness, chronic health problems,  anxiety, loss of memory, and reduced longevity that it would take the rest of this column to simply list all the ways it affects our lives. We know, for example, that the things we think about  and dwell on can have a direct effect on how much cortisol, or stress hormone, is produced in  our body. Keeping the cortisol down has become a new goal for the health conscious.

Researchers from the University of California, Davis have published findings from a long-term  study, called the Shamatha Project, that studied how meditation influences the brain and  mental health. The article published in the journal Health Psychology reports that meditation,  and particularly mindfulness training, helps lower stress and cortisol levels, which in turn can  help you lose excess weight and avoid developing “cortisol belly.”

Manage Your Stress…Not the Other Way Around

It’s time to draw a line in the sand and start reducing stress and cortisol. What I am proposing is not perfect, but it is a start that you can build on. If you keep waiting until you have the time, or  until you can do it “right,” it could be too late. Stop letting your calendar manage you. Don’t “try”  to do better. As Yoda says, “Do or Do Not!”

Begin Your 10 Stress-Free Minutes Today

You might think that 10 minutes a day is not much help. But it is. A few minutes goes a long way toward recharging your energy and breaking up your resistance to taking breaks. You can  gradually add more mental “down time” and physical relaxation to each day. Get started by  making yourself push away from your desk or daily routine for 10 minutes. Take this break with  the intention of taking a brief mental holiday; give your mind a rest. Why not begin with 10  minutes of Mindfulness? Or, spend 10 minutes in focused breathing (with longer exhale). Add some music or put your feet up, close your eyes and direct your favorite piece of music. Remind yourself to do this daily by putting the reminder into your smart phone.

And, by the way, those of you who work with stressed-out clients, I have found that many  seriously stressed patients are so overwhelmed that they cannot even begin to think about how they can reduce their stress. The above suggestion that they start with just 10 minutes a day  has helped many people start adding relief to their day. Once they begin, the time can be  gradually increased. Psychology tells us that making a conscious choice with commitment is a  powerful tool. Do as I say AND as I do.

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