August 26, 2010
Tracey L. Chavous
Health and Wellness Writer
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With a frazzled economy and high unemployment rates, more and more Americans are exploring better options to save money as well as manage stress levels. Your average employee is doing the job of two or more people, raising families, taking care of ailing parents and trying to keep it together. The firm WFD Consulting recently reported on the massive workloads of working Americans. Their report found that “eighty percent of respondents said employee stress has increased; morale and endurance also continue to slip and only half of the organizations have programs and resources to address employee stress.” “TGIF” is a phrase most are all familiar with, because weekends are meant to be for resting and relaxing or so they say. Although some may not be able to control what is going on around them, most people can control how they manage stress; particularly over the weekend. Consider some of the following ways to relax and unwind over the weekend.
“Walk this Way”
Exercise comes in many forms and using your legs to bike, hike or walk has a way of providing a feeling of variety and fun as opposed to the traditional gym workout. For many, walking is a great outlet especially when done outside in the fresh air. Walking is low impact and can be an inviting way to kick off the weekend after a long work week. Now that fall is upon us, the weather can be very inviting and the views are spectacular. Hiking and biking burns high rates of calories in addition to providing mental clarity, lower body toning and cardiovascular strength. These de-stressing activities can be done alone or with a companion or two. Take advantage of your regional or state park’s unlimited value and beauty. Many parks are free to use until sunset. Visit the National Park Service website for locations (http://www.nps.gov) and click on the “Find a Park” tab.
Yoga incorporates a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises that promote a more flexible body, calmer mind and open spirit. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you are encouraged to focus less on your busy week or day and more on the moment, which is a perfect way to help de-stress over the weekend. Yoga is beneficial in many ways, because improvements in flexibility, lowered heart rate, reduced anxiety and muscle tension are evident in just a few short sessions. Yoga is offered in many gyms, studios, DVDs and even on You Tube for exercise in the privacy of your own home. Whether you begin by doing 10, 30 or 60 minutes, the payoff is long lasting for relieving stress.
Connect with Positive People
Ever notice how down and listless you feel after a negative or stressful conversation with a friend or associate? It’s like a dreary energy has taken root in the room and all of a sudden you feel drained and unproductive. If you are constantly surrounded by negative people and energy on a consistent basis at work or during the week, you will find yourself in a rut for sure. This sort of mindset can intrude on your weekend if you let it. Notice how making an effort to stay positive with your thoughts, actions and words will begin to brighten your days and attract mutually positive people and events your way. Connecting with positive people can realign or maintain an upbeat outlook on everyday things like the weather and traffic. It can even carry you into the weekend. So go ahead, choose a positive thought and see what comes your way. SMILE!
Depending on the occupation, our society has become somewhat dependent on button pushing (computer keys, remote controls, cell phones, texting, GPS). Do you know anyone who has a rotary phone “landline” anymore? On a weekend morning, tap into your creative expression and craft something unique. You might want to complete one of the many honey-dos on your list (painting, building, gardening, grilling, rock climbing, sewing, making music or writing poetry). Research shows that making room for pastimes can improve your health as well as your mood, because they reduce your stress levels due to the levels of concentration and relaxed breathing involved. Weekends are a perfect opportunity for planning and organizing these hands-on ventures as well as providing something to look forward to doing during the busy work week. How often do you do something just for you?
For the same amount of time you may spend commuting to work during the week, you could be in a whole new world for the day or overnight. The DC metro area is nicely nestled between other states, which makes it easy for weekend escapers to get to other attractions within 2-4 hours. Head northeast to Atlantic City or to a play and dinner in New York. Head south to Williamsburg, Virginia for some colonial culture, a zip around a rollercoaster at a theme park, adventure in Luray Caverns or a wine tasting at a local winery. Ride west to West Virginia for a fishing trip, slot machines or a college football game. Explore eastward to the shores of Maryland for picnics and fishing in a park or hit the beaches and outlets in Delaware. Whichever way your map or GPS takes you, stress- busting adventure on the weekend can be yours in no time.
These days, productive multi-tasking isn’t revered as a quality skill anymore. Many people communicate by texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and rarely have real face-to-face conversations. So how do we learn to do nothing at all and be at peace? What do we do? Nothing in particular; just be. It’s sort of scary for many, but it’s proven to be necessary for all. Doing nothing occurs in degrees depending on your age. A common theme is that doing nothing requires no time, no skill and no commitment. Doing nothing is not wasting time for it includes doing much of what is within this article: deep breathing, reducing your accessibility by turning off the gadgets, relaxing under a cozy blanket and looking out of the window at the marvels of nature, taking a long luxurious bubble bath, tasting all of the wines or teas in your home. It’s similar to when you go to the pool or to a beach or lake where people are lounging, sleeping and digging their toes in the sand. There’s nothing major to do, but it’s something the body recognizes as bliss. This process connects you to yourself and the earth in a way that many other things cannot. Doing nothing is such an art that a book was written about it. The Art of Doing Nothing: Simple Ways to Make Time for Yourself by Veronique Vienne and Erica Lennard. Stop and smell the roses. You just might enjoy it!
For thousands of years, healers around the world have found that therapeutic touch can do wonders throughout the body when it’s ill or stressed by modern day lifestyles. Staff at massagetherapy.com wrote that having a massage does more than just relax your body and mind; there are specific physiological and psychological changes that occur, even more so when the massage is utilized as a preventative, frequent therapy and not simply mere luxury. During a recent trip to Core Essentials Studio (a pilates and exercise studio), a hidden treasure in Bethesda, Maryland, it was noted that their massage services can aid in providing valuable personal attention to anyone in need of de-stressing. Massages and physical touch to the body are healing mechanisms. Many diseases manifest themselves as a result of stress. Massages are dynamic and natural ways to promote relaxation and lower anxiety as well as other side effects of fast paced living.
The art of meditation is centuries old and anyone can do it. Thousands of years ago, meditation was originally practiced to deepen the understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. Today, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction. It is not about religion; it is about breathing and stillness. One of the many reasons to find ways to incorporate this into your life is the fact that it is inexpensive. It’s portable and can be done anywhere. It also does not require expensive and cumbersome equipment. During meditation, form is not as important as how it makes you feel after the exercise. The Mayo Clinic staff at www.mayoclinic.com offered the following tips for getting started:
1. Focus your attention
Focusing your attention is generally one of the key elements of meditation. When your attention is focused, it helps free your mind from distractions that cause stress and worry. You can focus your attention on things such as a specific object or other images of your choosing.
2. Relaxed breathing
The purpose of relaxed breathing is to slow your breathing, take in more oxygen and reduce the use of shoulder, neck and upper chest muscles while breathing. This allows you to breathe more efficiently. This technique involves deep, even-paced breathing using the diaphragm muscle to expand your lungs.
2. Quiet location
A place with few distractions (turn off electronics) is the best place to begin. Over time as your skills to block out distractions improve, you can meditate in more high stress situations such as, traffic jams, long lines at stores or at work in high-powered meetings.
3. Comfortable position.
This peaceful state of mind can be achieved not just by sitting, but also by standing, walking or other comfortable positions.
Stress is inevitable and can be reduced and or eliminated by incorporating some of these “natural remedies” to de-stress over the weekend as well as during other busy times. Making slight changes in your lifestyle such as fostering healthy relationships and hobbies can assist in recharging your energy and your mindset over time. Take it one step at a time and breathe.