Stress Busters 3: Stressed? Control your Breathing

Congratulations, either you or your team have reached Akaka Waterfalls at Milestone #3

Control Breathing, Control Stress

You’re stuck in rush-hour traffic, glancing at your car’s clock every few minutes as you strain to get to work on time. You may not notice, but your breathing is shallow, your pulse rate is high, and your chest feels tight. In fact, you feel this way in many stressful situations.

Sound familiar? Modern society creates more than its share of stress. It’s difficult to change some situations — but you can manage how you feel about them, experts say.

Begin with something you take for granted — your breathing. If you’re on that busy highway, pay attention to what’s going on around you, but pay attention to your breathing, too. It’s one of the few things you can control.

“Focusing on your breathing is one of the highly effective ways of reducing stress,” says cardiologist James Rippe, M.D., author of 10 books on health and fitness, including “Healthy Heart for Dummies.” “It brings you into the here and now,” distracting you from your worries.

“We’ve become addicted to moving and thinking at hyper-speed,” adds Stephan Rechtschaffen, M.D., wellness expert and author of the bookTimeshifting. “When we’re under stress, our breathing is short, high up in the lungs. More relaxed breathing doesn’t rely on the chest wall, but rather on the abdomen.”

Abdominal breathing, experts say, provides the lungs with more oxygen and is more rhythmic. It’s something that opera singers and other performers have known for years: Abdominal breathing allows them to take control of their breath, to sing or speak with greater power, and to help them focus on the moment.

Breathing is just the beginning. If you can adjust your breath, you can adjust other things in your life, experts say. Slow your breathing down when you walk into your office or home and you’ll notice that you won’t jump at the first problem that hits you. When your breath is quiet, you are quiet.

Practice Your Breathing

Believe it or not, most of us could use a lesson on how to breathe. Practice at home a few times when you’re not under stress. Then, try putting these techniques into practice when a stressful situation occurs.

In a relaxed setting, take three really deep breaths, focusing on your exhalations. “Really let it out,” says Dr. Rechtschaffen. “It may feel unnatural at first, but stick with it.”

Now, begin focusing on where your breath is coming from, experts say. Here’s one practice method:

  • Sit on the edge of a chair, feet flat on the floor.
  • Place one hand on your lower back and the other hand on your abdomen, with three fingers below your navel.
  • As you breathe in, your abdomen should rise, like a balloon inflating.
  • As you breathe out, your abdomen should fall, with the sensation that the balloon is losing its air.

Concentrate on your abdomen, not your chest. Practice from a few minutes to 20 minutes each day. Soon, it will come naturally.

Wellness Library Health Ink and Vitality Communications © 2014

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Stress Buster Milestone 2: Stress Management

Medical research shows that stress management – controlling the reaction to external sources of stress – can make a difference in how you think, feel and relate to others. The top stress relievers include the following:
Exercise – the number one stress reducer. Regular, moderate exercise keeps your heart and lungs fit, lowers your blood pressure, and increases endorphin production – the feel-good chemicals.

Stop smoking, limit or abstain from alcohol, and limit caffeine from all sources. All three drugs – nicotine, alcohol and caffeine – increase physical stress.

Connect with other people. Develop a circle of friends and have at least one trusted friend or family member to whom you can reveal your deepest, darkest thoughts.

Eat a nutritious, balanced diet and maintain a healthy body weight.

Keep a positive outlook about your life and your future. If you tend toward the negative, take charge of your thoughts.

Commit to quiet time, meditation, or prayer every day to help put life in perspective. Spend some time every day in something you enjoy, something fun. The combination – quiet time and fun – will help to balance your life.

Relax! Find ways to practice relaxation, such as deep breathing or muscle tension and release.

Talk about your feelings. Expressing emotions of fear, worry, and anger will reduce the negative impact of those feelings on your body and your mind.

Dream, set goals, and plan. Hold onto ambition, direction and structure and you have a better chance at living a life you want.

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Health Tip #3: A bowl a day could keep high blood pressure away

Congratulations! You have reached the third milestone on the Ascend Mount Kilimanjaro Challenge.

Go back to your home page or continue reading your Heart Health Tip.

The amount of cereal, specifically whole grain cereal, can significantly reduce the risk of high blood pressure, according to a recent Physicians Health Study.

Whole grain cereal can significantly reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

The study analyzed data from more than 13,000 male physicians over a 16 year period. None of the men had high blood pressure at the beginning of the study.

The participants were grouped together by how much cereal they ate. The group who did not eat cereal was used as a control.

  • The group who ate one or less servings a week saw an 8 percent lower high blood pressure risk
  • Those who ate two to six servings a week saw a 16 percent lower risk
  • Those who ate seven or more servings a week saw a 25 percent lower risk

Hmmm, may be tomorrow morning you should include a serving of whole grain cereal.

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Health Tip #2: Walking Reduces your Risk of Stroke

Congratulations! You have reached the second milestone on the Ascend Mount Kilimanjaro Challenge.

Go back to your home page or continue reading your Heart Health Tip.

A stroke occurs when blood and oxygen are cut off from the brain. It can cause serious long-term disability and is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

There are several things you can do to reduce your chance of stroke including a healthy diet, controlling your blood pressure and exercising.

And exercise, in the form of walking, has been proven to reduce the risk of stroke significantly.

A Harvard study of nearly 40,000 women over a 12-year period, tracked the participants’ physical activity, such as walking, running, swimming and dancing. The study found that those who walked two or more hours a week were less likely to have a stroke, as compared to the other recorded activities. The study also found that women who walked at a brisk pace had a 37 percent lower risk when compared to women who did not walk for exercise.

Another study by Harvard of 11,000 men reported that one hour of brisk walking five times a week lowered a man’s risk of stroke by half.

To determine if you are walking at a brisk rate, take the “talk test.” When walking briskly, you should be able to talk, but not sing. If you are out of breath and cannot carry on a conversation,, you are probably walking too fast and should slow down.

Know the Signs of Stroke

The National Stroke Association developed the F.A.S.T. test to help identify the signs of stoke so you know when to call 9-1-1. Treatment is available but it must be given as soon as symptoms appear, so quick action required:

F = FACE Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A = ARMS Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S = SPEECH Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
T = TIME If you observe any of these signs (independently or together), call 9-1-1 immediately.

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Health Tip #1 Attacking Cholesterol through Diet and Exercise

Congratulations! You have reached the first milestone on the Ascend Mount Kilimanjaro Challenge.

Go back to your home page or continue reading your Heart Health Tip.

Haagen Dazs Fat Free Frozen YogurtPotato chips, burgers, ice cream or butter drenched baked potatoes. If you’re trying to lower your cholesterol, these are some of the many foods you may want to avoid or reduce your intake.

If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels, you are not alone. According to the American Heart Association, 107 million, or 1 in 5 adults, has cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dL. A level above 200 is borderline high and extreme levels, those above 240, are at risk for heart disease. The association recommends no more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day. And if you already have high cholesterol, they recommend staying below 200 mg.

LDL cholesterol (think L for LOUSY cholesterol) clogs vessels while HDL (think H for HEALTHY) helps remove plaque from your blood stream.

A low cholesterol diet and exercise is one way to reduce your levels. Research shows that losing 10 pounds can reduce LDL cholesterol by 5 to 8 percent and regular exercise increases HDL cholesterol.

There are a lot of foods one should limit when trying to lower cholesterol intake, but what foods should you eat? Actually, the following foods can help improve your cholesterol numbers.

  • Oatmeal, oat bran and high-fiber foods
  • Fish and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Walnuts, almonds and other nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Foods with added plant sterols or stanols, such as beta-sitosterol and -sitostanol (typically found in margarine spreads such as Promise activ or Benecol)

Also, there are tasty alternatives to foods you love, so …

  • Instead of potato chips (which have 10.6g of total fat, 3.1g of sat. fat)
    try Multigrain SunChips (5.9 total fat, 1 g sat. fat)
  • Instead of a broiled ground beef burger (20.1g total fat, 7.6g sat. fat, 1.4 g trans fat)
    try a veggie burger like Morningstar Farms(3.5g total fat, 0.5g sat. fat, 0g trans fat)
  • Instead of Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream (14g total fat, 8g sat. fat, cholesterol 75 mg)
    try Ben & Jerry’s hard fat-free frozen yogurt (0g total fat, 0g sat. fat, cholesterol 15 mg).
  • Instead of a pat of butter (2.3g total fat, 1.4g sat. fat, 6mg cholesterol)
    try some fat free yogurt which has practically no fat or cholesterol.
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