by Diane Sears
Updated 5 yearss ago
Yoga has become a mainstream remedy against stress.
It's rare to be at a business or social gathering these days without someone mentioning yoga, the ancient Eastern art once thought of in the U.S. as a pastime for only young people and hippies. Mainstream health professionals tout yoga as one of the best ways to relieve stress.
"It's gained acceptance and respectability," says Patricia Rockwood, an instructor with the American Yoga Association in Sarasota. "We've found more and more doctors are recommending yoga because it can help everything from carpal tunnel syndrome to heart disease."
You don't have to be limber enough to twist your body into a pretzel before you can practice yoga, she says. Most studios offer classes for beginners. Besides the exercise component, which is particularly effective at helping people with stiff backs and joints, yoga teaches you to relax the body and lessen mental distractions through controlled breathing and meditation.
"A lot of people realize controlled breathing can help reduce stress and relieve anxiety," Rockwood says. She suggests you then move into meditation for at least 10 minutes, working your way up to 20 or 30 minutes -- something you can do in your office or during your lunch break.
"It could be like taking a very refreshing power nap," she says. "You're in essence training yourself to relax when you want to. Instead of hanging onto stressful feelings or thoughts, you're getting away from them for a few minutes."
Fight or Flight
The "fight-or-flight" reaction kicks in automatically when you feel threatened. The pituitary gland at the base of your brain sends out a burst of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which is like an alarm system going off in your brain. It triggers the adrenal glands near your kidneys to release stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, into your bloodstream. These hormones sharpen your concentration, reaction time, strength and agility -- great qualities if you're fighting off predators in the jungle, but not necessarily helpful if you're experiencing it for weeks on end behind a desk.
Source: Mayo Clinic
By the Numbers
54%of Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their everyday lives.73%of Americans name money as the No. 1 factor that affects their stress level.66%of Americans say they're likely to seek help for stress.62%of Americans say work has a significant impact on stress levels. Executives and managers tend to have the most stressful jobs, while self-employed workers are the least stressed.45%of workers say job insecurity has a significant impact on work stress levels.61%of workers say heavy workloads have a significant impact on work stress levels.52%of workers are more stressed because of work than home.54%of workers are concerned about health problems caused by stress.25%of workers have taken a "mental health day" off from work to cope with stress.
Source: American Psychological Association
Do you recognize these signs of stress in your own life? If so, you might want to consult your physician.
High blood pressure
Shortness of breath
Tight, dry throat
Constipation or diarrhea
Stomach cramping or bloating
Weight gain or loss
Diminished sex drive
Skin problems, such as hives
Feelings of insecurity
Lack of concentration
Overeating or loss of appetite
Increased alcohol use
Increased drug use
Source: Mayo Clinic