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21 September 2004

Pre-Christmas stress busters

There are a few weeks to the end of the the year - and a few strands to the end of your tether. With the mad Christmas rush coming up, you will need to develop your stress coping mechanisms. But how can you do this?

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There are a few weeks to the end of the the year - and a few strands to the end of your tether. With the mad Christmas rush coming up, you will need to develop your stress coping mechanisms. But how can you do this?

Face the dragon. Avoiding a problem that bothers you, or agonising about it in silence, will just cause those adrenalin levels to climb. Keeping everything to yourself might make things appear insoluble. A friend or a counsellor could give you a different perspective. Lean on your support system.

Limit your caffeine intake. Your body takes five hours to process caffeine, so if you have your first cup at six a.m. and the last one at 11 p.m., your body is basically never caffeine-free. Caffeine, which is also present in tea, chocolate and some soda drinks, heightens your blood pressure and stops your adrenal glands from functioning at their best.

Get regular exercise. This will help your body produce endorphines, the body's natural antidepressant, which will in turn help prevent insomnia.

Eat a healthy diet. Don't skip meals, as this will cause your blood sugar to drop, worsening the effect of the blood glucose fluctuations you experience when stressed. Don’t resort to eating high-energy junk food or sweets in an attempt to counteract the sluggishness brought on by low blood glucose levels. Yoghurt, fruit, vegetables, cottage cheese and high-fibre cereal will help to regulate your blood glucose levels.

Avoid excessive alcohol use. Alcohol is actually a nervous system depressant, and, in the long run, drinking too much can actually cause depression, not relieve it.

Get enough sleep. Adults need eight hours of sleep a night – few get more than seven. Our bodies need sleep to recharge and to aid the healing processes. Avoid alcohol and large meals at night. A glass of warm milk will help you fight insomnia, as milk contains an amino acid that is converted into a sleep-enhancing compound in the brain.

Learn relaxation techniques. Yoga or tai chi will help to reduce the effects of stress on your body. When you relax, your body will stop producing cortisol in excess, which in turn will increase the effective functioning of your immune system, lowering your chances of infection.

Get a massage.Treat yourself to aromatherapy, a relaxing massage or reflexology session. This will release the knots in your muscles, and produce a much needed calming effect. It's important to take time out for yourself. Do these things and meet the new you before the year is over! (Susan Erasmus, Health24)

 
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