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How to Break the Cycle of Stress
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Don’t ignore the signs.

Adrenaline overload can cause everything from heart disease and obesity to inflammation and depression – so don’t ignore your chronic state of stress, writes Stephanie Osfield.

Feeling constantly teary, trepidatious or tense are neon signs warning you that your life is out of balance. To find your inner Zen zone and channel calmer, follow these simple lifestyle changes:

Eat breakfast

Skimping on brekkie can cause the jitters. “Eat the right combination of foods to set up your day – coffee on the way to work is not breakfasting!” says Teresa Mitchell-Paterson, a senior lecturer in natural therapies at the Australasian College of Natural Therapies.

“If you don’t ‘break your fast’, your blood sugars will drop, and feelings of mental fog, anxiety and sugar cravings can occur.” So lose the excuses. Rise 15 minutes earlier and tuck into a healthy porridge or eggs and rye toast.

Burn off adrenal stress

Whether you jog, play netball, swim laps or enjoy a sunset walk, exercise brings many de-stressing benefits. It boosts natural ‘feelgood’ chemicals like serotonin, causing a sense of wellbeing. The more time we spend doing exercise, the less depression, anxiety and insomnia we experience, shows research from the University of Bristol.

Be authentic

Stress gatecrashes our lives when we slip into jobs, relationships and lifestyles that don’t sit well with our moral values and inner needs. To find greater peace, make choices that sit well with your conscience and allow you to be authentic. Bear in mind this Chinese proverb: “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

Deflect your fears

When worries and fears intrude on your day, brush them off. “Silently sing your anxious feelings to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’, or imagine your negative self-talk in the voice of a famous actor or sports commentator,” suggests Russ Harris, mindfulness expert and author of The Happiness Trap. “This technique helps create distance from those feelings, so you learn to observe them without becoming upset.”

Talk it over

Talking therapies are among the most effective natural treatments for anxiety, so if you’re on edge 24/7, seek counselling. “A therapy style called cognitive therapy (which teaches how to attain realistic thinking and change attitudes and behaviour) is as effective as antidepressants for treating mild to moderate depression, which often goes hand in hand with anxiety and stress,” says Kathy Griffiths, deputy director of the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University.

Embrace stillness

Revel in daily practices like meditation, qi gong, tai chi and yoga. Enjoy the serenity boost. “Studies show that yoga can reduce anxiety and stress even after just a few sessions,” says Michael de Manincor, executive director of the Yoga Foundation, based in Sydney. “It helps you connect mind, breath and body by ensuring you pay attention to them and induces a relaxation response that counters hormones like adrenalin and cortisol.”

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