A Commonly Over-Looked Source of Toxicity for Most Americans

Everyone feels stress at some point, but chronic stress that is not addressed can have devastating long-term health effects including high blood pressure, dementia, depression, heart problems, inflammation and increased risk for some types of cancer.

According to the American Psychological Association, 54% of Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their everyday lives, and an increasing number of children are experiencing stress.

Traditional doctors usually prescribe drugs to mask the stress symptoms, but dealing with stress using natural, safe methods is ultimately the best treatment. Here are a few easy ways to take control over the pressures in your life.

• Stretch Out. Exercise will always top the list for stress reduction. It not only improves your physical health, it can strengthen you mentally and emotionally as well. Fortunately, you don’t have to run a 5k to see the benefits. Simple stretches, like toe touches and wrist flexors can be effective stress busters.

Try this for 10 minutes each day. Lie with your back on the floor, legs relaxed and palms to your sides facing up. Take three deep breaths. On the third breath, bring your hands above your head, and stretch them away from you. At the same time point your toes, and stretch your feet away from you. Imagine you are being pulled gently by the hands and feet in opposite directions. Repeat a few times.

Next, repeat the same stretch standing up. Reach your hands toward the ceiling, while standing on the balls of your feet. Lower your feet and hands, and repeat. Incorporate other stretches as you go along.

• Think Gray. Do you ever catch yourself thinking in black and white?

“If I don’t save more money, I will never retire.”

“I neglected everything on my to-do list. I can’t get anything done.”

Black or white thinking usually contains all-encompassing words like “never” “always” or “nothing.” Thinking in black and white is most often misleading and untrue, and it is a breeding ground for anxiety and stress. Giving into this line of thought is common because it often happens subconsciously.

How can you beat it? Pay attention to your words and thoughts. If you notice black or white phrases creeping into your mind, reassure yourself it is incorrect. Ask yourself, what other outcomes could occur? Are there really only two options here? Set your mind on positive alternatives.

• Keep a Journal. Identifying and writing down your stressors can help you understand triggers and address the root cause(s) of your stress. Remember to write down the date and time when you experience stressful feelings or symptoms. Now look back on your journal and see if you notice a pattern. Understanding what triggers your stress will allow you to develop strategies for eliminating it.

• Visualize. A ten-minute visualization session is like a mini-vacation. Close your eyes for ten minutes every day and picture yourself in a calming place like at the beach, in a meadow or at a spa. Imagine the sounds, sensations and smells associated with your chosen place. Visualization can help you temporarily break from a stressful situation or give you a much-needed time to relax.