Stress Relief

The dog days of summer are upon us and you might think that they have something to do with hot and humid weather. Well that isn’t exactly where the term originated from; the dog days of summer are actually July 3 through August 11. Those days are the 20 days before and 20 days after the “dog” star Sirius rises and falls in conjunction with sun. Sirius is the brightest star in the constellations Canis Major. The ancients Romans believed that its heat added to the heat of the sun, creating a stretch of hot and sultry weather. During the time between July and August the “dog” star rising with our sun made the ancients think the heat of two stars where making us hotter. In modern times, we know that there is no heat generated from this very distant start, but the term stuck. So even in modern times we consider the hot and muggy time of the summer between late July and mid-August as the dog days of summer.

I remember well what it was like in New England, especially in August! On our wedding day, August 15th, in New London, Connecticut, it was 96 degrees and 96 percent humidity. There we were in our wedding finery, dying with the heat in a little non-air conditioned church whose capacity was 150 people. There were 200 crammed into that tiny church. I remember being at the altar and feeling water running down my back, the front of me and the humidity frizzing my newly permed hair. Poor Ron was in a 3 piece wool suit, and so were all of the groomsmen. Our reception was likewise in a non airconditioned hall. The food was fabulous, but everyone was so miserable, that the MC (the pastor who had married us) sped up the proceedings and closed down the reception right after the cake was distributed.

Ron recalls also being in prison in Tennessee when he was about 19. The “Big House,” as it was known was way over-crowded, and in order to withstand the heat and humidity, prisoners would wring their towel out with cold water, and lay it over their bodies to be able to sleep at night.

Heat often causes people to become angry. When perspiration is dripping down your face, smarting your eyes, and making you absolutely miserable, how can one handle it? Not easily! There is a different kind of heat however than the one caused by temperature. It is the heat of STRESS! It may not be felt like perspiration running everywhere on your body, but the heat that it causes in your brain, is none-the-less painful!

Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Everyone experiences stress from time to time. Anything from everyday responsibilities like work and family to serious life events such as a new diagnosis, war, or the death of a loved one can trigger stress. For immediate, short-term situations, stress can be beneficial to your health. It can help you cope with potentially serious situations. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond. Yet if your stress response doesn’t stop firing, and these stress levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a toll on your health. Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being.

Symptoms of chronic stress include:

– irritability

– anxiety

– depression

– headaches

– insomnia

What are some tips for relieving stress?

Listening to soothing music, particularly classical music, affects the brain and body in a positive way by lowering blood pressure and reducing the stress-related hormone cortisol.

It also helps to call a close friend or loved one to feel reassured during stressful times.

Alternatively, a person can try telling himself the reasons why he is stressed and what he can do to overcome the situation.

Laughing is also a healthy habit that triggers the release endorphins, which improve mood. Consider watching a good comedy movie.

A balanced diet is essential in maintaining healthy stress levels. Instead of eating sugary and fatty foods, an individual should consume more fruits, vegetables, and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Green tea is a good alternative to coffee and energy drinks, as it contains antioxidants and the vitamin B supplements, which have the ability to calm the nervous system.

Yoga, tai chi, and meditation are systems of mindfulness that involve physical and mental exercises capable of preventing stress.

People can also boost their mood immediately by doing simple exercises, such as walking around the office or stretching for a few minutes.

For me, relieving my stress takes the form of going to my patio garden, watering and tending the flowers, sing- ing, and most importantly, being alone and talking to God. Being grateful for all of the blessings I have received gives me a boost like nothing else can! Deep breathing can also bring relief.

A soak in a tub with epson salts (which softens your skin too) tends to calm me down, or even a warmer than usual shower, lotion or powder applied afterwards, and a short nap all are a benefit to me. Of course, if you can afford a massage, having those tight muscles worked on can bring a great deal of relief.

Why don’t you write in to nancy@fixablelife.com with the tips that you have found to be beneficial when you feel stressed, and we will post them in the next newsletter, minus your name.

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