5 ways to take a brain vacation

Taking a moment or two to visualize relaxation can get counter stress. CONTRIBUTED

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Taking a moment or two to visualize relaxation can get counter stress. CONTRIBUTED

Stress is that feeling you get when you are nervous or anxious. Experiencing stress is normal, and some stress is even good for you. When you need to get things done, stress can help motivate you to stay on task. That’s the good kind of stress — the kind that helps you deal quickly and effectively with tough situations. But too much stress affects more than your mood.

“If left unchecked, stress can contribute to larger health concerns like high blood pressure, heart disease, a weakened immune system, obesity and diabetes,” says Kettering Physician Network cardiologist Sateesh Kesari, MD, with Kettering Cardiovascular Consultants in Hamilton.

Since it isn’t possible to completely check out and take an actual vacation every time stress sneaks into our lives, try these five stress-reducing techniques the next time you’re on a deadline at work, busy taking care of children or stuck in traffic.

1. Visualize relaxation. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and imagine a relaxing scene like sitting on a beach, feeling the sun on your skin and listening to the waves. Or imagine walking through a meadow or woods while birds sing. Focusing on the sights, sounds and smells will help immerse your body in relaxation.

2. Breathe deep. Take deep, controlled breaths. Practice breathing from your diaphragm: You should feel your abdomen expanding rather than your shoulders lifting. "Breathing from your diaphragm oxygenates your blood, which can help you to relax almost instantly. It also helps slow down your heart rate.

3. Turn your gaze outwards. Instead of focusing on everything you have to do and the things that are causing you stress, cast your gaze outwards. Look out a window, people watch, notice any birds or clouds within view. Allow yourself to daydream for a few minutes.

4. Remember 10. Before responding in a stressful situation when you may be angry or flustered, pause and count to 10. Allow yourself the time to process the information and form an appropriate response. Also ask yourself, "On a scale of 1-10, how big of an issue is this?" By taking a step back and giving a situation some perspective, you can help control your response and stress level.

5. Turn on the tunes. Music is proven to have a soothing effect on emotions. If you are unsure what kind of music helps calm you down, try some instrumental and classical music. Play the radio in the car, turn on a playlist when you're in the shower or getting ready to go somewhere or pop in some earbuds while you're prepping for a presentation.

By making time for mental vacations that only take a few minutes every day, you can train yourself to relax, reduce stress, and improve your overall health.

Kettering Health Network is a faith-based, not-for-profit healthcare system. The network has eight hospitals: Grandview, Kettering, Sycamore, Southview, Greene Memorial, Fort Hamilton, Kettering Behavioral Health and Soin.

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