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Archive for the ‘Stress & Anxiety’ Category


See surprising reasons why you may be feeling worried or anxious
By Sarah Jio

Got stress? Most of us do. And you’re probably already aware of the usual suspects, like money, kids, work, rocky relationships and your health. But maybe you haven’t considered the lesser-known stressors in your life. Without us even knowing it, there are plenty of unexpected causes of day-to-day worry and anxiety. Here, our experts discuss some sneaky sources of stress and exactly how to deal with them.

1. Your Doctor
You go to visit the doctor to feel better, right? But many women may find that certain doctors’ interpersonal skills and lack of “bedside manner” can leave them feeling agitated and anxious. In fact, many women may leave the doctor’s office feeling more stressed out than when they arrived. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to find a new physician, says Phyllis Goldberg, PhD, a family and relationship expert practicing in Marina Del Ray, California. “This is a partnership, and the relationship has to work for you,” she says. “So get in the driver’s seat—talk to your friends, look online, make a list of what you want and interview until you find the doctor that you know is right for you.”

2. Your Coworkers
Most people assume that in a work environment it’s the boss who will be the most anxiety-producing personality, but that’s not always the case, says Linnda Durré, PhD, a Florida-based psychotherapist. You spend the most time, she says, with your professional peers—and it may be that your stress at the office is more about your coworkers than your boss. Just because you’re at the same place in the office hierarchy doesn’t mean that you won’t clash on certain issues. In Dr. Durré’s new book Surviving the Toxic Workplace, she offers the following way to conquer coworker conflicts. “Use the ‘sandwich technique,’” she says. “Start out with a compliment about the person, then go directly to the problems. Be specific, give feedback, stating it clearly and giving examples of the toxic or faulty behavior and how you want it to change. Then end on a positive note with what you’d like to have happen.”

3. Your Dog
Rufus the dog or Fluffy the cat may be your loyal best friend, but pets are a source of stress, too. (Anyone who’s ever had to take their dog to the emergency animal hospital at 2 a.m. or has been awakened by their cat’s whining at 4 a.m. knows about that!) There is such a thing as pet-induced anxiety, says Rosemary Lichtman, PhD, a relationship and family expert in Marina Del Ray, California. If you find that your pet is interfering with your sleep, destroying your house and generally causing you anxiety—it’s time to take action, whether it’s hiring a dog trainer, speaking to your vet about your cat’s destructive habits or even finding your pooch a new home. Your pet should enhance your life, not make it worse. But Dr. Lichtman reminds us that, despite all the hard work, “the benefits do outweigh the costs.” She adds, “Studies have shown that people with pets are happier, have less stress and live longer. So keep that in mind during those midnight wakeup calls.”

4. Your Bedroom
It’s supposed to be the most restful, calming room in your house. Is that true of yours? If there’s unfolded laundry piled high on your bed and clutter on your bedside table, it may not only be interfering with your sleep—it could also be increasing your stress levels. Past studies have found a correlation between messy homes and unhappiness, mild depression and elevated anxiety. “With a busy life, things can pile up before you know it,” says Dr. Goldberg. “But you’re in charge here, and you really can get a handle on this. It’s hard to clean up a huge mess, so take it one step at a time. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can even bring in a professional organizer.”

5. Your Alarm Clock
Research has indicated that alarm clocks illuminated with blue light may interfere with circadian rhythms, possibly interrupting your sleep, which can sap you of energy and leave you underprepared to deal with daily stress. Alarm clocks with a loud, shrill pitch may also produce a jarring effect that can jolt the body with stress upon waking. While it’s not likely that the ring of your alarm clock will cause serious health problems, researchers have linked the morning hours to a higher incident of heart attacks, and some have questioned whether our bodies may be better suited to peaceful, slower wakeups. “Find an alarm clock with a soothing chime,” says Dr. Durré. Better yet, she adds: “Get a good night’s sleep so you don’t even need an alarm.”

6. Facebook
You love taking a midday break from work and finding out what your pals are up to, but could everyone else’s status updates be stressing you out? Maybe, says Dr. Lichtman. “Social networking, like any relationship, can have an impact on your emotions,” she says, adding that online news bites can sometimes, inadvertently, make others feel inadequate. (For instance: the status update from your old friend from high school who announced that she’s just met Prince Charming, who’s taking her on a two-week Mediterranean cruise, just as you’ve signed your divorce papers.) “Notice how you’re feeling when you spend time on Facebook and pay attention to why,” she says. “If it makes you feel bad, trust your instincts and log off. Call a friend, curl up with a good book, go for a walk—do something that genuinely brings you pleasure.”

7. Your Keys
Have you ever lost your keys? Your cell phone? Or—gasp—your wallet? Your heart probably started racing as stress hormones pumped through your body. This kind of stress is normal, but if you’re constantly losing your most important belongings, it may be time to make some changes. “When I was in graduate school, I used to lock myself out of my house and my car all the time because I wasn’t concentrating and was always rushed and in a hurry,” says Dr. Durré. “I bought a long neck chain and put one car key and one house key on it, and tucked it in the middle of my bra, so I was always protected from lockouts. It worked!” Try making a few duplicate house and car keys, she says. Also set your cell phone, keys, wallet and other essentials in one consistent place every day when you walk into your home.

8. Your Computer
If you take your work laptop home on the weekends, maybe you should reconsider—or at least designate one day during which you don’t think about work or feel tempted to turn on your computer. Here’s why: Studies have indicated that when people are in front of a computer they often exhibit stress responses, such as increased breathing rates and tense arms and shoulders. “Information overload is stressful and affects you physically,” says Dr. Goldberg. “You can break the habit and set boundaries for yourself. Limit your screen time, don’t check your e-mail so often and take frequent breaks.”

9. The Light in Your Bathroom
Is the light in your bathroom flattering, or does it illuminate every wrinkle, enlarged pore and blemish on your face? The answer is important, says Dr. Durré. How you see yourself when you start your day may play a role in your self-image and stress levels. “Research has shown that fluorescent lights increase ADD and ADHD symptoms in children because of how they affect their brain,” she says. While it’s not clear whether glaring fluorescent lights have a similar impact on adults, if the light in your house is bothering you, it may be time to make a change. A simple investment in a dimmer switch or a new bulb may be a small way to make you feel better about yourself each morning.

10. Celebrity Gossip
Sure, it can be fun to stay up to date on Brad and Angelina—and did you see Jennifer Aniston’s new house?! But experts have always warned that celebrity ogling may come at a cost to your happiness and stress levels. “Comparing yourself to celebrities and movie stars is difficult at best,” says Dr. Durré. “They have personal trainers, beauticians, housekeepers, maids, butlers, gardeners, chauffeurs, nannies and cooks.” Instead of fixating on such lifestyles, “accept yourself for who and what you are,” she adds. Try this: Only allow yourself to sink into celebrity gossip, whether it’s in print, on TV or on the Web, when you’re doing something to better your own health and happiness, like running on a treadmill or cooking a healthy meal.
Read more: Surprising Causes of Stress at WomansDay.com- Mental Health Tips – Woman’s Day

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You can’t hit that performance sweet spot — in the gym or the office — unless you have stress under control. How far off are you?
Coach Rick Crawford of Colorado Premier Training has a new system worth trying. Rate each of these areas on a scale of one to 10 every day for a week:

STRESS

RECOVERY

  __ Physical (hard workout)

  __ Sleep (quality of it)
  __ Emotional (people stuff)   __ Rest (time away from work)
  __ Mental (hard day at work)   __ Therapy (time doing things you love)
  __ TOTAL STRESS   __ TOTAL RECOVERY

 

If your stress score is way higher than your recovery score, you know what you need to do (sleep, go see art, shop on eBay). Just don’t carry a "stress balance" forward to the next week.
Read more: What Is Your Stress Score? – Marie Claire

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Calm your nerves when it comes to flying, public speaking and more.

By Tori Rodriguez Posted May 31, 2011 from WomansDay.com

Though stomach knots and sweaty palms are certainly no fun, anxiety is actually our ally, since it’s a warning system designed to alert us to potential danger. It only becomes a problem when our fear grows out of proportion to the actual threat. Even if your anxiety isn’t so extreme that it keeps you from doing things you want or need to do––like a full-blown phobia—it can still make certain situations tough. Fortunately, there are ways to cope. Below, find common anxiety-producing situations, plus tips from experts on how to deal with them. However, keep in mind that if your anxiety has started interfering with your daily life, such as impacting your job because you’re too anxious to make presentations, or causing you to drink excessively to cope with social anxiety, it’s time to seek help from a therapist.

 

Fear of Flying

“While you may rationally know that you’re much safer flying on a plane than driving in a car, it’s the complete lack of control that can overwhelm people,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, psychologist and author of A Happy You. Instead of imagining the worst-case scenario, Laura Pagano, PhD, psychotherapist and hypnotherapist in Roswell, Georgia, suggests visualizing a happy ending in advance––like exiting the plane after a smooth, pleasant flight––that you can call on when your anxiety arises. “Should the fears surface, change the channel in your mind to the positive scenario you’ve conjured up.” Also, since it’s not physiologically possible to be both anxious and relaxed at the same time, Richard Kneip, PhD, clinical psychologist in private practice in Clarkston, Michigan and director of Great Lakes Psychology Group, recommends that you try calming your body (and thus your mind) with progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) by contracting and releasing each muscle in the body one at a time. Most anxiety-prone people don’t realize how much tension they hold in their muscles, and PMR can teach you what it feels like when your muscles are truly relaxed. To do it, first close your eyes and focus on the rhythm of your breath. Then, starting with your feet, clench each muscle as tightly as possible, feeling the tension in the muscle before you relax it, then noting the release of tension. Repeat this process for each muscle––calves, thighs, buttocks, back, stomach, arms, shoulders and neck, all the way up to your head. Photo: Shutterstock

Mild Claustrophobia

Discomfort about being confined to a small space, like an elevator or MRI machine, often stems from the fear that you’ll get stuck and be helpless, explains Dr. Lombardo. Deep breathing (breathing in and out for six counts each) will help calm you down in the moment, but for a longer-term fix, Dr. Kneip recommends systematic desensitization, which gradually exposes you to anxiety-provoking situations. “Research has shown that individuals prone to this anxiety can learn to overcome it by pairing relaxation techniques with imagining themselves, or better yet, observing others in scenes from TV shows or movies, in increasingly confined spaces.” The key is to progress in small steps, advises Dr. Kneip, who says that it is generally best to start with the least anxiety-provoking images, objects or situations and gradually increase the intensity as you are able to successfully manage each along the way. For example, to combat anxiety about elevators, while practicing deep breathing, you might first imagine yourself walking down the hall toward an elevator. Once that thought no longer makes you anxious, move on to imagery of yourself waiting for an elevator door to open. Eventually, you should work up to picturing yourself actually being in the elevator for the duration of the ride. Photo: Shutterstock

Fear of Public Speaking

According to research from Emory University, the fear of public speaking is prevalent in up to 34 percent of the general population. Nick Titov, PhD, associate psychology professor at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, who has extensively studied treatments for phobias, notes that most good speakers have spent years practicing the skill, which is essential for minimizing anxiety since it helps desensitize you to the actual experience. First, do all you can to address factors you can control, like having handouts prepared in advance and timing your speech as you practice. Dr. Titov also suggests that you use cue cards with notes and focus on perfecting the beginning of your speech; if you have a smooth start, your anxiety will ease up once you get further into the presentation. And whenever possible, work in anecdotes about topics you’re passionate about, he suggests, since “most of us love to hear about what inspires others, and it’s much easier to talk about things we enjoy.” Finally, in the time leading up to the day of your speech, try to identify any irrational thoughts driving your anxiety. Dr. Kneip says that you can reduce your sense of vulnerability by confronting these fears with rational rebuttals. If, for example, you’re worried that everyone will think you’re stupid if you make a mistake, he suggests countering with, “If I make a mistake it might be embarrassing, but it certainly doesn’t mean I’m stupid.” Photo: Comstock/Thinkstock

Social Anxiety

Social situations can cause anxiety because we worry that others will think negatively of us, or that we won’t know what to say. To prevent that, Dr. Lombardo suggests keeping things in perspective: Most people are worried more about themselves than they are about you. And instead of dwelling on how others might be viewing you, focus on being truly present. “Really listen to, think about and direct all of your attention to the other person and the conversation at hand,” she says. “It will help reduce your anxiety and enhance the perception the other person has of you.” If you’re worried about not having anything to talk about, she recommends keeping some topics in your “back pocket” in case you need them. “Asking questions about the other person (without it seeming like an interview) can be great too, since it moves the focus from you to them.” Some examples she suggests are “Have you tried that new restaurant yet?” and “Did you watch American Idol last night? What did you think?” You could also ask topic-specific questions: For instance, at a cocktail benefit, ask someone if he or she is involved with the cause. Photo: Shutterstock

Job Interviews

Because there is a real risk here––of not getting a job and therefore not being able to support yourself––this situation often triggers a great deal of anxiety, says Dr. Titov. To lessen pre-interview jitters, he recommends doing research to learn as much as you can about the position and company to give you an idea of what they’re looking for. He also suggests preparing responses to likely questions and having practice interviews with friends or colleagues. Counter self-doubt by writing down ways that you’re qualified for the position. To keep your anxiety in check during the actual interview, Dr. Lombardo says that in addition to taking deep breaths, you should “remind yourself of a specific success you have had in the past where you felt proud of yourself, and use those feelings to propel yourself during the interview.” And focus on the interviewer, making sure to listen closely to what he or she is saying rather than just focusing on what you want to say. “Being truly mindful and present will help boost how the interviewer views you,” she says. Photo: iStockphoto

Visit to the Doctor or Dentist

There are a couple of reasons this can cause anxiety. For instance, you could be engaging in “what-if” thinking and dreading the worst-case scenario, says Dr. Lombardo, such as “What if the doctor finds a tumor?” She recommends keeping your fear in check by being diligent about regular checkups and cleanings, and “keeping in mind the difference between possibility and probability; just because your headaches could be a brain tumor, it’s overwhelmingly more likely that there’s something more innocuous causing them, like stress, fatigue or dehydration.” On the other hand, some people have really had a painful experience during a visit to the doctor or dentist, causing anxiety about future appointments. Systematic desensitization can be helpful here, too: At first, you might use relaxation strategies like deep breathing or PMR while imagining entering the dentist’s office. Once you’re no longer anxious about this step, advises Dr. Kneip, repeat the process while “imagining yourself sitting in the dentist’s chair, and then the dentist inserting dental instruments into the mouth, etc.” He says this approach is highly successful because it uses baby steps that don’t overwhelm people struggling with anxiety. Photo: Shutterstock

Read More About: conditions and diseases, mental health

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When it comes to coping with stress overload, your breath is one of the best remedies there is…and it’s free!

By Richard Rosen

Sooner or later, most of us feel a little depressed or anxious, and certainly all of us know what it’s like to feel tired. There are many different ways of treating these feelings, from exercise to meditation, from medication to a long vacation in Hawaii. But you may not realize that you have a safe, effective, and inexpensive remedy right at hand for each of these conditions. What is this magical elixir? Your own breath.

As yogis have known for centuries—and as medical science is beginning to discover—the breath has amazing recuperative powers. By controlling the breath (a practice called pranayama), the yogis found, they could alter their state of mind. The three pranayama practices described here primarily create their effects by slowing and regularizing the breath. This engages what scientists call the parasympathetic nervous system, a complex biological mechanism that calms and soothes us.

How does slower breathing help? In stressful times, we typically breathe too rapidly. This leads to a buildup of oxygen in the bloodstream and a corresponding decrease in the relative amount of carbon dioxide, which in turn upsets the ideal acid-alkaline balance—the pH level—of the blood. This condition, known as respiratory alkalosis, can result in muscle twitching, nausea, irritability, lightheadedness, confusion, and anxiety.

In contrast, slowing the breath raises the carbon dioxide level in the blood, which nudges the pH level back to a less alkaline state. As the blood’s pH changes, the parasympathetic nervous system calms us in a variety of ways, including telling the vagus nerve to secrete acetylcholine, a substance that lowers the heart rate.

Know Your Breath

Now please note that I’m not recommending that you try to breathe away chronic anxiety, fatigue, or depression. None of these conditions is easily or safely self-treated. In fact, tackling them by yourself, without professional supervision, could make them worse. But your breath can be a powerful ally in coping with temporary physical and emotional states—whether you’re despondent about an argument with a close friend, apprehensive about an upcoming job interview, or exhausted after a tough day at work.

As with any treatment, the breathing remedy must be administered intelligently and judiciously to be fully effective. Each condition responds best to its own special breath. To calm anxiety, for example, you can purposely lengthen your exhalations; to alleviate dullness and fatigue, you can lengthen your inhalations. And to lift yourself out of an emotional pit, it’s most effective to equalize the lengths of your inhalations and exhalations.

If you want your breath to work as an extra-strength remedy, it’s a good idea to do some preliminary practice before you try to apply these techniques. First, spend some time with your breath when you’re feeling in the pink, learning to closely watch its movements and tendencies.

When you first try to look at your breath, the experience may feel akin to that of a fish attempting to describe water. Your breathing is so habitual that you’ve probably never given it much attention, and therefore you have little sense of the subtle and not-so-subtle ways it can change. But if you continue to watch, you will probably begin to notice many different dimensions, physical and emotional, to the feeling of your breath.

You’ll probably notice that watching the breath immediately initiates a chain of changes in it. First, it slows down. As it slows, its ordinarily rather ragged movements smooth out. And as the breath smoothes out, the space it occupies in the body increases.

When we breathe, most of us usually expand only a limited portion of the torso, generally in the front around the lower ribs and upper belly. Often, our breathing is restricted and shallow; ideally, it should be deep and full, so each breath cycle expands and contracts the height, width, and depth of the whole torso.

To experiment with consciously expanding your breath, sit in a chair with your spine erect—or, better yet, lie on your back on the floor. Put your fingertips lightly on your lower belly, just above the pubic bone, and try to direct a few inhalations into this space, expanding the belly each time. Once you can do this, move your fingertips to the spaces below your collarbones, placing your pinkie tips on the sides of the sternum and splaying the rest of your fingers out to the sides.

Then, for a few inhalations, see if you can gently expand these spaces. Be careful to keep your throat as soft as possible as you do this, because there’s a counterproductive tendency to tense it as you inhale into the upper chest.

Once you can move the breath into the lower belly and upper chest, try to awaken your entire back torso, an area that is terra incognita for many people. As much as you can, breathe into your back body, feeling how it balloons and then deflates with each breath cycle. Once you can feel this, experiment with filling all of your newfound spaces with every breath.

Your Personal Prescription

Sometimes just watching and expanding your breath for several minutes can have a surprisingly positive influence on your energy level or mood. You can multiply this effect significantly by using pranayama—breathing exercises tailored to have an effect on specific moods and conditions. Based on knowledge cultivated and refined by the yogis over thousands of years, these exercises intentionally alter the speed, rhythm, and space of the breath.

One brief caution before you begin: Never, ever, overdo it in any breathing exercise. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, go back to your everyday breath. Never force your breath to do anything it doesn’t want to do.

How will you know when your breath is telling you to stop? If the unpleasant feelings you started with become even more unpleasant, that’s your cue. Your breath, believe it or not, possesses an innate intelligence, honed over millions of years of evolution. Learn to trust its messages and all will be well.

Traditionally, the practitioner does pranayama while sitting on the ground, with the spine long and erect. But those of us who aren’t accustomed to extended sitting in such a position often find ourselves aching and fidgeting after only a short while; this interferes with our concentration and the efficacy of the breathing remedy. If this is the case for you, sit in a chair or, better still, try lying on your back on the floor.

If your floor isn’t carpeted, be sure to pad it with a folded blanket, and support your neck and head on a small, firm pillow. Lie with your legs straight, heels a few inches apart, or bend your knees over a yoga bolster or firm pillow; this setup helps release a stiff back and relax a tense belly. Lay your arms on the floor out to the sides, angled about 45 degrees to your torso, and close your eyes. Covering the eyes with an eye pillow is especially helpful. (These are widely available for about $15 at yoga studios and online; you can also make your own by partially filling a sock with rice and sewing the opening shut.)

When you’re comfortably set up, begin watching your everyday breath for a few minutes, fixing it in the foreground of your awareness. Then, for another minute or so, mentally count the length of both your inhalations and exhalations; for example, "One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, and so on (or "One Om, two Om, three Om," if you prefer). Don’t be surprised if your exhalations are slightly longer than your inhalations; that’s quite common. Once you’ve settled into your breath, you’re ready to try one of the specific exercises below to counteract anxiety, fatigue, or depression.

ANXIETY. You can work with anxiety by focusing on your exhalations and lengthening them, deliberately and gradually. For example, if your everyday exhalation lasts six counts, draw each one out to seven for a few breathing cycles, then to eight for a few cycles, and so on, until you find a length that suits you.

Once you’ve comfortably increased the length of your exhalations by a few counts, turn part of your attention to the subtle sound of them. You’ll notice that each one makes a soft "ha," like a gentle sigh. Try to make this sound—and your exhalations—as soft and even as possible from beginning to end. Pause briefly at the end of each exhalation, resting peacefully in the stillness. Continuing like this, watch your breath as steadily as you can for 10 to 15 minutes.

FATIGUE. To work with fatigue, settle into your everyday breath. Then, after it has slowed down and smoothed out, pause briefly after an exhalation. Rest peacefully in the stillness. After a few seconds, you’ll feel a kind of ripple; it’s the swell of your next inhalation, building like a wave approaching the shore. Don’t take the inhalation immediately; instead, allow it to gather and grow for a few more seconds. Then, without effort or resistance, gratefully receive the breath.

Continue to explore lengthening your exhalation retentions for 10 or 15 breaths. Then begin to lengthen your inhalations gradually, just as you lengthened your exhalations in the previous exercise for anxiety. Finally, shift part of your focus to the sound of your inhalations, a slightly whispering sibilance the yogis think of as "sa." Try to make this sound—and your inhalations—as soft and even as possible from beginning to end, and continue to watch your breath as steadily as you can for 10 to 15 minutes.

DEPRESSION. Working with depression can be more difficult than working with either anxiety or fatigue. For that reason, be cautious about how you apply the breathing remedy when you’re feeling blue. Forcing the breath can quickly exacerbate your lousy mood.

As with any breathwork, start by settling into a comfortable position and allowing your everyday breath to slow down and smooth out. Then count the length of your next inhalation. When you release your exhalation, match its length to that of the inhalation.

Continue in this fashion for a minute or so, balancing the length of the inhalations and exhalations. Then gradually—just once out of every three or four cycles—add another count to each inhalation and each exhalation until you reach a number that suits you. The yogis call this equal ratio breathing.

For depression, the effect of the breath on your mood is the best indicator of how long you should continue the exercise. Start out with a particular time goal in mind—say, 10 minutes—but be ready to shorten that by a few minutes if you feel your depression lifting. On the other hand, you can continue on past your goal for a few minutes if you feel you need to.

The Pause That Really Refreshes

How often do you need to practice to make the breathing remedy effective when you really need it? There’s no pat answer; it’s a practice like any other, and the more you exercise your ability to watch your breath, the better you will become at doing it.

If you can, schedule a regular 10-minute breath-awareness practice during a quiet part of the day. (For many people, early morning is best.) But if that seems like too much of a commitment, it’s simple enough just to close your eyes and take 60-second conscious breathing breaks at random moments in your daily routine. You might find that these breaks are almost as energizing as a coffee break—and they have a lot fewer side effects. In fact, you may discover that conscious breathing not only soothes your emotions and boosts your energy; it can also make your life richer and more fun.

Contributing Editor Richard Rosen teaches public yoga classes in Northern California. He is the author of The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama and of an upcoming book chronicling the history of yoga in America to be published by the University of California Press.

source: www.yogajournal.com

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‘Tis the season of celebrating with friends and family—and you have a seemingly endless to-do list to get ready for it all. But your festive holiday plans can be quickly derailed if you fall victim to a winter bug

By Catherine Guthrie

winter.jpg

Colds and flus can strike any time of the year. However, winter’s cold, dry air creates the perfect host environment for germs. The drier the air, the longer germs stay airborne. And the more close contact you have with other people, the more likely their germs are to migrate to you. To top it off, cold weather can throw your health out of balance.

According to the principles of Ayurveda, winter can aggravate conditions that can weaken your immune system—so it’s essential to take good care of yourself at this time of year. With that goal in mind, here are some of our favorite solutions to keep your immune system strong and your energy up all winter long.

10 ways to build a strong immune system, naturally, so you can thrive this season.

1. Pick a Natural Kick

Energy wanes in the winter, when sunlight is scarce. But jump-starting your engine every day with a triple espresso may undermine your immune system. Caffeine stresses the adrenals, the glands that sit atop the kidneys and support the body’s immunity and energy, explains herbalist Madelon Hope. "Cold weather already compromises the kidneys, the source of our energy and vitality." In lieu of lattes, she suggests brewing a cup of nettle tea the next time an afternoon coffee craving strikes. "It’s a gentle energizer for those midafternoon lows," she says.

2. Strike a Heart-Opening Pose

An easy way to avoid getting colds and flu is to weave more heart-opening poses, such as Bhujangasana Cobra Pose, Matsyasana (Fish Pose), and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose), into your yoga practice, says Hema Sundaram, an integrative physician in Washington, D.C. Heart openers stimulate blood flow to the thymus, an organ nestled behind the breastbone that is instrumental in the growth of T-cells, the immune system’s frontline, she says. Sundaram suggests practicing all three asanas once daily for prevention, twice daily if you feel a cold or flu creeping on. "Doing all three poses only takes five minutes and may make the difference between staying well and getting sick this winter," she says.

3. Make the Most of Mushrooms

Mushrooms supercharge your immune system by increasing the number of disease-fighting white blood cells in your bloodstream. Maximizing your intake of mushrooms is easy: Just add them to your next pot of vegetable soup, says Madelon Hope, the director of the Boston School of Herbal Studies. Toss in dried mushrooms at the start and simmer to release their full range of beneficial compounds. Add sliced fresh mushrooms near the end to preserve their delicate shape and flavor. "You’ll have a homemade immunity tonic," Hope says. She counts shiitake, maitake, and oyster mushrooms among her favorites. For an extra immunity boost, look for dried medicinal mushrooms, such as chaga and reishi. Medicinal mushrooms also come in supplement form, and their pro-immunity punch equals that of fresh ones, says Woodson Merrell, an integrative physician and the director of the Continuum Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel in Manhattan.

4. Soothe Your Sinuses

Most colds enter the body through the nose’s mucous membranes. A neti pot, a traditional Indian spouted vessel used to rinse the sinus passages, helps to clear the area of excess mucus and viruses. Early this year a study found that kids with colds and flu who regularly used a nasal wash got well faster, took less medication, and fought off future colds better than those who didn’t. For a foolproof approach to nasal rinsing, try a squeeze bottle and premeasured salt packets, like those made by NeilMed Pharmaceuticals. Lean over a sink and irrigate one nostril at a time. Rinse twice a day for cold and flu prevention, says Terence Davidson, MD, director of the Nasal Dysfunction Clinic at the University of California, San Diego.

5. Try a 10-Minute Meditation

Stress is the immune system’s worst enemy. Whether you’re dealing with a brief bout of craziness like Christmas shopping, or a longer-lasting stressor like divorce, your body’s ability to fight germs is compromised by physical and mental tension. Meditation can help. One study found that people who attended an eight-week mindfulness meditation class (a three-hour class once a week, plus daily meditation for an hour) ended up with stronger immune systems than those people who didn’t meditate. Researchers believe that the meditation-induced relaxation boosted the group’s immunity. Over time, high levels of stress hormones dampen the immune system, says Timothy McCall, MD, Yoga Journal’s medical editor and author of Yoga as Medicine. "So it makes sense that by practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction, your immune system benefits." Research shows that even 10 minutes of daily meditation reduces the physical symptoms of stress. (To learn meditation techniques, go to yogajournal.com, click on "Practice," and then choose "Meditation.")

6. Keep Moving

Cold temperatures are no excuse to forgo your exercise routine. The key is to not knock yourself out, especially if family members or co-workers are sick. To prime your immune system, get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day. Recent research found that the risk of catching a cold was three times as high for women who did only low-intensity exercise, like stretching, as for women who combined strength training and moderate -cardiovascular exercise, such as walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike. One -theory is that increasing your heart rate speeds up the circulation of white blood cells, making it more likely they will seek and destroy germs early on.

Just be careful not to overdo it. Overexertion lowers the immune system, leaving you more (not less) vulnerable to illness, warns Merrell. "In other words," he says, "if someone in your family is sick with the flu, skip the three-hour Ashtanga Yoga class."

7. Explore Ayurveda

When stocking your natural-medicine kit this season, don’t forget the Ayurvedic herbs ashwagandha and turmeric. Both are clinically proven to bolster flagging immunity. Ashwagandha (Indian ginseng) is a powerful immune-system builder, says John Douillard, director of the LifeSpa Ayurvedic center in Boulder, Colorado. "The warm, sweet, heavy root supports the nervous system and gives the body the ability to cope with stress," he says. To guard against colds and flu, take up to 1,000 milligrams (mg) of ashwagandha extract twice daily after meals. Turmeric is beneficial for its antiviral and antibacterial properties. When cooking with turmeric, you can add a pinch of black pepper to increase its potency, but you need to take supplements to get a truly medicinal dose. "You’ll never be able to eat enough of it," Douillard says. So ingest 1,000 mg of turmeric with food as often as three times a day. If you feel a cold coming on, "down a dose every two hours until the cold fizzles."

8. Have Fun

Plan a fun night with friends or book that workshop with a visiting yoga teacher—it may keep you healthy. Earlier this year researchers at Loma Linda University in California discovered that looking forward to an event boosts immunity. They compared the stress levels of two sets of students—one group was anticipating a positive experience; the other group was feeling neutral. Those in the first group had lower levels of stress hormones, including cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline), which are known to weaken the immune system over time. "Our studies show that biological changes take place before and in anticipation of an event. Specifically, detrimental stress hormones decrease when you look forward to something you enjoy," says Lee Berk, the study’s lead author. In 2001 the same researchers discovered that laughter increases immunity. What better excuse to invite some of your friends over to laugh out loud?

9. Just Add Water

To ward off germs close to home, just add water—to the air and to your body. Researchers recently linked the spread of the flu to winter’s low humidity, meaning moisture may be a natural weapon against airborne germs. The theory is that germ-infused droplets from sneezes and coughs stay airborne longer in dry air. But moisture in the air (humidity) makes the droplets grow too large to float, and they fall to the ground. Consequently, you’re less likely to inhale them. A humidifier is the best way to increase your home’s humidity level, says Anice Lowen, a microbiologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. If someone in your family has the flu, running a humidifier in a shared space, like a living room, may help ground germs. When you add moisture to the air, remember to add it to your body, too. Low humidity can also dry the mucous membranes. Woodson Merrell recommends drinking six to eight glasses of water or other noncaffeinated beverage each day to keep your body hydrated.

10. Stay Connected

Loneliness can have an impact on your immune system. In a 2005 study, researchers asked college freshmen to keep daily diaries charting their levels of loneliness, mood, and stress, then followed up with calls and emails to see how each student was faring. Early in the trial, the students got flu shots. To measure how well the students’ bodies responded to the vaccine, the researchers took blood samples throughout the study. The students who had only a small social circle and who reported high levels of loneliness tended to have struggling immune systems. So if you find yourself spending too many nights home alone, make an effort to get out and socialize. Join a book club or a yoga study group or commit to a regular yoga class and connect with your classmates. Dropping an email or note to distant family and friends can be an instant reminder that you really aren’t alone.

Catherine Guthrie is a writer and yoga teacher who lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

source: www.yogajournal.com

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By: Francis McKenzie

There never seems to be enough time. Each day starts with a schedule, an inbox, a calendar filled with obligations. It’s no wonder we lie awake worrying about our to-do list or leave work at lunch (if we’re lucky) with a brain mumbling random tasks and frustrations. There is not enough quiet.

There’s no easy fix for a busy life, but there are ways to escape it, to master it, and to balance it out with calm. Yoga teaches a great deal on this concept, which is perhaps why it has become so popular. To those less familiar, yoga might appear to be another workout fad. In fact, the teachings of yoga become most fruitful when they exercise the mind. It doesn’t take becoming a complete yogi or keeping a rigid schedule of classes to learn some of the tricks. There are a few simple exercises, inspired by yoga, that help mellow out even the most torturous, active mind. 

Breathing
Breathing is something we do all the time. Breathing consciously is not. Thinking about taking slow, deep breaths means we are not thinking about all the other things that normally occupy our mind. Yoga breath, called pranayma, is done typically through the nose, breathing in slowly and out with a throaty, audible sound. Deep breathing consumes our entire body and its calming effects are immediate. Learning to breathe consciously can transform our state of mind, which is a handy tool for everything from placating petty fights at work to simply falling asleep.

Forward Fold
Another simple tactic to help calm the mind is a standing pose common in yoga. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and bend at the waist, taking hold of opposite elbows and letting the weight of the arms and the head draw you forward and down. You can keep your knees slightly bent, and simply hang for a few minutes.

Legs up the Wall
This is a great one to pull out on nights you can’t sleep. Sometimes laying in this position and breathing for a little while will do the trick. Simply lie on your back and extend both legs up the wall. Keep your spine flat to the floor and your arms by your side. Keep breathing slowly and consciously.

Tree Pose
Tree pose helps shut our mind chatter off because it forces us to balance (or fall over). Stand on one leg and bend the knee of the opposite leg and hold it for a second until you feel you have your balance. Concentrate on keeping the standing foot solid. Move the foot of the bent leg to rest on the inside of the thigh of the standing leg and keep the bent knee out to the side. Pause again, and when you feel balanced, lift your arms above your head, palms together. Hold this one for a few minutes  and let yourself fall out and come back in to it until you can keep it long enough to forget what you wanted to forget.

Headstand
Note of caution: this pose is not for beginners, and not one that should be tried without learning the proper pose with the help of a yoga instructor. If you’re a headstand expert and you’ve done it in a yoga class, the pose is definitely one to bring home. Standing on your head not only takes practice and focus, there is something about looking at the world upside down for a while that makes you feel calmer and blessed with a new perspective when you arrive right side up.

Meditation
Meditation, according to Wikipedia, is defined as “a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the conditioned, ‘thinking’ mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. It often involves turning attention to a single point of reference.”

The thought of meditating may seem daunting and out of reach to anyone who doesn’t consider themselves “new age,” but all it takes is a solid try (don’t be afraid to engage your iPod to talk you through it) and even the most cynical will be a convert. There are hardly any rules—you can try it sitting or laying down. There’s no better way to tame the devil of an active mind.

Calm Down
Sure, all of this sounds great, but how do we incorporate it into our busy lives? Some of these ideas may help get you motivated to mellow out.

Discover lunchtime yoga.
There’s something about escaping for an hour during the middle of the day that allows us to return to the office and have a completely different perspective and a renewed focus on what we’re doing. Suddenly that annoying woman in marketing is slightly understood; that email that seemed insurmountable is a five-minute response.

Use online tools to help structure your relaxation.
There are several yoga and meditation segments available online to download. The beauty of building your own mash-up meditation or yoga is that you can design it to fit whatever space of time you can allot.

Create a space at home for chilling out.
(The couch with a TV does not count.) The space doesn’t have to be big—it should simply be a spot where you can sit and meditate or go when you’re not sleeping to practice any of the above methodologies.

It’s amazing how peaceful it can be to forget about the past and the future and simply focus on the present moment, whether it’s ten minutes of breathing or an hour of yoga. Keeping the mind calm adds a sense of flexibility that makes everyone a nicer person.

Read more: http://www.divinecaroline.com/79972/55542-simple-ways-calm-chaos/2#ixzz1CTOdwbj9

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Want to fine-tune your body before the summer? Add private yoga instructor and celeb secret weapon Kyle Miller to your list of contacts.  The 25-year-old Ashtanga enthusiast has a laid-back Cali vibe—she splits her time between New York and her native LA—and endless patience for the most novice downward dogger. “Yoga’s a great way to remain happy and grounded in this crazy world,” says Miller, who’s practiced for more than ten years, including a stint in India’s Nilgiris Mountains. Quite possibly the best part? The music! Miller creates a different playlist for each session ranging from kirtan chanting to Wilco and MGMT. To schedule a private lesson, email ky.w.miller@gmail.com.  Just expect to fight for time with her regulars, a.k.a. top New York fashion editors and young Hollywood royalty, like Charlotte Ronson and Ashley Olsen. (And don’t forget to try the yoga workout in ELLE’s Make Better DVD series.)—Janet Sahm

FF0331_Kyle1

Miller in her favorite pose, the “Scorpion.” Although she specializes in private sessions, Miller’s favorite yoga spots are Maha Yoga in Los Angeles and Jivamukti in New York.

Kyle’s Winter-to-Spring Yoga Playlist

"Playground Love" by Air
"One" by Aimee Mann
"Strange Overtones" by David Byrne and Brian Eno
"Mighty Proud" by Chief
"Teardrop" by Massive Attack
"Pride (In the Name of Love)" by U2
"Flakes" by the Mystery Jets
"I Me Mine" by The Beatles
"A Horse With No Name" by America
"Jesus, Etc." by Wilco
"These Days" by Nico
"While You Were Sleeping" by Elvis Perkins
"Metamorphosis: Metamorphosis One" by Philip Glass 

source: http://fashion.elle.com/fashion/insider/2010/03/31/how-the-stars-align-celebrity-yoga-instructor-kyle-miller/

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