What's the solution?
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How to change
If the consequences of stress are complex, the solution is simple: relax. But how? It sounds so easy, yet true relaxation eludes many of us. We slump in an armchair, straining our backs; we watch television, stressing our eyes; we drink coffee, increasing our blood pressure.
Trying to relax, in any sense, is of course a contradiction in terms. What we need are techniques to help us release tension at will when the pressure starts to show. Full relaxation is only achieved when the mind - which leads the body is also relaxed in a meditative state. Many long-established and effective techniques, such as yoga and meditation can be practised at home as long-term, daily routines that soothe your mind and control your emotions rather than letting them control you. Often, all you need is a simple aid - a pillow, incense, meditative music - and peace and quiet. Other techniques require a professional therapist. So help yourself at home or put yourself in the calming hands of an experienced therapist. Either way, learn to relax, revive—and rejuvenate.
Everyday stress is a fact of life and most people cope. But coping does not reduce the sources of stress, so the effects are merely postponed. The answer is to manage it. Before embarking on any specialist techniques, try to reduce the stress in your life with some simple and commonsense measures. Unresolved dilemmas, reinforced by lack of energy, are the major causes of stress in our lives. Start by listing everything that is causing you stress and work out how to resolve each problem. There is always an answer, though you may need help to identify it.
In our 24-hour society, in which the division of labour between the genders is breaking down, lack of time is an increasingly common source of stress. How do you take the children to the swings when you have to cook supper? How do you find time to buy the food for supper when you need to talk about paying the bills with your partner?
To limit, If not eliminate, the stress caused by such conflicts of interest, take these as your watchwords: prioritize, delegate, eliminate. Work out what is really important to you and what you really must (or want to) do. What tasks on your list can you get someone else to do? Cross out those things that aren't essential. Leave the sheets un-ironed, buy a ready-cooked meal or two, decline an unwelcome invitation to give yourself time and space for positive relaxation.
If it is proving impossible to cope with ongoing stress, then a major reassessment of lifestyle may be necessary. For minor peaks, however, herbs can provide relief -especially in advance. If a stressful time is looming, such as exams, the school holidays or a heavy work period, then it is worth taking tonic herbs before the event to provide an energy boost, rather than depending on short-term stimulants once the stresses mount.
• Siberian ginseng is ideal at helping the body to cope more efficiently with stress and improve performance: take up to 600 mg a day for 10-14 days before the stresses are due to peak. (Do not exceed the standard dose or take for prolonged periods.)
You'll have more to work with, but it will feel harder at first. Equally, if you're suffering from serious depression, schizophrenia or other mental difficulties, take medical advice before starting meditation. It may not help you at all, or your medication may make it harder for you to do the practice.
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