3TENSION RELAXATION is who you think you should be is who you are (Chinese proverb)
4RelaxIn our modern world there are seemingly endless sources of potential stressors. As soon as one has been dealt with, another one comes along.In the Longevity Hot Spots, sources of stress are very few.
7Longevity Hot Spots are low-stress places: People do the same thing every day and know what to expect.They have no money worries because they have just enough and no more than they need.They look after each other.Being physically well and eating well has a relaxing effect on the mind.People do not have stressful jobs – traditionally they have worked the land.People are mainly outdoors in a beautiful setting rather than dealing with traffic jams or busy streets.
9Longevity Hot Spots are low-stress places: Many of us do not have that option.We can, however, find ways to manage how we react to potentially stressful situations.We can create more relaxation in our lives.Sometimes we are our own worst enemies.
10Health effects of stress Raised levels of the stress hormone, cortisol: accelerates bone loss, disrupts insulin and blood sugar, leads to excess weight, is toxic to the brain and is pro-agingRaised blood pressure – bad for artery and heart healthReliance on drugs or alcoholChronic stress is linked with heart disease, diabetes and depression (Journal of the American Medical Association, 2007)
11Health effects of stress Long-lived people have been found to have resilience to stress.The New England Centenarian Study (2009) from Boston University: people who live long are less neurotic and have a greater ability to deal with stress than others.Centenarian Study in Okinawa: Okinawans have ‘unyieldingness’ – an inner strength and resilience.Hot Spot people do things which reduce stress: exercise, socializing, meditation, strong spiritual beliefs, hobbies, eating well.We can do all those things.
13Acute stress and chronic stress Acute stress: some events are stressful but short-lived. We need to feel stressed in order to have an appropriate fight-or-flight reaction to these types of events. It is natural to feel this way and should not cause long-term health problems.
15Acute stress and chronic stress Chronic stress: – this is more low-level but may happen on a daily basis.If you are suffering from chronic stress, you may find that small things make you flare up more easily than they should, which adds to your stress levels.Chronic stress can lead to adrenal fatigue – feeling tired, ‘tired but wired’ in the evenings, sleeping poorly, putting on weight. This can be reversed with the right diet and lifestyle – such as the BluePrint for Life!
16Signs of chronic stress Irritability and/or bad temper - flying off the handle at the slightest thingDifficulty getting up in the mornings – your alarm clock is your worst enemyFatigue – everything seems like too much effortSensitivity to criticism – everyone is so mean to you all the timeDifficulty sleeping and having an inconvenient ‘second wind’ later in the evening after having been tired all day longColds and other minor illnesses seem to linger on foreverLow libido – you’d rather sleep or watch TVIndigestion
17Signs of chronic stress Poor memory and concentration – where did you park the car again?HeadachesHigh blood pressureFeeling dizzy when you stand up (a sign of low blood pressure caused by adrenal exhaustion)Depression – what’s the point in doing anything? Life’s pointless anywayAches and pains which don’t seem to have any particular causeReliance on alcohol, coffee or tranquillizers – in fact having them is the highlight of your daySugar or salt cravings
19‘THE PRESENT’ yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery, today is a gift – that’s why they call it‘THE PRESENT’(Kung Fu Panda)
20Be in the momentTry not to worry about potential problems which may not happen. Not worrying today and feeling good in the present can influence your future in any case, since it will affect how you approach life and other people.In the Hot Spots, people live in the present moment because they stay busy and they know they will be doing mainly the same things again tomorrow.Try focussing on the current moment for a few minutes each day, or several times a day, by simply focussing on your breathing and letting your thoughts pass by.Take up a rewarding hobby such as knitting, golf, hiking, painting, or anything else you find therapeutic or immediately gratifying and which helps you concentrate on the now.
21Be a tortoise, not a hareDo things at a pace which is comfortable for you – ultimately this may be more productive.Make a list of all the things you want to do or have to do – this will give you some sense of control, especially as you tick them off.If something goes wrong, don’t worry – just keep going. It’s all forward movement.Take one step at a time – eventually you will be able to look back on what you have achieved – whatever that may be - with satisfaction.Don’t give yourself a hard time! It is counter-productive. When things go wrong simply work out what to do next.
22Be a tortoise, not a hareSet yourself goals, but be realistic. Do you really need to make a million dollars? How likely are you to win the Nobel Prize? If those things never happen, are you going to spend your life feeling something is missing? In the Hot Spots, people are free from feeling they need to gain possessions or status.Focus on who you are, rather than on some ideal about who you ‘should’ be.
23MeditateWhen we meditate, the body enters a profound state of restfulness which is the direct opposite of the stressful, aging ‘fight-or-flight’ state.Meditation is such an effective way to lower stress that it is used in some hospitals to aid the healing process and reduce pain.Meditation has been found to significantly boost the immune system, alleviate depression, help heal psoriasis, and slow disease progression in patients with HIV.
24MeditateTranscendental Meditation, or TM, may be especially beneficial for slowing down the aging process and reducing chronic disease. Studies have found that TM lowers blood pressure, improves insulin use in the body, improves cardiac health, and reduces hospital admission for cancer, heart disease, infectious disease and mental disorders.Meditation is practiced in Bama and Okinawa.Try a meditation class or doing mini-meditations at regular points during the day in which you simply focus on your breath and try to put your attention on the present moment.
25Simple 10-Step Meditation Technique Find a quiet place to sit for minutes.Sit cross-legged on the floor or against the wall in a way that enables you to be comfortable for the duration of meditation.Keep your back straight and your neck aligned with your spine, with your head tilted slightly forward.Keep perfectly still.Half-close your eyes – this will help prevent both daydreams and visible objects from distracting you.Relax your shoulders.Slightly constrict your sphincter so as to preserve internal energy circulation.
26Simple 10-Step Meditation Technique Exhale the old air from your lungs with a few breaths, then take a few deep breaths. Start to breathe normally, with smooth soft breaths, and focus on your breath.Focus on internal sounds and ignore external sounds.Stray thoughts will start to come. Let them pass through. Do not focus on them but do not try to push them away either. Simply let your internal dialogue become weaker and weaker, and do nothing. Keep focusing on your breathing only.
2710-Step Relaxation Exercise Hold any tension you feel in your forehead until it feels uncomfortable, then let it drop.Notice the way the sense of relaxation spreads through the head. Allow the warm feeling to move to the scalp, the back of the head, the ears, the temples, the cheeks, and then the nose.Open your mouth and chin and relax your jaw, then your whole face.Relax your neck muscles and let your head tip forward.Allow the feeling of relaxation to flow into your shoulders, arms, and hands, then down your back, across your chest, down over your abdomen and to the base of your spine.
2810-Step Relaxation Exercise Let your buttocks go limp, then relax your thighs, legs, feet, and tips of toes.Take a moment to check that all parts of your body are completely relaxed, starting at the top of your head and working your way down.Inhale deeply and send the fresh breath to any areas which need attention, bringing a sense of relaxation to them.Exhale, feeling any tension becoming replaced with relaxation.When quiet and relaxed, remain a few minutes more to enjoy it, then gradually rouse yourself back to a state of alertness. (If you are trying to go to sleep, miss out this last step.)
29Breathe DeepMany or most of us are not breathing properly. This can increase stress levels.Deep breathing has a relaxing, rejuvenating effect.
30Breathe Deep Try this simple deep breathing method: Sit cross-legged in loose clothes and keep your spine straight. Relax.Inhale and exhale slowly, expanding your chest and lower abdomen as you breathe in. Count to five.Breathe out all the old stale air and imagine the fresh, new air coming in and reaching to all the parts of your body.Remember not to overdo it, as this may lead to hyper-oxygenation which can cause dizziness. Do what feels natural.
31Breathe DeepMeditation, aerobic exercise and yoga are all also ways to improve deep breathing.Try also humming, which is relaxing and also enables us to hold in more oxygen while exhaling.
32Get plenty of sleepPeople in the Hot Spots generally go to bed at dusk and arise at dawn. Researchers have found that on average they get 8 hours of quality sleep each night. Many also take siestas during the afternoon.million Americans suffer from sleep disorders.Seven hours per night is currently the recommended amount, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry 2002.Studies show that sleep is anti-cancer, protects the heart, boosts mental function, improves immunity, and helps keep weight down by regulating appetite hormones and glucose use in the body.Sleep improves resilience to stressful situations.
33Ways to get a good night’s sleep Go to bed and get up at the same time each day – your body clock will then function better and you should feel sleepy at bedtime.Have a relaxing routine at bed time.Avoid using electronic devices before bed as these are stimulating and disrupt production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Teenagers produce less melatonin, which is why they often want to stay up late and have trouble waking.Focus on the breath and try not to think!
34Ways to get a good night’s sleep Check your magnesium and calcium levels – waking early can be a sign of low levels. Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables to keep levels up.Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full – either of these can prevent you from sleeping well.Avoid having caffeine, alcohol or sugar too close to bedtime, since these are stimulants.
35Give your adrenals some TLC If you have been chronically stressed and producing excess adrenaline on a regular basis for a long time, your adrenal glands may be under-functioning as a result of overwork.Symptoms of low adrenal function include irritability, fatigue even after a good night’s sleep, apathy about life in general, low blood pressure, a ‘second wind’ later in the evening, and salt cravings.The BluePrint for Life will help the adrenals recover. You need:A healthy diet and lifestyle
36Give your adrenals some TLC Plenty of nutrients (have 2 scoops of Essentials daily as nutrients such as zinc and magnesium will feed adrenals)Avoid sugar and stimulants such as caffeine and alcoholA good night’s sleep most nights (try to go to bed before 10pm)Ashwagandha – a herb which helps normalize cortisol levels
38Laugh it offA Loma Linda University study from 1996 showed that laughter can significantly boost immunity. In another study, watching a funny film was found to expand the blood vessels, while watching a stressful film was found to cause them to constrict.Laughter reduces stress and triggers the release of feel-good endorphins.At laughter workshops, people have a good belly laugh for several minutes daily.
39ExerciseExercise lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol, it triggers the release of feel-good endorphins, and it reduces anxiety and depression.
40WorshipPeople in the Hot Spots have strong spiritual beliefs of different kinds.Having a strong spiritual faith reduces levels of stress.It provides an anchor, a sense of comfort, a source of strength and a feeling of support.Studies from the National Institutes of Health show that praying lowers heart rate and blood pressure. Prayer also reduces levels of cortisol.
41WorshipWorshipping at a church can also be a pleasurable way to socialize and give focus to the week.Being in touch with your spirituality does not have to mean joining a particular faith – it can just mean nurturing a sense of some larger force and wider purpose.
42ACTIVITY:Try to incorporate at least 1 of these relaxation techniques once each day. Write down how you feel afterward.