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Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012 03:29 am

Reduce stress with relaxation tools

Stress has become a daily part of people’s lives. Despite its detriments to health and well-being, stress seems to be something most people can’t shake. Increasing the number of relaxation tools around the house may prove effective at reducing stress.

Pick any number of surveys and you’re likely to find that the general public is stressed out. A survey by Northwestern Natural Life indicates that 40 percent of workers report that their job is “very or extremely” stressful. A National Health Interview survey indicates that 75 percent of the general population experiences some stress every two weeks. Forty-two percent of people questioned by an American Psychological Association study found that stress has increased in the last few years.

Considering that more than half of all Americans are concerned with the level of stress in their everyday lives, the following steps to reduce stress might be very helpful to millions of people across the country.

Few things can reduce stress as much as the feeling of human hands working the kinks out of tense muscles. Massage can alleviate pain, reduce anxiety and may even improve immune system function. There are many different types of massages available. A person can certainly invest in a massage table for home and have a spouse or family member do the massage. However, most prefer to visit a spa or rehabilitation center and rely on a trained professional.

A pool, much like a hot tub, can foster feelings of relaxation. Swimming combines the stress-relief of water with the benefits of exercise. Daily swimming can shake off the stress of work and family life.

Hot tub
Water, heat and massage therapy as provided by a hot tub can alleviate many of the body strains caused by stress. Raising core body temperature for 15 minutes around 90 minutes before bedtime has been shown to induce a more restful sleep. Heat also dilates blood vessels to increase blood flow to sore or damaged tissue. In addition, water provides buoyancy that reduces strain on muscles and joints. Add the gentle massage from spa bubbles and the body is relaxed. This, in turn, can help turn off the mind and facilitate feelings of ease.

Exercise equipment
Having a stationary bike, treadmill or elliptical trainer in the home can entice people to get moving. Exercise is a known mood-booster. In a 2007 study at Duke University, exercise was shown to reduce major depression as well as standard antidepressant medication. Stress and depression are often linked. Exercise releases endorphins into the body, which can banish the blues. Other studies have shown that as little as 10 minutes of brisk walking raises the mood and increases the energy level of people for up to two hours after the walk.

Alternative therapies
Everything from acupuncture to aromatherapy to music therapy can be tried in an effort to staunch stress. Look for local classes where these activities are offered, or simply try them at home. 
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