This is a Guest Post by Heather Green
Stress kills—literally. According to Oregon State University, high to moderate levels of stress lead to a higher mortality rate, either through risky behavior (such as unhealthy addictions or angry driving) or health complications like stroke. Optimism, however, is attributed with decreased risk of cardiac problems and healthy attitudes about aging can increase longevity.
Stress busting, however, is becoming increasingly difficult in such fast-paced, high-demand times. Introducing small steps that bring about relaxation throughout our daily routine can get us started on the track to longevity. Here they go:
1. The Zen of Tea Drinking: Not only is the act of taking a break from work to brew and sip a cup of tea in a separate room – utterly relaxing – but tea has been administered throughout the ages as nothing short of medicine. Green tea may help prevent and even reverse lung cancer, while black and oolong teas are full of beneficial catechins.
However, because caffeine is inflammatory, these teas should be consumed moderately in their caffeinated state. It’s easy to de-caffeinate them at home. Just brew another cup using the same batch of leaves; your second cup will be de-caffeinated but retain some of the nutrients. Alternatively, let the tea leaves steep for twice as long in cold or lukewarm water.
Naturally decaffeinated teas have great benefits, too. Yarrow, dandelion greens, and stinging nettle are beneficial to the kidneys and heart. Chamomile and lavender teas are calming. Add a spoonful of honey (best if you get it from your local farmers’ market, if you can) or a squeeze of lemon juice for taste.
2. Water & a Lemon Squeeze for Breakfast: This simple and refreshing concoction directly stimulates and detoxifies the liver, which is responsible for removing toxins from the body. Warm lemon water is an ayurvedic practice to relieve the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract. And tell me that the citrus flavor doesn’t zap your eyes open in the morning when even coffee won’t. Just make sure that the lemon juice you’re getting comes without added sweeteners, which are inflammatory. If you wake up with a sweet tooth, spoon a little honey and milk into your lemon water for a healthy treat.
3. Take a dip (or a nap): Radium gets a bad rap in America, but the Japanese and many Mediterranean islanders swear by their centuries-old, radium-rich hot springs. On the island of Ikaria, tucked away in the Aegean, residents reach the average age of 90. They attribute their low joint pain, stress, and skin irritation to these baths. For those of us who don’t live near hot springs, use another Ikarian tip: take a 20-minute nap.
4. Walk & Soak in the sun: Most of us don’t live near hot springs, but we can all benefit from a leisurely walk through a local trail or even the neighborhood—without sunscreen. The truth is that the media has blown the risk and reward of sunshine way out of proportion. This is the vitamin that has been proven to be more effective at preventing tooth decay than fluoride, at flu prevention than vaccines, and beneficial to patients of everything from asthma to cancer. Vitamin D is also a natural mood booster—possibly why many of us get so glum in the winter.
Because vitamin D is so scarce in food—highest in salmon, sardines, beef liver, and eggs, all of which are problematic for vegetarians—it’s important that we get it from the cheapest source, the sun. According to Harvard, people with light skin colors should spend about 15 minutes in the summer sun without sunscreen daily, while those of darker hues need twice as much time. (For extended periods of time, however, it’s important to wear protective layers or sunscreen!) In the winter months, this can be difficult, which means we need to watch our diets and consider supplements after speaking with our physicians.
Not all of us can jet away to the islands and open up shop at whatever time we please, but every little step toward longevity counts. You’ll be glad you did it when you’re older.
Heather Green is a mom, freelance writer, pet lover and the resident blogger for OnlineNursingDegrees.org, a free informational website offering tips and advice about rn programs online.
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