Small Changes to Make 2013 Less Stressful
We talked to downtown experts in stress management about how to handle anything the new year can throw at you By Sharon Feiereisen It's not for nothing that Woody Allen is a New York City poster child. Life in this city-as fantastic as it can be-can bring with it an endless parade of neuroses, anxiety and stressors; luckily there are plenty of minimal changes we can make to ensure that 2013 is just a little more tranquil than 2012. "Wake up five to ten minutes before you really need to get up, and take a moment to think through your entire day," recommends Amanda Murdock of Pure Yoga. "Making a mental list and going through your entire day in sequence will help you feel in control of any upcoming events," Murdock said. She also suggests taking a moment to stretch your body and reflect on gratitude. "Simple movements help alert your body that it's time to move and start the day, while a short meditation helps to set a positive tone," she said. Aaron Teich, an advanced practitioner of Sat Nam Rasayan-the healing practice of Kundalini Yoga-as well as a certified Kundalini Yoga teacher, licensed acupuncturist and the founder of Shuniya Healing, reiterates the importance of stretching. While stress may seem like a mental process, he said, people also hold emotional tension in their bodies. "Regular stretching releases these physical tensions and changes the neurochemistry of the brain, offering one of the most effective ways to let go of stress," Teich said. In the same vein, stress can relate to our external environment. "Get rid of unnecessary stuff and create a simple space for yourself," he said, explaining that it's an effective and tangible way to create inner calm. What we eat plays a primary role in how we think and feel, but you can make that work to your advantage. "Reduce overly stimulating substances such as refined sugar, junk carbs and caffeine to set a physiological foundation for calm," Teich said. Sadie Adams, the founder of Take Care Center for Body Mind Regeneration, goes one step further, noting that it's crucial to bring ceremony to cooking and feeding. "Less stress translates to more energy for digestion," Adams said. "Pause before a meal to consider the exchange of energy." Another key is to work exercise into your daily life. "When your body doesn't run the way it's built to function, stress is inevitable. But when your body's health basics are in good shape, life is good-or at minimum, far better," says Sandra Lanshin Chiu of Treatment by Lanshin. "It's important that your exercise class experience, be it barre, cardio, boot camp or yoga, be a mind/body experience." "Move a muscle, change a thought," said Core Fusion co-founder Fred DeVito. "You should always focus on your breath and try your best to clear your mind of thoughts." No matter the situation that's causing the stress, however, it's imperative to remember, said Murdock, that just because you're having a bad day doesn't mean you have a bad life. "Our immediate gut reaction is to say, 'my life sucks'; instead, challenge that thinking by boxing in that specific incident or day and realize it's just one event," she said. Murdock goes on to advise that when faced with a stressful situation, instead of complaining or worrying about it, it's best to sit down and think if there is an actual solution. If there isn't, then let it go; worrying will not solve the problem-ever. "However, if there is a possible solution, even if it is uncomfortable or uneasy-like exercising, saying you're sorry, changing jobs-actually set up a step-by-step plan on how to overcome your problem, and then implement it," Murdock said. "Concretizing a plan and approaching it through small steps rather than tackling it all at once leads to a greater chance of success and an overall sense of satisfaction."
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