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August 30, 2015 / 15 Elul, 5775
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Mental Vacations For The Stressed


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With the constant pressures placed on us in our fast paced lives, sometimes we all feel like we need a vacation. Everyone needs a break now and then – to relax their bodies and their minds. Research has shown that too much stress can cause:

* Changes in eating patterns. Stress causes you to ignore the natural signals of your body, encouraging you to eat more or less than needed. The neurotransmitters that your body secretes are linked to mood and appetite. Therefore, stress can be connected to irregular eating patterns. Consuming more food can lead to weight gain while less food can contribute to headaches and malnutrition.

* Short temper. Feeling tense can cause you to snap unexpectedly – often at people who don’t deserve to be yelled at. Your anger can often be misdirected at those closest to you. Instead of working out your stress, you might yell at your child or husband. This can often turn into a vicious cycle.

* Loss of memory. Your brain does not function at its maximum capacity when you are under pressure. Therefore, you might find yourself forgetting things you would normally remember.

* Frequent colds. Under continued mental and physical pressure, your body will frequently break down, leaving you susceptible to viruses like the common cold. If you are stressed because you are overworked, then being forced to take time off because you are sick will only increase the stress in your life.

But, what happens if you can’t get away? What if you don’t have the money or the time to take a “true” vacation from the stresses in your life? There are some ways to help your body relax even in the confines of your own home. I’ll call these tips “mental vacations” – where you let your mind rest. Experiment with these techniques for ten to thirty minutes a day and you just might see the results!

* Take a walk. If you can find the time, take a walk just for the sake of walking. However, with a busy schedule, it is often hard to make time just for walking. Therefore, choose an errand that is close by and instead of driving and looking for parking, walk there. Take that time to allow your mind to rest. If you have more time, you incorporate a different form of exercise – such as running, spinning, or swimming. These activities get your heart pumping and your brain resting.

* Read a book in bed. Your bed is a safe, comfortable, and cozy place – this signals to your brain that it is time to slow down. To that end, get into bed fifteen minutes earlier than you want to go to sleep and curl up with that book that you have been meaning to read. This will help you to get lost in the world of the book – away from your own stressful life. In addition, you might get a more restful night of sleep which will better enable you do deal with stress later.

* Drink a warm cup of coffee or tea. Sitting down to take time for yourself and enjoying the calm that a warm drink brings can help relax your mind. Try to find ten minutes in your day when you don’t have to drink your coffee on the run – instead sit at the table and enjoy!

* Connect. Call a friend who you haven’t spoken to in a while (or one who you spoke to just yesterday) and talk about the good things in your life. Fill each other in on the mundane and sublime. Connecting with friends gets good neurotransmitters firing in the brain – helping you combat the stress in your life.

* Learn to say “no.” Don’t take on tasks that push you to the limit professionally or personally. If you know that you don’t want the responsibility, learn how to say no. This will ultimately make you happier, even if you in the short term someone might be angry at you. Saying “yes” to something that above your limits is a certain recipe for stress.

* Reduce caffeine and sugar. Sugar and caffeine both provide temporary highs – and end with a crash in mood and energy. Cutting out caffeine and sugar can help even your mood and reduce stress.

Most people cannot pick up and take a vacation when they feel stressed. Fortunately, there are small steps you can take to improve your quality of life – a few minutes at a time.

About the Author: An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@gmail.com.


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