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Stress less at work

Tight deadlines, tough responsibilities, a volatile economy … Let’s face it: Work is stressful these days. “On a scale of 1 to 10, our stress levels have reached an 11,” says Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, author of The 150 Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy (Fair Winds, 2008). But anxiety doesn’t have to spiral out of control, he says. Tending to your own happiness will equip you with the tools to better handle work stresses. “When people are happy, they’re more productive and companies succeed. It’s about efficiency,” says Rev. Lena Sheehan, ND, author of Natural Solutions for Stress of Body, Mind and Spirit (Raular, 2008). Feel better at work with these natural solutions.

1. Favor tea over other beverages
“Tea is one of only two plants in the world that contains L-theanine, an amino acid that stimulates the alpha brain waves, leading to better focus and concentration,” says Mark Ukra, author of The Ultimate Tea Diet (Collins Living, 2007). Be sure you’re drinking real tea brewed from the leaves of the Camilla sinensis plant. Although relaxing in other ways, herbal infusions do not contain L-theanine. If you suffer from insomnia, don’t drink caffeinated tea after noon.

2. Try an Ayurvedic face massage
This Ayurvedic exercise releases stored tension in the face, calms thoughts, eases headaches, and brightens your outlook, says Kate Hanley, author of The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide (Globe Pequot, 2008). With elbows on your desk, lean your head forward and place your thumbs on the inner corners of both eyebrows. Pinch the eyebrow between the thumb and index finger, working your way to the outer edge of the eyebrow.

3. Breathe deeply for ten minutes
Deep breathing has been shown to reduce cortisol “stress hormone” levels, says Bowden, who adds that cortisol affects the brain, contributes to abdominal weight gain, and reduces immunity. To counteract this effect, devote ten minutes a day to deep breathing. Here’s how: With eyes closed, concentrate on what it feels like to breath in and out, and consciously breathe into your abdomen. Next, begin counting: Bowden suggests slowly inhaling for four counts, holding for two, and exhaling for four. Continue for the remainder of the ten minutes.

4. Get a good night’s rest
Work tension held over from the day can make falling asleep difficult. And it’s well proven that a lack of sleep can greatly increase feelings of stress. Try valerian (Valeriana officinalis), a naturally relaxing herb, to help you fall asleep. It acts on the brain’s GABA receptors, which affect mood, to create a sedative effect. Take 100–300 mg about 45 minutes before bedtime, says Hyla Cass, MD, author of 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health (Take Charge, 2008).

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