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Ballet for Stress and Anxiety Reduction

Extra things people get from an education in dance (PDF)

Stress is the body's way of dealing with potentially dangerous situations, heightening adrenaline levels and increasing alertness. However, prolonged stress and anxiety can be detrimental to mental and physical health. Understanding stress and anxiety and how to deal with it in a natural way can help to eliminate some of the harmful effects stress has on the body.

Short term stress is normal and contributes to winning the race, studying for an exam, preparing well for a presentation at work or doing well at a job interview. Unfortunately, people these days rush through life at a frenetic pace, cramming more and more into their busy schedules. Many experience more stress every day than their bodies are designed to cope with. Just getting to work during rush hour traffic can be a very stressful experience for a lot of people.

Chronic Stress and Anxiety: Generally stress is the physical reaction to a current situation, while anxiety is the stress experienced due to an event or situation anticipated in the future. When stress becomes prolonged, it is considered to be chronic. It can affect health, moods, productivity, relationships and quality of life. It is this type of prolonged stress that needs to be managed.

What are Some of the Causes of Stress? There are a number of major contributors of stress and anxiety. The death of a spouse, divorce, marriage separation, a jail term, the death of a close relative, injury or illness, marriage, being fired from a job, marriage reconciliation and retirement are considered to be among the leading causes of chronic stress.

Effects of Chronic Stress: Many health conditions and problems have been directly linked to chronic stress and anxiety. Some of these effects include obesity, autoimmune diseases, skin conditions such as eczema, heart disease, digestive problems, sleep problems and even general body pain.

How to Reduce and Manage Stress Naturally: Stress is a part of life for most people and cannot be eliminated completely, but it can be managed by a number of natural methods. Some of these natural ways of controlling stress include:

Exercise will improve overall health and give one a sense of well being by the release of endorphins, thus boosting confidence and lowering stress levels. Regular exercise can also decrease the production of stress hormones and therefore help to better manage stressful situations. Reducing stress through exercise can give one a sense of well being and confidence. The more stress is reduced; the easier it becomes to cope with and eliminate stress.
Ballet lessons (at any age!) fulfill this function quite well, on both a psychological and physiological level.

Relaxation: Learning relaxation techniques will help to relax both mind and body, which is essential in the quest for better stress management. Relaxation can lower heart rate and blood pressure and increase blood flow to organs and muscles, allowing an individual to feel more in control of a situation. A visit to a professional to learn relaxation techniques may be necessary, since relaxing can be surprisingly difficult for someone who is always tense and stressed.

Exercise and relaxation should be a regular feature of a busy life. People complain that they just don't have time to go to the gym to exercise or the time to find a quite place in order to relax. What they fail to grasp is that people who exercise and relax are less stressed and probably more productive in the long run. Most companies give their staff a lunch break - use it, not to work, but to exercise and relax.

A healthy lifestyle is an essential companion to any stress-reduction program. General health and stress resistance can be enhanced by regular exercise, a diet rich in a variety of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and by avoiding excessive alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco.

While most of us think of exercise as a way to get in shape or control our weight, did you know that exercise and stress management are also closely linked? Exercise helps relieve feelings of frustration and gives you a lift via endorphins at the same time. Exercise is a great stress-buster, allowing you to physically “burn off” stress. Exercise need not be intense to reduce stress. For example, Adult Ballet classes are a “moving meditation” aimed at achieving a calm and tranquil mind.

Don’t worry about things you can’t control, such as the weather. Solve the little problems. This can help you gain a feeling of control. Prepare to the best of your ability for events you know may be stressful, such as a job interview. Try to look at change as a positive challenge, not as a threat. Work to resolve conflicts with other people. Talk with a trusted friend, family member or counselor. Set realistic goals at home and at work. Avoid over-scheduling. Exercise on a regular basis. Eat regular, well-balanced meals and get enough sleep. Meditate. Participate in something you don’t find stressful, such as sports, social events or hobbies.

The body's stress-response system is usually self-limiting. Once a perceived threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels, and other systems resume their regular activities. But when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on.

Your response to a potentially stressful event is different from anyone else's. How you react to stressors in your life is affected by such factors as: Genetics. The genes that control the stress response keep most people on a fairly even keel, only occasionally priming the body for fight or flight. Overactive or underactive stress responses may stem from slight differences in these genes. Life experiences. Strong stress reactions sometimes can be traced to traumatic events. People who were neglected or abused as children tend to be particularly vulnerable to stress. The same is true of people who have experienced violent crime, airplane crash survivors, military personnel, police officers and firefighters. You may have some friends who seem laid-back about almost everything and others who react strongly at the slightest stress. Most reactions to life stressors fall somewhere between those extremes.

Learn to respond to stress in a healthy way. Stressful events are a fact of life. And you may not be able to change your current situation. But you can take steps to manage the impact these events have on you. You can learn to identify what stresses you and how to take care of yourself physically and emotionally in the face of stressful situations. Stress management strategies include: Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, getting a massage or learning to meditate. Taking time for hobbies, such as reading a book, taking a ballet class or listening to music. Fostering healthy friendships. Having a sense of humor. Volunteering in your community. Seeking professional counseling when needed. The payoff for learning to manage stress is peace of mind and a longer, healthier life.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal gland similar to estrogen and testosterone. Cortisol is a chemical hormone produced by your body to manage stress. The stress can be physical, mental and emotional. Cortisol continues to be released when the stress continues. Cortisol releases glucose into your bloodstream and increases blood pressure for increased physical activity such as running or fighting. Your brain is stimulated for more intense awareness. Immune system activity is reduced to save energy for physical activity. Cortisol taps energy from your body’s most-easily available sources. Muscle tissue is skimmed to produce glucose for energy. Triglycerides are mobilized from fat tissues. Short-term stressors and even cyclical daily variations cause elevated cortisol levels that are normal and healthy to provide energy for different activities. Cortisol levels in the blood are usually higher in the morning to provide energy.

When physical activity to solve the stressor is used, the energy components produced by cortisol are used by muscles, nerves and other tissues. Glucose and triglycerides are consumed by the cells providing activity. When cortisol levels remain elevated for long periods of time (chronic stress), you may perceive a need for extra calories and over-eating is a common result.

Long-term activation of the stress-response system and subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including: Anxiety, Depression, Digestive problems, Headaches, Heart disease, Sleep problems, Weight gain and Memory and concentration impairment. That's why it's so important to learn healthy ways to cope with the stressors in your life.