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Gardening,yoga,and meditation are "stress busters"
  • Current treatments for stress include self-help techniques, talking and pills • Dr Mosley took 68 volunteers who felt stressed and split them into three groups • Over eight weeks they tested stress-busting techniques: yoga, mindfulness and gardening We all get stressed from time to time. But when does stress become a problem – one that raises the risk of depression, heart disease and other illnesses – and what are the best ways to avoid it? This is the question posed by a remarkable BBC2 documentary which aims to tackle what has been dubbed ‘the mental health epidemic of the 21st Century’. Diagnosable cases of stress, depression or anxiety affected 488,000 British workers in 2015, according to Government figures. In the documentary, a one-off Trust Me I¿m A Doctor special, Dr Michael Mosley and his team set out to discover just what is behind the startling rise in mental health problems". Rat race: In the documentary, a one-off Trust Me I’m A Doctor special, Dr Michael Mosley (above, with Viki Browne) and his team set out to discover just what is behind the startling rise in mental health problems More than 11 million sick days were taken due to these conditions that year, almost half of the total number of working days lost. Last year, doctors wrote 70 million prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, In the documentary, a one-off Trust Me I’m A Doctor special, Dr Michael Mosley and his team set out to discover just what is behind the startling rise in mental health problems and conducts a fascinating experiment to discover exactly what we can do, without resorting to medication, to reduce the impact of stress on our minds and bodies. Dr Mosley says: ‘We surveyed 2,000 Britons while setting up the project, and 42 per cent told us they wanted to know how they could best cope with stress.’ Treatments range from self-help techniques and talking therapies to medication, or a combination of these. To find the best drug-free ‘therapy’, Dr Mosley took 68 volunteers who felt stressed but had not been diagnosed with a mental health problem, and split them into three groups. Over eight weeks they tested three stress-busting techniques: yoga, mindfulness and, perhaps surprisingly, that favourite British pastime, gardening "Smiles better: Dr Zoe Williams with her social media mood test" class. Copy link to paste in your message Smiles better: Dr Zoe Williams with her social media mood test Dr Mosley says the inclusion of the latter was not as strange as it might first appear. ‘There’s growing evidence that social interaction and contact with nature has a positive affect on our mood. ‘Studies into yoga suggest it can help with stress by lowering the heart rate and blood pressure. ‘And there is also research to suggest mindfulness, a form of meditation that focuses the mind on the present, helps you avoid being caught in a cycle of negative thoughts which cause stress.’ They compared all three to a control group who went about daily life as usual. Throughout the eight weeks they monitored volunteers’ stress levels. At the beginning and end of the experiment, the volunteers filled in psychological questionnaires and gave saliva samples to measure their levels of a hormone called cortisol, which plays a key part in the body’s stress response. Cortisol is critical to our health and survival, but constantly raised levels can cause problems such as fatigue, weakness, depression, anxiety, irritability, loss of emotional control and cognitive difficulties. Professor Angela Clow, a psychologist from the University of Westminster, says: ‘Cortisol activates your brain and gets you prepared for the day. When we wake up we get a huge surge in cortisol, known at the “cortisol awakening response” or CAR. ‘Then you experience a drop-off during the day. If someone is suffering from stress, you see less of a surge in the morning, leaving them feeling less able to cope, and then sometimes higher levels during the day.’


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