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Would you like to live a more peaceful lifestyle? If you're like most people, you're under some sort of stress. Probably more than you realise. But there's no need, says Lucia Cockcroft, who suggests five tools to help you be more chilled. health 66 lime October - December 2008 A s the pace of life grows faster, references to ' stress' become increasingly common. Uncertain economic times, growing violence and the fast-rising cost of living – expensive rice, milk and meat, together with sky- rocketing fuel prices – are adding to the sheer volume of things to worry about. The human stress response is age- old. In simple terms, stress releases powerful neurochemicals and hormones that prepare us for action – typically, either fight or flight. Physical symptoms include shallow breathing, physical tension, low vitality levels, insomnia, and a feeling of imbalance. In some cases, severe stress and anxiety can be seriously undermining to health, leading to time off work and even clinical depression; hence the epidemic in stress- related problems now seen especially in Western countries. The good news is that there's plenty we can do to unwind and relax. Mind/ body practices such as yoga, meditation and massage are growing in popularity for their ability to restore perspective and wellbeing. Spending time outdoors, eating healthily, taking regular exercise and trying therapies can also help. Here is a taster of some approaches that may well help you stand back, take stock and de- stress. Diet With the cost of food and raw materials on the rise, having a perfect diet can be challenging. But it is also hugely important; diet is one key way to preserve the body's energy reserves and cut down on stress. Recent research from the UK- based Mental Health Foundation has shown that a healthy diet can have a positive impact on mental health. The Foundation recommends regular meals throughout the day, including protein with every meal. Try to eat a wide variety of foods, including plenty of oily fish such as sardines. Include wholegrain cereals, grains, pulses, fruit and legumes – all of which are primary sources of energy. Eat at least five portions of vegetables and fruit every day, and avoid foods containing lots of sugar such as cakes, sweets and puddings – sugar upsets the body's blood sugar levels and can trigger mood swings. yoga The practice originated thousands of years ago in India. A series of postures known as ' asanas' vary hugely according to the style of yoga and the practitioner's health. In addition to the physical benefits, all work to promote relaxation through proper breathing. Many Westerners first come to yoga for physical reasons: to become fitter and leaner, perhaps, or to help a nagging back problem. Benefits include: increased strength, healthier lungs and heart, lower blood pressure, improved digestion, sounder sleep, and a stronger immune system. However, yoga's emphasis on bringing body and mind together through the ll

October - December 2008 lime 67