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Our lives are getting more and more hectic. Technology, moving at an ever-faster pace, has made it easier to be more efficient at work and in our daily chores. Social media and internet commerce have connected people in ways unimaginable 20 years ago. Yet, people seem to have less free time than ever. Our cell phones beep at us for attention around the clock. It’s hard to get a break from the news. For many, stress is an ineradicable part of everyday life.

While the stress might not be going anywhere any time soon, there are ways to find tranquility and keep the negative effects of stress at bay.

Even if you don’t have time for a real vacation, there are little things you can do to de-stress your life and let the calm back in, says Joanne Lee Cornish, a former top athlete and professional bodybuilder who has turned her expertise in nutrition and fitness into a successful career as an author and life coach. One of the most recognizable personal trainers at the famous Gold’s Gym in Venice, Calif., for 25 years, Cornish has trained hundreds of people for every goal type. Along the way, she earned a stellar reputation for her ability to get clients stage and camera ready.

Stress Is Bad for You

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“Stress isn’t just annoying,” Cornish says. “It’s actually unhealthy.” In her book, “When Calories & Cardio Don’t Cut It,” she explains why. When you become stressed, your body releases the hormones epinephrine and cortisol. Prolonged exposure to cortisol is associated with increased abdominal fat, impaired brain function, decreased muscle tissue, lower immunity, irregular blood sugar, suppressed thyroid function, depression, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, male fertility issues, autoimmune diseases, and insomnia.

Stress Affects Body Composition

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Cornish understands how anxiety impacts body composition. She continues, “People who sleep poorly and are tired tend to eat more sugars for energy and end up gaining weight. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in when you are stressed. Your heart is racing, blood vessels constrict, skin gets washed out, hands are sweaty, and the blood supply to the kidneys is reduced. At this point, your body tries to increase blood volume, so you retain water. Your digestion slows down, and you end up constipated.”

The Quick De-Stress Trick

“To counteract stress,” Cornish says, “you have to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system,”  one of three divisions of the autonomic nervous system. It’s sometimes called the rest-and-digest system. It slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.

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Cornish continues, “This occurs naturally when you sleep, but here’s something you can do whenever you feel stressed or before you walk into an important meeting, give a presentation, or step up on a stage. I call it ‘Breathwork.’ Take ten deep breaths in through your nose and out your mouth, as deep as you can. This will calm you down.”

Bring Calm Into Your Life

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There are many other ways to add calm moments to your life. Cornish recommends, “Whatever gets you to the point of relaxing. Call a friend and laugh. Listen to favorite song, watch a funny movie, or look at nice photos. Think of a great vacation. Sit with your pet. Try aromatherapy; many people love lavender. Himalayan salt lamps give off a soothing light. Weighted blankets help many people sleep. Stress balls to squeeze.”

Shop our favorite de-stress items easily:

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Ultimately, we have to get our minds to a happy place. Do something fun. Relax in front of an aquarium or with a beautiful adult coloring book. Try Cornish’s “Breathwork” or meditation if you have time. At night, turn off your computer and put away your phone an hour before bed — and keep them out of the bedroom. Listen to ocean waves as you fall asleep. And sweet dreams!

Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.


Crista Worthy writes about aviation, travel, wildlife, and more from her home in Idaho.

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