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"We must view stress management as seriously as we do medical disease," says Elissa Epel

29 Mar 2023
"I’m a firm believer in retreats and spas but without the skills to deeply relax, they’re of limited value," said Elissa Epel, a leading professor in psychiatry and behavioural medicine.

"Despite being physically in paradise while visiting a spa, our mind can still be working overtime panicking about the past, the future and stress we hold in our bodies even unconsciously."

Best known in the industry for her pioneering research linking stress to the shortening of telomeres and immune cell ageing, Epel has just launched a book – Stress Prescription – to help people to take control of their daily stress in just seven days.

Educated at Stanford and Yale, Epel is also a trained health psychologist, TED MED speaker and New York Times-bestselling author.

In the latest issue of Spa Business, she condensed the key takeaways from her new book.

"I use the word prescription in the book’s title because we need to view stress management as seriously as we do medical disease," Epel said.

"The vast majority of us are living with too much daily stress and it’s ruining our life.

"We’re living in tough times and need more robust tools and stress management practices for daily life. It can feel like a filter that masks the beauty in front of us. But we don’t have to live that way."

After decades of studying stress, Epel felt compelled to share her insights on how to help us reshape our relationship with stress into one that is healthy and humorous. She's broken them down into seven steps – "potent easy strategies proven to be effective" – that each only require just a few minutes a day:

• Embrace uncertainty.
• Put down the weight of what we can’t control.
• Use our stress response to help overcome challenges.
• Train our cells to “metabolise stress” better.
• Immerse ourselves in nature to recalibrate our nervous system.
• Practice deep restoration.
• Fill our busy schedules with moments of joy.

"With some relatively simple new habits, we can train the mind and body to experience the inevitable stresses of life in a positive way that's actually healthy for the body," she says.

Epel sees the book being particularly useful to wellness lovers and operators. "Using these techniques, people are better equipped to reap the positive effects of time at spas and even benefit from the experience for even longer, meaning that they may well return sooner," she concludes. "In fact, studies have shown that people who are more experienced in meditation show more immediate physiological benefits from a retreat."

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