Stress is your reaction to any change that requires you to adjust or respond. It may even be a good change. It’s important to remember that you can learn to control stress, because stress comes from how you respond to stressful events.
Signs of Stress
The best way to cope with unhealthy stress is to recognize when your stress levels are building. While we often think of stress as the result of external events, the events themselves are not necessarily stressful. It is the way in which each individual interprets and reacts to an event that produces stress. People vary significantly in the type of events they experience as stressful and the way that they respond to these events. Your body reacts to stress with physical, mental and emotional responses.
Tips for Stress Management
- Take a deep breath. Stress often causes us to breathe shallowly and this in turn almost always causes more stress. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count as you exhale—slowly.
- Manage time. Plan ahead. Make a reasonable schedule.
- Connect with others. Seek out activities involving others.
- Talk it out. Share your feelings with a friend, family member, teacher, clergy person or counselor.
- Take a “minute” vacation. Create a quiet scene. Imagining a quiet scene can take you out of the turmoil of a stressful situation. Play relaxing music or read a good book.
- Monitor your physical comfort. Wear comfortable clothes. Change uncomfortable chairs.
- Get physical. Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress. Try to find something you enjoy and make regular time for it. Remember, your body and mind work together.
- Take care of your body. Healthy eating and adequate sleep fuels your mind as well as your body. Avoid consuming too much caffeine and sugar. In excess, the temporary “highs” they provide often end in fatigue or a “crash” later. Take time to eat breakfast in the morning. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress.
- Maintain your sense of humor. Laughter is good for you.
- Know your limits. A major source of stress is people’s efforts to control events or other people over whom they have little or no power.
- Have a good cry. A good cry during periods of stress can be a healthy way to bring relief to your anxiety. However, if you are crying daily, seek a consultation with a counselor or a physician.
- Avoid self-medication. Alcohol and other drugs do not remove conditions that cause stress. These substances only mask or disguise problems.
- Look for the “pieces of gold” around you. It is easy to fall into a rut of seeing only the negative when you are stressed. Your thoughts can become like a pair of very dark sunglasses, allowing little light or joy into your life. Commit yourself to actively collecting (noticing) five “pieces of gold” from your environment. Pieces of gold are positive or enjoyable moments or interactions.
Switch your thoughts to yourself and your breathing. Take a few deep breaths, exhaling slowly. Mentally scan your body. Notice areas that feel tense or cramped. Quickly loosen up these areas. Let go of as much tension as you can.
Rotate your head in a smooth, circular motion once or twice. (Stop any movements that cause pain.) Roll your shoulders forward and backward several times. Let all of your muscles completely relax. Recall a pleasant thought for a few seconds. Take another deep breath and exhale slowly. You should feel more relaxed.
Close your eyes. Breathe normally through your nose. As you exhale, silently say to yourself the word “one,” a short word such as “peaceful” or a short phrase such as “I feel quiet” or “I’m safe”. Continue for ten minutes. If your mind wanders, gently remind yourself to think about your breathing and your chosen word or phrase. Let your breathing become slow and steady.
Imagine a spot just below your navel. Breathe into that spot and fill your abdomen with air. Let the air fill you from the abdomen up, then let it out, like deflating a balloon. With every long, slow breath out, you should feel more relaxed.
Stress Management Techniques and Resources
There are a number of ways you can work to manage stress in your life, including:
- Massage Therapy
- Psychiatrists, Psychologists, and Counselors
For information on these techniques and a list of recommended local stress management resources, download this pdf.
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