Got Any Tips For Reducing Stress?
Patricia Zifferblatt | December 1, 2003

Very many times, when making recommendations for a healthier lifestyle, we'll add, "And learn how to control stress." Easy to say, but how can we control something we don't know how to control? The following seven suggestions can be practiced anytime, just about anywhere.

1. Learn how to identify what stresses you out. Make a list of the incidents and the people that can raise your barometer.

2. Identify your actions and responses to these stressors. How do you act and react to that which aggravates you? What can you do about these stressors? Remember, people do not change for you--you have to do the changing for yourself!

3. Try to avoid whatever causes a negative reaction. Can you walk away from, avoid, or ignore the stressor? Can you envision these negative stressors sliding off your body like water slides off an oily board? Try (perhaps only in your mind) the Ronald Reagan approach: chuckle, shake your head, and say, "There you go again."

4. Learn how to control your breathing and to breathe deeply from your diaphragm. Get in a comfortable position, erase all thoughts from your mind, and learn how to take deep breaths into your body and then slowly release the breath. Breathe normally and deeply, not rapidly or gasping--your belly should expand, not just your chest. The habit of deep breathing can relax the body so that you're better prepared to handle a situation. There are many guidelines on the internet for you to print out, review, and then practice whenever you have the time.

5. Learn to do relaxation exercises at home in a comfortable setting. While listening to soft, quiet music, learn how to do progressive relaxation exercises that will benefit your entire body. Bookstores have many books that can help you learn these techniques.

6. Learn how to go to a quiet place in your mind. Reflect on beautiful places and scenes and say a little prayer of thanks for your blessings. And we all have something to be thankful for. Prayer is an excellent way to clear your mind of petty annoyances and focus on what's really important in life.

7. Count to 10. When all else fails, stop, take a deep breath, exhale, and count to 10 slowly before acting or reacting to a situation or comment. That may not make the situation better, but it may prevent you from making it worse.

Stress is all around us every day--it will never go away. The only people who are stress-free are the ones in a coma and in the cemetery. Learning how to deal more effectively with stress, especially the particular stress and stressors that affect you, is a goal worth setting and pursuing. But it's up to you to do it. No one can do it for you.
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