Managing Stress

Today's Tips for Managing Stress

Are you stuffing your stress?
For many people, the trigger to overeating is stress. But mastering stress-relief strategies and relaxation techniques can help you stop your diet-busting behaviors.

One recent study found that people who had no strategy to deal with stress gave in to eating temptations every time. Those who responded with positive actions like taking a walk or listening to music avoided emotion-based eating 85% of the time.

For a healthier heart, pat a dog
At a meeting of the American Heart Association in Dallas, researchers extolled the benefits of furry friends for heart patients. Their study showed just a few minutes spent patting a dog can relieve a heart patient's anxiety and perhaps even help recovery.

Researchers found that a 12-minute visit with a dog helped patients' heart and lung function by lowering pulmonary pressure, reducing the release of harmful hormones, and decreasing anxiety. The effects were much more pronounced than those they observed after visits with a human volunteer or following quiet time alone.

The Ten Best Ways to Stop Stress

One of the most important things we can do for ourselves and our loved ones is to learn to deal with stress. Although there are many approaches to stress management, this article lists 10 ways for reducing stress that are practical, beneficial and feasible enough so that you can start implementing them in your busy life today.

Change your Outlook.
If you think the glass is half full, you will feel different than if you think it is half empty. Since there are of different ways of seeing the same thing, you might as well pick the one you like. If someone is being critical or demanding, you can remind yourself that they might be insecure or having personal problems. Then you can step outside yourself and look at other possible interpretations of their behavior. It doesn't change reality but it will help you view things differently (and less stressfully).

Examine Your Beliefs.
We all have assumptions that we hold to be the truth: "The customer is always right" or "Real men don't cry." We're not usually consciously aware of most of them, and sometimes we allow them to run our lives. For example, if you believe that work should come before pleasure, you are likely to work harder and have less leisure time. Finding the unconscious assumptions behind your actions can help you change them. Acknowledge that your assumptions are simply opinions and that other's opinions may be just as valid as your own.

Stress is the fight-or-flight response in the body that causes increased heart rate and blood pressure, faster breathing, muscle tension, dilated pupils, dry mouth and increased blood sugar. Unfortunately, fighting and running away are usually inappropriate in the modern world. So our bodies go into high energy mode with no release for that energy. Exercise is the best way to use excess energy.

Find a Place to Vent.
Keeping things to yourself causes a large burden. Have you ever been upset, and once you told your story, you felt better? Create a support system (a few trusted relatives, co-workers or friends to talk to when you're upset or worried). Just having someone to listen and care can make all the difference. You can also try writing in a journal or diary or you can write a letter. Just don't send or reread it - in fact destroy it. Rereading the letter just fans the flames all over again. The value is in expressing the feelings and getting them out.

Get Some Shut Eye.
Stress causes fatigue and when you're tired, you don't cope as well with stressful situations, so there is a vicious circle. If you get more sleep, you will feel better and more able to deal with day-to-day events. Try going to bed 30 to 60 minutes earlier and pay attention to your results after about a week. If you're still tired, try going to bed 30 minutes earlier. Eventually, you'll find what you need in order to wake refreshed and maintain energy throughout the day.

Keep it Real.
Having unreal expectations is a common source of stress. Life feels more predictable and manageable when things happen as we expect them to. If you know ahead you have to work overtime, it is much less stressful than if it comes up last minute. You have more control because you can prepare yourself (physically and psychologically). As for others, expect less from those who can't do what you want. It makes things easier. Not perfect, but much less stressful.

Laugh a Little.
Humor is a wonderful stress reducer. Laughter relieves tension. In fact, we often laugh hardest when we have been feeling most tense. It often helps if you can make fun of yourself or your situation. But be careful - what is funny to you may be hurtful to someone else.

Quit the Caffeine.
Caffeine in coffee, tea, soda and chocolate is a strong stimulant that actually causes a stress reaction. Without it you will eventually feel more relaxed, less jittery or nervous, sleep better, and have more energy, less heartburn and fewer muscle aches. Be careful to wean yourself gradually or you could get migraine-type withdrawal headaches. Try decreasing by one drink per day until you are down to zero.

Relax Mind and Body.
We can all learn to enjoy a state of deep relaxation, in which pulse slows, blood pressure falls, breathing slows and muscles relax. Just as exercise consumes stress energy, relaxation neutralizes it, resulting in a calming effect. You can take classes or read books to learn some of these techniques.

Take a Time-out.
Too many people work from dawn to dusk without breaks and then wonder why they are stressed. It is not always convenient to take a time-out when your body tells you, but you can make it happen. Start by taking a break at mid morning, lunch, mid afternoon and supper time. You could try a nap (keep it short or you'll fell groggy), meditation, daydreaming, a friendly conversation, a walk, a refreshment break or listening to music.

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