Stress—we have all felt it at one time or another. But, many people feel stress often. Some even feel it as a part of their daily lives. Stress can contribute to numerous conditions, like coronary artery disease, stroke, immune disorders, gastrointestinal problems, eating problems, sleep disturbances, and sexual problems. Learning to reduce your stress can help you live happier, healthier, and maybe even longer.
The National Mental Health Association offers the following tips for reducing or controlling stress:
Do not take on everything; learn to say no. Set realistic goals for yourself. If you are feeling overwhelmed, try eliminating an activity that is not absolutely necessary. Ask yourself, “What really needs to be done? Is the deadline realistic?” No one is perfect, so do not expect perfection from yourself or others. And ask for help if you need it.
It only takes about 10-20 minutes to get a benefit from meditating. These few moments of quiet reflection may bring relief from stress as well as increase your tolerance to it. And it is simple to do: sit quietly, listen to peaceful music, relax, and try and think of pleasant things or think of nothing.
Take a moment to picture how you can manage a stressful situation more calmly and successfully. This can work with just about anything, whether it is an important presentation at work or moving to a new place or taking an exam. A visual rehearsal can boost self-confidence and help you have a more positive attitude toward a difficult task.
When you start to feel overwhelmed, try taking one task at a time. Make a list of things you need to do. Put the most urgent task at the top. Once you have accomplished it, cross it off and move on to the next one. The positive feeling of crossing things off can help keep you motivated.
Regular exercise is a great way to reduce stress, and it benefits the body as well as the mind.
Get Involved in Hobbies
Take a break from the stressors of life and do something you really enjoy. Try gardening, painting, or reading. Schedule time to indulge your interests.
Practice a Healthy Lifestyle
Eating healthfully will make a difference. Avoiding things like smoking, excessive alcohol, and caffeine will help, as well. Make sure you get adequate rest and exercise. Try to balance work and play.
Talking about things can help you feel better. A conversation with someone can help you relax. And listening to someone else can take the focus off of yourself—something we all need to do every now and then. Stay in touch with your family and friends. Do not try to cope alone. If you feel that you need more help in dealing with a difficult situation, there are therapists and support groups available. Your doctor may be able to recommend someone.
Give in Occasionally
You do not always have to be right. Be flexible. Be willing to compromise. If you do, others may meet you halfway. If you know you are right, stand your ground, but be calm and rational. Make sure you listen and make allowances for other’s opinions.
Let Go of Perfection
When you expect too much from yourself or others, you may end up feeling frustrated, let down, and disappointed. Remember that each person, including yourself, has shortcomings. But, you also have beautiful qualities to share with the world.
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How much physical activity do adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Updated March 2010. Accessed April 13, 2010.
Risk factors for stroke. EBSCO DynaMed website. Updated December 2009. Accessed April 13, 2010.
Stress and your health. Women’s Health.gov website. Updated August 2005. Accessed June 16, 2008.