Stress itself is not a bad thing. A little bit of stress can serve to compel us to action and enhance our performance. But we can also feel overwhelmed with life’s demands. You can learn to listen to your mind and body and make adjustments so that you take control of stress instead of letting stress control you. Here are a few ways to help manage your stress more effectively.
When feeling stressed or anxious take several slow, deep breaths and as you exhale silently say “calm” to yourself. It’s not as easy as it sounds because when we’re stressed our breathing is quicker and shallower, and we breathe from the chest instead of the belly. Strive to breathe deeply but naturally from the stomach.
2. Be aware of your stressors and your reactions to them.
Reactions can be emotional or physical. When you realize what your stressors are, you can then begin to do something about them. For example, you can prepare emotionally in advance for a meeting, maybe by letting yourself know that while not your favorite activity, you’ve been in difficult meetings before and have done fine. What are you telling yourself about the meaning of events? What we think about events has a profound effect on how we feel about them. You can change the “tape” in your head and move away from perfectionism, and self-criticism.
3. Exercise and eat a healthy diet.
Because of television and magazines you know all about this so I won’t elaborate.
4. Experience gratitude.
Think of the positive things in your life. Spend 30 seconds thinking of how lucky you are to be alive, or grateful to be loved, or in good health, or doing what you love, or how awesome nature’s beauty is. If you really want to try this, write down three things you’re grateful for each day for 21 days and see what happens – you might be surprised. There can even be gratitude for the opportunities that develop from our problems.
5. Slow down.
Try not to multi-task, it requires more mind-body energy. Doing things more slowly and deliberately helps calm the body down. So when feeling stressed do a common activity slowly, carefully and attentively.
6. Let it go. Recognize what you can change. Don’t spread yourself too thin. If you’re feeling resentful about helping others or that volunteer committee, maybe you’re overloaded. Put off taking that class, withdraw from that committee. Some things need to be done, just not today. Learn to say “No.” It’s not selfish to be nice to yourself, especially when health is involved. You can decide to not get stressed if there is a circumstance you can’t change – it is what it is, as they say.
Stress is a part of life. Like most things, it’s not the presence or absence of it that matters, but how we deal with it. By paying attention to your thoughts, emotions and physical reactions, and using stress management strategies, you can be more effective in taking control of the stress in your life.
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