Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ways to reduce stress.

The following strategies have been shown to help when you're not coping well with the stress in your life.

• Early recognition.
Everyone has a "stress container." Once this container gets full and overflows, you start to notice symptoms of distress. The trick is to recognize when your container is getting full and to have a consistent way to pour it out so you always keep some energy in reserve.

• Monitoring systems.
People experiencing stress are usually the last to notice the signs. Give your spouse, children, friends, peers and fellow employees permission to tell you when they see the signs. Normally, if you get angry and defensive, they won't tell you directly. So give them permission to tell you the truth.

• Exercise.
While exercise can help your overall health and longevity, and assist you with weight-loss goals, physical exercise has many stress management benefits as well. Working out and getting more physical activity in your life can help you relieve tension and manage stress with increased endorphins, social support, improved immunity and other positive benefits of exercise. Not only will you be more relaxed and happy, you’ll be healthier as well.

• Progressive muscle relaxation.
By tensing and relaxing all the muscle groups in your body, you can relieve tension and feel much more relaxed in minutes with no special training or equipment. Start by tensing all the muscles in your face, holding a tight grimace for ten seconds, then completely relaxing for another ten seconds. Repeat this with your neck, followed by your shoulders, etc. You can do this anywhere, and as you practice, you'll find you can relax more quickly and easily, reducing tension as soon as it starts!

• Deep breathing.
Deep breathing is an easy stress reliever that has numerous benefits for the body. It brings more oxygen to the blood, which ‘wakes up’ the brain, relaxes the muscles and quiets the mind. Breathing exercises are especially helpful because you can do them anywhere, and they work quickly so you can de-stress in a flash.

• Meditation.
More than 1,300 scientific studies have documented the benefits of meditation. Meditation builds on deep breathing and takes it a step further. To meditate, put yourself in a place of relaxation and listen for that "still point within yourself." Slow down your thoughts so you can have feelings in between your thoughts. The mental focus on nothingness keeps your mind from working overtime and increasing your stress level. Significant neurochemical changes happen during meditation and trigger the relaxation response including the release of certain hormones that promote health.

• Relationships.
Feeling connected to other people plays a major role in reducing stress. Isolation from others increases stress.

• Sex.
You probably already know that sex is a great tension reliever, but have you officially thought of it as a stress-relieving practice? Perhaps you should. The physical benefits of sex are numerous, and most of them work very well toward relieving stress. Sadly, many people have less sex when their stress levels are high. Learn how to avoid this.

• Music and the arts.
Listen to music, read a book or watch the sun set. The right music can actually lower your blood pressure, relax your body and calm your mind. Music that works for me includes Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Enya's A Day Without Rain and Yanni's It's My Time. Having multiple-sense imagery causes immediate neurochemical changes that enhance the relaxation response.

Ben Franklin summed it up well. In times of stress, the three best things to have are an old dog, an old wife and ready money.

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