Self-Care: Reducing Your Stress Now
Proven Ways to Reduce Stress
THE KEY TO PREVENTING STRESS is to find ways to reduce the stressors in your life, and to counteract stress with activities that provide balance and peace of mind.
The following suggestions can help you reduce and manage your stress.
- Do something relaxing when you take a break. Taking a walk around your office building, enjoying a healthful snack or writing a personal letter can help relieve your stress, so you can return to your tasks refreshed.
- Work on key projects when you're most productive. Do your most challenging work before lunch if you're a morning person; return phone calls and do your filing after lunch.
- Learn to be flexible. When planning your day or week, assume some of your meetings and appointments will be canceled, run late or have to be rescheduled. Do your best to accommodate the other people involved when a schedule change is necessary.
- Exercise your sense of humor. Taking yourself less seriously enables you to laugh at your mistakes and learn from them instead of stewing about them and letting them ruin your day.
- Keep your goals in mind. Setting clear professional goals and using them to prioritize your tasks can give each day a sense of direction and purpose.
- Avoid overscheduling your day. Back-to-back appointments can be draining. Whenever possible, build a little downtime in between meetings and appointments.
- Congratulate yourself on your successes. Patting yourself on the back for completing the tasks on your to-do list or a major project can raise your self-esteem.
- Keep your office organized. A disheveled work area can add to your stress. Being able to find files, documents and phone messages without having to dig through piles of papers increases your productivity and reduces your stress.
- Focus on the present. Reworking the past or worrying about the future can be stressful. Staying focused on the tasks you need to do today can increase your sense of control -- a key to reducing stress.
- Take a breather. You can short-circuit stress by doing deep-breathing exercises. For example: Sit comfortably in a chair, close your eyes and fold your hands in your lap. Breathe in for eight counts, hold your breath for three counts, then breathe out slowly. Repeat. Concentrate on slowing your heart, relaxing your shoulder muscles and feeling a sense of calm.
- Don't keep your problems to yourself. Talking to someone about your problems can help you solve them or gain a new perspective on them. Consider talking to family members, friends, co-workers or religious advisers. Consider speaking with a health professional if you feel highly stressed or depressed.
- Exercise regularly. Walking, running, swimming or taking an exercise class can help keep muscle tension from building.
- Set aside 10 to 20 minutes each day for solitude. Use the time to pray, meditate, read or listen to something inspirational. Starting your day this way may help you put the day's activities into perspective.
- Do one thing at a time. It's hard to do something right when you're not giving it your full attention. Resist the urge to talk on the phone while you're driving or eat dinner with your family while you're watching television
- Disconnect from work at the end of the day. Leaving work problems at work gives you more time each day to enjoy your life and your loved ones.
- Make laughter a part of your life. Humor helps relieve stress. Reading humorous books, renting funny movies and watching TV sitcoms can brighten your day.
- Spend time with your family and friends. Setting aside a few hours each week to enjoy people and activities that really matter can help relieve your stress. Doing so makes your problems seem less important.
Soothing the Physical Symptoms of Stress
STRESS-RELATED symptoms vary from person to person. Stomach distress, headaches and tight back and shoulder muscles are common complaints. Look for ways to reduce or manage stress if such symptoms are bothering you.
These strategies can help you get short-term relief from stress:
- Stress prompts excess secretions of stomach acid, which can cause heartburn, stomach cramps and other digestive ailments. Try soothing the symptoms with a glass of warm milk or an over-the-counter antacid. Coffee, cigarettes, alcohol and spicy foods can further irritate the stomach.
- Headaches and sore back and shoulder muscles are a common reaction to stress. Stretch and flex tight muscles during the day. Soothe yourself with deep-breathing exercises, a light workout or other physical activities that you enjoy, such as gardening or walking the dog. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever if pain persists.
- Chronic colds and flu can indicate that stress is taking a toll on your immune system. Build up your defenses by getting plenty of rest, drinking extra fluids and eating lots of fruits and vegetables and other vitamin-rich foods.
- Insomnia can result if you go to bed with problems on your mind. Drink warm milk, take a hot bath or read a book when you can't fall asleep. If you still can't stop worrying about your problems, get up and write them down, telling yourself that you will deal with them in the morning. Try to think about something pleasant when you return to bed.
- Drinking too much alcohol, using drugs, overeating or participating in any other addictive behavior in response to stress can multiply the problems you already have. If substance abuse or an addiction is causing you problems, contact your doctor, Alcoholics Anonymous or other sources of help.
- A depressed immune system can cause skin problems. When stressed, you may be more susceptible to the viruses that cause fever blisters, cold sores and other skin problems. Treat the symptoms with over-the-counter medications. Keep your skin clean and moisturized and wear a sunscreen.
Chronic stress can lead to more serious conditions such as heart disease, depression, alcoholism and some kinds of cancers. If you often feel pressured, take constructive steps to relieve the causes and symptoms of your stress.
BALANCE YOUR LIFE
If work is causing you stress, immerse yourself in a favorite activity or hobby when you get home. You'll be focusing on a task instead of your problems.
Surround yourself with people who are positive about life and who like to laugh. Watch funny movies instead of the news in the evening. Laughter is one of the best antidotes to stress.
Predicting Stress Through Significant Life Events
THE HOLMES-RAHE Life Events Scale below can help you measure your stress. If any of these events has occurred in your life within the last 12 months, place their mean values in the Your Score column. Your Grand Total will indicate how stressful the past year has been for you. A score of less than 125 is low, while a score between 125 and 250 is middle range. A score of more than 250 is high and suggests a need for you to practice stress-reduction techniques on a regular basis.
|1.||Death of a spouse||100||_______|
|5.||Death of a close family member||63||_______|
|6.||Personal injury or illness||53||_______|
|8.||Fired at work||47||_______|
|11.||Change in health of family member||44||_______|
|14.||Gained a new family member||39||_______|
|16.||Change in financial status||38||_______|
|17.||Death of a close friend||37||_______|
|18.||Change to a different line of work||36||_______|
|19.||Change in number of arguments with spouse||35||_______|
|20.||Mortgage or loan of more than $100,000||31||_______|
|21.||Foreclosure of mortgage or loan||30||_______|
|22.||Change in responsibilities at work||29||_______|
|23.||Son or daughter left home||29||_______|
|24.||Trouble with in-laws||29||_______|
|25.||Outstanding personal achievement||28||_______|
|26.||Spouse began or stopped work||26||_______|
|27.||Began or ended school||26||_______|
|28.||Change in living conditions||25||_______|
|29.||Revision of personal habits||24||_______|
|30.||Trouble with boss||23||_______|
|31.||Change in work hours or conditions||20||_______|
|32.||Change in residence||20||_______|
|33.||Change in schools||20||_______|
|34.||Change in recreation||19||_______|
|35. ||Change in church activities||19||_______|
|36. ||Change in social activities||18||_______|
|37. ||Mortgage or loan of less than $100,000||17||_______|
|38. ||Change in sleeping habits||16||_______|
|39. ||Change in number of family get-togethers||15||_______|
|40. ||Change in eating habits||15||_______|
|43. ||Minor law violations ||11||_______|
|GRAND TOTAL ||_______|
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Mental Health America, call 800-969-6642 or visit www.nmha.org.
National Institute of Mental Health, call 866-615-6464 or visit www.nimh.nih.gov.
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