9 Ways to Manage Stress

We need stress management for life. Stress in today’s challenging economic environment is at an all-time high. Study after study has shown life events of all types (buying or selling a house, losing a job, being promoted, moving to a new location, surgery, etc.) are significant stressors that can lead to severe illness and physical as well as psychological problems.

“Long-term activation of your body’s stress response system, along with prolonged exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones, may put you at risk for health troubles.” –Heart.org

According to the American Heart Association, the 8 top effects of chronic stress are digestive problems, anxiety, headaches, depression, sleep problems, weight gain, memory and concentration issues, high blood pressure, heart disease, & stroke.

Two-thirds of the visits to health professionals are related to stress-related symptoms, and three-fourths of modern disease is related to stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is responsible for the regulation of stress. Stressors can cause your adrenaline glands to produce excess hormones. Have you ever experienced the sensation of fight-or-flight? That adrenaline rush and the racing heartbeat is your body’s warning sign. Stress induces that same burst of hormones only in micro-doses. Our society is so supercharged with stressors that we have learned to adapt to this hormone imbalance and live with it as part of life. When high levels of stress happen over a long period of time, it can cause serious physical health problems and immune system complications.

Avoid being a victim of the debilitating effects of stress. Here are a few stress-busting strategies you can use for stress relief and improving your quality of life, and to teach you how to manage stress.

1. Use auto-suggestion.

An easy and effective technique for body relaxation involves auto-suggestion. Doctors and psychologists have been using this internal verbal instruction technique for centuries. You simply give yourself a command such as: “I am relaxed and at ease” or “I am calm and relaxed.” Repeat the command until your body accepts it. It will help to lower muscle tension and practice progressive muscle relaxation. Remind your body that your shoulders are tense and your hands are clenched. Tell your body to release that tension, and it will follow your command.

2. Maintain a regular exercise program.

Numerous studies conclude that exercise results in measurable improvements in relieving depression and anxiety due to stress. Studies show physical activity is positively associated with good mental health, especially positive mood, general well-being, and less stress overall. Exercising three to five times a week can serve as a buffer for stress. Try jogging, walking, racquetball, basketball, swimming, aerobics, dancing, weight training — whatever works for you. Don’t forget that a healthy diet goes hand in hand with exercise. The endorphin release from activity can be as beneficial as a prescription medication, especially if you eat well.

“Our deeds determine us as much as we determine our deeds.”

George Eliot

3. Distinguish what is trivial and what is important.

To lead a tranquil life, learn to differentiate between trivial and important. How you perceive and react to situations determines whether you’ll be stressed or relaxed. Use this question to get a handle on the difference: “Is this going to matter ten years from now?” Chances are, it won’t, but prolonged stressors have a great impact on your nervous system. Reducing stress levels and practicing self-care will significantly improve your daily life. Your long-term health is so much more important than a short-term stressor.

4. Use the power of breath.

Whenever you feel anxious or nervous, practice relaxation techniques for stress reduction. Take a few deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. When breathing out, say to yourself, “three.” On the next out-breath, “two.” Continue to “one” and repeat the cycle. This release will send a message to your brain and body that it’s time to relax and calm down. Effective breathing will instantly assist in managing stress.

5. View crisis as an opportunity to grow and expand.

Take a moment to try and recall an experience you had in the past that was seeming to be a “crisis,” at that moment in time. It is quite possible, in hindsight, though the experience was stressful, it now may become one of the best and most rewarding learning experiences you’ve had. Look for the lesson in all stressful situations and challenges.

6. Make time for recreation.

The average human heart is beating only nine of 24 hours a day. For each beat, there is a rest. Design each day, week, month, and year with time to rest. Rest is a powerful stress reliever, and be mindful of your heart rate. Stress affects your pulse, and your pulse directly affects your body’s adrenaline response. Protect this time as though your life depended on it — because it does.

“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.”

Dwight Eisenhower

7. Laugh often.

Keep a book of jokes in your personal library, a video of your favorite slapstick comedy, and an audiotape of your favorite comedian. Make time for friends or loved ones that bring joy and laughter into your life. Use these tools to make you laugh when you feel your stress level rising. Laughter cleanses the system and needs to be part of your daily regime.

8. Rejoice in your successes.

Keep a simple chart of successes for each week and update it daily. Review the chart at the end of the week to see how many successes you achieved. When you feel challenged, look back through these charts and remember how successful you indeed are and have been. Go ahead. Use at least one of these proven stress-busting strategies to live a more relaxed, tranquil, and fulfilled lifestyle.

9. Take a day off.

Clear your schedule for the day. Focus on you and you alone. Check in with yourself. Remember, this day is not for work, not for your kids, and not for social media posts. This day is entirely for you. Taking a day off will give you a chance to step away and get centered and rejuvenated. Let go of negative thoughts. On this day you can sleep in. Getting enough sleep is critical to your overall health and well-being. If you want to go to the spa for a day, take a hike by yourself, read a book, listen to your favorite podcast, go skiing, practice tai chi, etc., whatever juices you, then do it! The point is to enjoy a day of solitude and cultivate healthy ways to maintain your inner balance long-term. You may need social support from family or friends to make this day happen, which is okay! Don’t allow your mind to sabotage “your” day with guilt that you should prioritize something else. Your family members want you to live a fulfilled, healthy, and happy life. Reducing stress is one of the most important aspects of true happiness.

Go ahead. Use at least one of these proven stress-busting strategies to live a more relaxed, tranquil, and fulfilled lifestyle.

You can use at least one of these habits right now. Choose one. Put it into practice and feel the benefits. Time management is an essential component for relieving daily stress. Make sure that you aren’t living each day racing the clock. If you feel you are, it may be time to sort through your responsibilities to ensure you are living your best stress-free life.

Best of success to you!

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