How to cope with stress – Step 3

We are aware that all stress can’t be planned out of our schedules. When we plan ways to gain more control over our day, we call this stress management. It is a set of skills that we need to learn and practice as well as teach them to our children.  Research shows that the more hours we put into training ourselves to deal with stress, the happier and more stress-free our lives will be.  Here are some ways to reduce stress:

1.  My number one way to reduce stress is to exercise.  When I get my heart pumping, endorphins are released and they give me a happy feeling.  I’ve done aerobics and spinning (indoor cycling) to increase my heart rate.  You could race-walk, jog, kick-box, zumba, ride a bike, do yoga (yes, yoga can be very strenuous), ski and a number of other activities to increase your pulse.  The most important thing is that you enjoy the activity.

2.  Laughter can be the best medicine when it comes to relieving stress, especially at work.  Telling a joke or poking fun at yourself or the situation will go a long way to reducing stress.  Did you know that your mind doesn’t know when something is real?  That means that you can fake a laugh and it will still work.  I have an Elmo doll that laughs and rolls around on the floor.  Every time I turn it on, I can’t help but laugh watching it laugh.    Here are some health benefits for laughing:

  • Laughing can help strengthen blood vessels and improve blood flow
  • It exercises the muscles in your chest, neck and face
  • It relieves physical tension
  • It helps swing a negative perspective toward the positive, and it reduces anxiety and reverses pent-up anger and frustration.

3.  Deep breathing is another way to reduce stress.  You can do it anywhere.  I often do it in the car when I feel stressed.  I’ve done it in the office where we would say, “In with the new, out with the old” as we breathed deeply.  Put one hand on your stomach and one on your chest (not if you are driving).  Breathe in through your nose.  If you raise your shoulders when you breathe in, you are chest breathing and not breathing deeply.  Your stomach hand should raise and the chest hand will move very little.   Exhale through your mouth.  Repeat this several times slowly.

4.  How we view a situation has a lot to do with whether we feel stressed or not.  Learn be a master at reframing.  Look at the situation from a more positive angle.  Instead of feeling sorry for yourself that you have cancer, reframe it to see positive aspects the disease brought to your life.  You might see that you are now closer to your family or that you live for today and don’t worry about the past or future.  Maybe you have switched your priorities from focusing most of your energy on work to now spending more time having fun with your friends and family.  The benefit of reframing to something more positive, besides reducing your stress level, is that you have a better chance to recover than if you were stressed out.

5.  Learn to spend a short time each day meditating or napping 10-30 minutes.  You will find that you can accomplish a great deal after you have had some down time.  Some businesses are encouraging their employees to do this because they see the positive results in productivity.

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