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Stress is a part of life, but being “stressed out” should not
be. We don’t always have control over what happens to us,
but that doesn’t mean we have to react to every challenging
situation by becoming frazzled, overwhelmed or distraught.
Being excessively anxious is not just a mental hazard; it’s a
physical one too. The more strained we are, the more
vulnerable we become to colds, flu, and a host of other
bodily pains, problems and illnesses. Stress raises your
level of adrenaline, which results in an increase in heart
rate, respiration, and blood pressure. These increases
make bodily organs work harder. Over the long term,
reducing stress is critical to combating such illnesses as
heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
It’s unfortunate that most of us think stress comes only from
the frustrations and low points in life because the fact is
both the positive and negative aspects we experience are
equally emotionally demanding. Stress essentially comes
from the positive and negative forces in our lives that
happen to push our emotional buttons. Ups and downs,
jubilation and depression, promotion and termination,
marriage and divorce, birth and death are all pairs of
emotional opposites that have one thing in common -
stress.  Stress can result from something as minor as
breaking a shoestring or something as major as your child
ruining his new expensive shoes! To put it in the simplest of
terms, stress is the opposite of relaxation and can often
provoke irrational emotional responses.
Now let’s dig a bit deeper!  A stressed brain operates from survival mode, which is characterized by a failing to
see all opportunities tunnel vision or a failing to believe that better solutions are even possible sense of
pessimism. These thoughts shape behavior, and eventually lead to a sense of learned helplessness, where
many feel too stressed to even begin positively implementing change in their own lives.  Some people even go so
far as to say their problems are so big that small changes won't help or worse yet, make any difference.  The truth
is; reversing the body's stress response via simple stress management reduction techniques can, among other
things, enable access to a more relaxed, optimistic style of thinking and approach to problems. This positive
thinking can, in turn, help seemingly overwhelmed people walk the steps needed toward successful stress
management.
Our Recommended Stress Management Techniques
Say Cheese!  Smiling is a two-way street. We do it when we’re relaxed and happy, but doing it can also make us
feel relaxed and happy. Smiling transmits nerve impulses from the facial muscles to the limbic system, a key
emotional center in the brain, tilting the neurochemical balance toward calm. Go ahead and grin. Don’t you feel
better already?
Devise An Affirmation.  Develop a short, clear, positive statement that focuses on your coping abilities.
Affirmations are a good way to silence the self-critical voice we all carry with us that only adds to our stress. The
next time you feel as if your life is one disaster after another, repeat ten times, “I feel calm. I can handle this.”  You
never know you just might be the best inspirational coach you have ever had.
Count To Ten.  Before you say or do something you’ll regret, step away from the stressor and collect yourself.  
You can also look away for a moment or put the moment on hold. Use your time-out to take a few deep breaths,
stretch, or recite an affirmation.
Just Say No.  Always saying yes and trying to do everything is a one-way ticket to serious stress. Be clear about
your limits, and stop trying to please everyone all the time.  It’s not that you don’t care, but you have to take care of
yourself.
Shake It Up.  This quick exercise helps loosen the muscles in your neck and upper back. Stand or sit, stretch your
arms out from your sides and shake your hands vigorously for about ten seconds. Combine this with a little deep
breathing and you’ll do yourself twice as much good.
Take A Walk.  It forces you to breathe more deeply and improves circulation.  Step outside if you can; if that’s not
possible, you can gain many of the same benefits simply by walking to the bathroom or water cooler, or by pacing
back and forth. The key is to get up and move.
Soak It Up.  When you have the time, nothing is more stress relieving than a hot bath.  When you don’t have time,
do the next-best thing: wash your face or even just your hands and arms with hot water. The key is to imagine that
you are taking a hot bath. It’s basically a visualization exercise, but the hot water can make it feel real.
Stretch Your Muscles.  We all tighten up during the course of the day, and when we feel stressed out, the
process accelerates. Stretching loosens muscles and encourages deep breathing. One of the greatest
stress-relieving stretches is a yoga position called the child pose, which stretches the back muscles. On a rug or
mat, kneel, sit back on your heels, then lean forward and put your forehead on the floor and your arms alongside
your legs, palms up. Hold for one to three minutes.
Take A Deep Breath.  Breathing from your diaphragm oxygenates your blood, which helps you relax almost
instantly. Shallow chest breathing, by contrast, can cause your heart to beat faster and your muscles to tense up,
exacerbating feelings of stress. To breathe deeply, begin by putting your hand on your abdomen just below the
navel. Inhale slowly through your nose and watch your hand move out as your belly expands. Hold the breath for a
few seconds, and then exhale slowly. Repeat several times.
Make Time For A Mini Self-Massage.  Simply massaging the palm of one hand by making a circular motion with
the thumb of the other hand can produce a relaxing effect. Rubbing the temples, the back of the head, and the
base of the neck can reduce muscle tension as well.
Goof Off And Have Fun!  By doing something different it temporarily removes you from potentially stressful
situations. Recreation is essential for good physical and mental health.  Plan to do something you enjoy as part
of a set routine.
Straighten Up.  When people are under stress, they slump over as if they have the weight of the world on their
shoulders. Slumping restricts breathing and reduces blood and oxygen flow to the brain, adding to muscle
tension and magnifying feelings of panic and helplessness. Straightening your spine has just the opposite effect.
It promotes circulation, increases oxygen levels in your blood and helps lessen muscle tension, all of which
promote relaxation.
Learn To Pace Yourself.  It's not humanly possible to be in high gear all the time. When you have a number of
must-do tasks, deal with them one at a time, in order of their urgency. Take time out to reward yourself with a little
break once you've accomplished each task.
Chew What You Can Chew.  Don’t take on more than you can handle.  Less stress is caused, in the long run, by
turning away tasks than by leaving work unfinished. Review your obligations from time to time and make sure
they are still a good fit for you.  If they are not, let them go.
Don't Try To Be Perfect.  Give the best of your effort and ability but don't beat up on yourself if you can't achieve the
impossible. Also, give yourself a pat on the back for the things you do well.
Escape For Awhile.  Sometimes, when things go wrong, it helps to escape from the problem for awhile: to lose
yourself in a movie, a book, a game or a brief trip from a change of scene.
Develop A Positive And Outgoing Disposition.  If you look on the bright side of things and beyond yourself, you
won't concentrate on failure. Positive emotions help fight stress while negative ones produce or intensify stress.  
Again remember to say cheese!
Talk Out Your Troubles.  Talk your problems over with a level-headed person you can trust. It can release
pressure, make you feel better, help you see worries more objectively and figure out ways to handle the problem.
Find Your Space.  Find a time and place each day where you can have complete privacy. Take time off from others
and pressures. Short time-outs during the day can help improve efficient functioning the rest of the day.  Also
protect your personal freedoms and space. Do what you want and feel, but respect the rights of others. Don't tell
others what to do, but if they intrude, let them know.
Space Out.  Look out the window and find something natural that captures your imagination. Notice the clouds
rolling by, the squirrels and the birds foraging, or simply the trees flowing with the wind. If you don’t have a
window you can still space out.  You can heighten your awareness of the moment by focusing intently on an
object. Notice a pencil’s shape, color, weight and feel.  Mindfulness leads to relaxation.
Try Something New.  Open yourself to new experiences. If you’re not happy here why not see what’s going on
over there?  Is the grass really greener? Trying new things such as new foods, new activities or new places may
stimulate a positive change in outlook, behavior and expectations.
Managing stress can be challenging when you feel you're already stretched close to your limit. These simple
techniques for managing stress can really be the building blocks for a more powerful stress relief plan, by
moving you away from feeling overwhelmed one small step at a time, or by putting into motion a cascade of
events that can help you to feel less stressed. Stress management techniques are all about helping you develop
an effective stress management strategy. If you learn to use some or all of these techniques they may help
improve your ability to cope with stress and live a healthier life. What one change might make a difference in your
life? Try it today, and work from there!
"Life is not about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself."
           - -  George Bernard Shaw  - -
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