How to Reduce Stress

According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can trigger a variety of unwanted physiological reactions such as headache, muscle tension, muscle pain, sexual problems, depression, anger, and eating disorders. While all stress cannot be completely eliminated, learning to cope with stress in an effective way will help you to make the best of bad situations, helping you to keep a positive outlook in the face of perceived adversity. The first goal in dealing with stress is to remove stressful things from your life that can are expendable, followed by employing coping techniques to deal with the stress that remains.

Step One

Make a note (either in a notebook or by sending yourself a text message from your phone) each time you encounter a situation where your body has a stressful reaction such as rising anger, feeling of tension, and the like. Write down the situation you were in and the specific thing that seemed to trigger the stress. Over time, you will see patterns emerge, allowing you to identify the things that stress you out the most.

Step Two

From your list, identify the stressful elements of your day that are expendable. These might include places that stress you out that can be avoided (such as shopping during particularly busy times/seasons). Or, these might be people that you get along with poorly. Eliminate as many of these voluntary stressors from your life as possible, even if that means sacrificing some questionable personal relationships in the process.

Step Three

Examine your list again. From the stressors that cannot be readily eliminated, consider the issue from multiple angles to see whether there is a way to work around the stressful situation. For example, if you are stressed out by waiting in traffic during rush hour, see if your office will allow you to commute earlier/later on a flex-time program so you can dodge the bullet.

Step Four

Practice calming techniques whenever you are in a stressful situation that you cannot avoid. Focus on your breathing instead of on the situation and your body will naturally relax and expand, calming you down. Another good technique is counting down from 100 whenever you feel yourself on the verge of a stress-induced explosion. Imagining restful scenes and situations is another viable technique, allowing your mind to escape the confines of the stressful trigger.

Another good outlet for removing stress is practicing a calming discipline such as meditation, tai chi, or yoga. Seek out a qualified instructor in your area and do not attempt to learn/master these techniques on your own. Think of the cost as an investment in your overall health, allowing you to save money on stress-relief medications and visits to the doctor's office.

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