Stress Management

Occasional stress won’t harm you, and the stress response may even save your life in dangerous situations. Chronic stress, however, is often associated with such health problems as:

  • Diabetes
  • Eating disorders
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Immune system disorders
  • Obesity
  • Stroke.

Learning to manage everyday stress can protect your health, while improving your overall feeling of wellbeing at the same time. Learn some stress management techniques that may aid stress reduction, as well as some of the best stress management tips.

Stress Reduction: Recognizing Stress

The first step in stress reduction is recognizing stress as you experience it. During stressful times, you may be so focused on the problems at hand that you don’t realize the stress you’re feeling. Stop for a moment and take inventory of your mind and body. You may notice some of these classic symptoms of chronic stress:

  • Anger and irritability
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Backaches
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent infections
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Insomnia
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle tension
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Upset stomach.

Trying to Cope with Stress

Without the benefit of sound stress management techniques, your stress reduction options may seem limited. Here are some unhealthy coping methods that reduce stress temporarily, but may be problematic in the long run:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse or smoking
  • Avoiding family members and friends
  • Overeating, under-eating or making poor food choices
  • Procrastinating
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Surfing the Net or watching TV for hours
  • Taking things out on others
  • Withdrawing from activities.

Picking a Stress Management Technique

During stressful times, stress management techniques may slow your pulse and breathing, decrease your blood pressure and relax your muscles. Here are some stress management techniques you may find helpful:

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Self-massage
  • Tai Chi
  • Visualization and guided imagery
  • Yoga.

Stress Management Tips

With the right tools, you may attain stress reduction in a healthy way. Here are some additional stress management tips:

  • Create realistic “to-do” lists; drop tasks that aren’t absolutely necessary to the bottom of the list.
  • Don’t feel bad about saying “no” if you have too much on your plate.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get a healthy amount of sleep.
  • Maintain your sense of humor and don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Smile whenever possible; this sends nerve impulses to the limbic system of the brain, which controls emotions such as calmness.
  • Take time to do enjoyable things, like curling up with a good book or going to the movies with friends.
  • Vent stressful feelings by drawing, journaling or talking with someone you trust.
  • When possible, avoid people and situations that cause you stress.

Resources

Castleman, M. (n.d.). 37 stress management tips. Retrieved October 6, 2010, from http://www.rd.com/living-healthy/37-stress-management-tips/article14565.html

HelpGuide. (2010). Stress management: How to reduce, prevent and cope with stress. Retrieved October 2, 2010, from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_management_relief_coping.htm

University of Maryland Medical Center. (2010). Relaxation techniques. Retrieved October 2, 2010, from http://www.umm.edu/sleep/relax_tech.htm