Stress Reduction Tips

What is Stress?

Stress is the "wear and tear" our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment; it has physical and emotional effects on us and can create positive or negative feelings.

  • As a positive influence, stress can help compel us to action; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective. 
  • As a negative influence, it can result in feelings of distrust, rejection, anger and depression, which in turn can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. With the death of a loved one, a job promotion or a new relationship, we experience stress as we readjust our lives.

In readjusting to different circumstances, stress will help or hinder us depending on how we react to it.

How can I eliminate stress from my life?

As we have seen, positive stress adds anticipation and excitement to life and we all thrive under a certain amount of stress. Deadlines, competitions, confrontations, and even our frustrations and sorrows add depth and enrichment to our lives. Our goal is not to eliminate stress, but to learn how to manage it and how to use it to help us. Insufficient stress acts as a depressant and may leave us feeling bored or dejected; on the other hand, excessive stress may leave us feeling "tied up in knots." What we need to do is find the optimal level of stress which will individually motivate but not overwhelm each of us. 

How can I manage stress better?

Identifying unrelieved stress and being aware of its effect on our lives is not sufficient for reducing its harmful effects. Just as there are many sources of stress, there are many possibilities for its management. However, all require effort toward change: changing the source of stress and/or changing your reaction to it. How do you proceed?

  1. Become aware of your stressors and your emotional and physical reactions.

    • Notice your distress. Don't ignore it. Don't gloss over your problems.
    • Determine what events distress you. What are you telling yourself about the meaning of these events?
    • Determine how your body responds to stress. Do you become nervous or physically upset? If so, in what specific way?
  2. Recognize what you CAN change.

    • Can you change your stressors by avoiding or eliminating them completely?
    • Can you reduce their intensity (manage them over a period of time instead of on a daily or weekly basis)?
    • Can you shorten your exposure to stress (take a break, leave the physical premises)?
    • Can you devote the time and energy necessary to making a change (goal setting, time management techniques and delayed gratification strategies may be helpful here)?
  3. Reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions to stress.

    • Are you expecting to please everyone?
    • Try to see the stress as something you can cope with rather than something that overpowers you.
    • Put the situation in perspective. Do not labor on the negative aspects and the "what if's."
  4. Learn to moderate your physical reactions to stress.

    • Slow, deep breathing will bring your heart rate and respiration back to normal.
    • Relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension and calm the mind.
  5.  Build your physical reserves.

    • Exercise for cardiovascular fitness three to four times a week (moderate, intensity exercise, such as walking, swimming, cycling or jogging).
    • Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals.
    • Avoid nicotine, excessive caffeine and other stimulants.
    • Mix leisure with work. Take breaks and get away when you can.
    • Get enough sleep. Be as consistent with your sleep schedule as possible.
  6. Maintain your emotional reserves.

    • Develop some mutually supportive friendships/relationships.
    • Pursue realistic goals which are meaningful to you, rather than goals others have for you that you do not share.
    • Expect some frustrations, failures and sorrows.
    • Always be kind and gentle with yourself - be a friend to yourself.