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Minimize stress, maximize serenity

» What is stress, anyway?

» Getting a grip on stress

Myths and facts about stress

Myth: Anyone facing a series of major life events or lots of little hassles is headed for a stress-related illness.

Fact: The key is how these situations are perceived. If a person doesn’t consider the events particularly stressful, chances are they won’t have a harmful effect.

Myth: All stress is bad and should be eliminated from a person’s life.

Fact: Some stress is good because it helps us react quickly in threatening situations. Many times, stress is necessary for a good performance. And stress can add excitement and meaning to our lives.

Myth: Anger is best hidden behind a calm façade.

Fact: Holding in anger may be more dangerous to the human body than letting it out. A better option is directing an assertive response to the proper person.

If only you could banish stress, you think, you’d feel so much better. Well, think again. If you really could cut that gut-churning, heart-pounding feeling out of your life, you’d soon regret it. Why? You’d be bored to tears. So if you can’t live with stress and you can’t live without it, what’s the answer? Simply put, it’s learning how to manage stress—instead of letting it overwhelm you.

What is stress, anyway?

The most obvious sources of stress are troubling events like job layoffs, family crises and urgent deadlines. But if you’ve just started a new job, gotten married, had a baby or even won the lottery, you know that happy times are not stress free, either!

The truth is, stress isn’t all bad. For example, the fight-or-flight response that kicks in when we’re facing an emergency protects us by preparing our bodies and minds to act quickly. It’s only when everyday annoyances trigger a fight-or-flight response that stress becomes a problem. Some scientists believe that chronic stress plays a role in high blood pressure, heart disease and other ailments.

Getting a grip on stress

Obviously, it’s impossible to rid the world of everything that causes tension and anxiety. But it is possible to change your reaction to stress. These steps may help:

  1. Work out your troubles. Exercise can do a lot for your body as well as your mind. The feeling of well-being it creates can override the stress response. Here are some ways to boost your activity level:
    • List the physical activities you enjoy, ranging from walking in the park to dancing. Promise to spend a minimum of 30 minutes a day practicing one or more of the activities you listed.
    • Squeeze some physical activity into the day, no matter how busy you are. Ten three-minute sessions count as much as one 30-minute session, so start taking the stairs every chance you get. Carry groceries from the car to your house one bag at a time. It all adds up.
  2. Learn to relax. The relaxation response is the opposite of the stress response, and when practiced 15 to 20 minutes a day, it can lower your overall stress level and improve your health. Here are a few simple techniques for getting calm:
    • Meditate by sitting quietly and concentrating on a word, phrase, image or mental suggestion.
    • Visualize a peaceful or relaxing scene. Keep your eyes closed and pay attention to every detail.
    • Breathe from your abdomen in a natural rhythmic pattern until it becomes a habit.
  3. Talk to a friend. Pick up the phone or visit your friend to vent your problems. Don’t expect immediate solutions, but do expect relief from knowing that somebody cares.
  4. Pamper yourself. Some stress balms are so obvious that many people forget about them. Take a warm bath. Linger over a cup of warm tea. Take a nap.


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