Thursday, March 20, 2008

Don't Let Stress Get You Down

Stress – it’s an unavoidable fact of life. And while there’s not much you can do to remove stress in your life, there is something you can do about the way you handle stress.

Remember, stress can lead to more serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke or cancer. The Harvard Healthbeat offers the following advice:

Sometimes just thinking about embarking on a program of stress control can be stressful. Rather than freeze in your tracks, start small. Pick just one stumbling block or source of stress in your life, and see if these suggestions work for you.

Often angry or irritated? Consider the weight of cognitive distortions. Are you magnifying a problem or leaping to negative conclusions without checking to see if they have any foundation in fact? Take the time to stop, breathe, reflect, and choose.

Unsure of your ability to do something? Don’t try to go it alone. If the problem is work, talk to a co-worker or supportive boss. Write down other ways that you might get the answers or skills you need. Turn to tapes, books, or classes, for example, if you need a little tutoring.

Overextended? Clear the deck of at least one time-consuming household task. Consider what is truly essential and important to you and what might take a backseat right now.
Feeling unbearably tense? Try massage, a hot bath, mini-relaxations, progressive muscle relaxation, or a mindful walk. Practically any exercise — a brisk walk, a quick run, a sprint up and down the stairs — will help, too. Done regularly, exercise wards off tension, as do relaxation response techniques.

Upset by conflicts with others? State your needs or distress directly, avoiding “you always” or “you never” zingers. Say, “I feel ________when you _____.” “I would really appreciate it if you could ______.” “I need some help setting priorities. What needs to be done first and what should I tackle later?” If conflicts are a significant source of distress for you, consider taking a class on assertiveness training.

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