14 Ways to Deal with Stress

1. Get a support system. You'll be able to cope with stress much better if you have a sense of links to other people whether friends or relatives.

2. Take reasonable control of your life. You can't control everything around you, but if you've got a good handle on your job and relationships, you'll be better able to deal with stress. Anybody under control is apt to be cool.

3. Have a sense of purpose to your life.  Waking up each morning with a good reason to get up and a sense of purpose is crucial to stress management.

4. Laugh out loud! Humor's important because it helps us to keep things in perspective. Laughing itself causes chemical changes in your body that elevate your sense of well being. Here's a great movie presenting a unconventional approach on medicine - Patch Adams.

5. Work out your troubles. Aerobic exercise can do a lot for your mind and body for it can tone down the stress response. So take a break and get out there and walk, swim, bike or jog.

6. Opt for an unstimulating diet. Cut back on caffeine, a dietary stimulant that can make you feel anxious even when you aren't under stress. Who needs the extra jitters? Nicotine can do the same, so reduce or give up the cigarette habit.

7. Change the self-talks in your head. We all have silent conversations with ourselves every day, and they can have great power over our stress levels. Words have profound suggestive power, and there is healing in the very saying of them.

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8. Realize you can't control all stresses. There are some situations you can't control -- hurricanes, layoffs, and so on -- and a good way to reduce stress is to accept being out of control in such situations. Try to change what is in your control, and work at gracefully accepting what's not.

9. Take time out to relax. Spend at least 15 minutes each day doing something that relaxes you. Schedule the time in your calendar or planner if necessary, because it's just as important to your well-being as any other appointment.

Relaxation exercises that release muscle tension can help a lot. To do them, inhale and tighten a group of muscles, then exhale and relax them. Then proceed to the next muscle group and repeat. Start with your toes and slowly work your way up to your face.

Another option is visualization. Start out by picking a pleasant and relaxing place where you've been or maybe someplace you'd like to visit. Then picture yourself there, imagining not only how things would look but how your surroundings would smell, taste, and feel. Breathe slowly throughout, and play the scene in your mind for about five minutes.

Some people don't find these techniques relaxing. If you don't, take some time for yourself and figure out what soothes you. Other options you might want to try include gardening, crocheting, photography, painting, and listening to or making music.

10. Take charge of your finances. A shaky financial situation can create great strain, so do what you can to get your financial house in order. Work to reduce your credit-card debt and get some money in the bank. If you need help, talk with a financial advisor. Often, just taking those first few steps toward bringing your finances under control can really lower the stress level.

11. Don't try to have it all. Society pushes us to attain wealth, power, and all the trappings of success along with a great personal and family life. However, it's nearly impossible to succeed in every area. Decide what's most important to you and your peace of mind, then focus on that.

Don't get the idea that you're an Atlas carrying the world on your shoulders. Don't strain so hard and don't take yourself seriously.

12. Get help if you have major stressful problems that you can't deal with. See a therapist, marriage counselor, psychologist, social worker, or clergy member who can help you sort through and begin to solve at least some of the problems that are stressing you.

13. Breathe deeply and slowly. Taking steady, slow abdominal breaths can help you cool off in a stressful situation so that you can think more clearly. Try this short breathing-relaxation technique: Breathe in to the count of five. Hold your breath for five counts, and then exhale for five counts. Repeat one more time. (Don't go much beyond that or race through the counts, however, because you could start hyperventilating.) Be patient. It may take some practice to get this down; smokers, in particular, may have trouble.

14. Don't take out your frustrations on the wrong person. For example, don't take out your work problems on your kids. Instead, clearly identify the problem, figure out some strategies to solve or minimize it, and then put them into action. Otherwise, you'll simply be compounding the stress you feel.

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