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5 Strategies for Stress Survival

 
Do you
  • tend to wake up in the middle of meetings?
  • ask on Monday, Is it Friday yet?
  • wish you could take your daily caffeine through
    an IV drip solution?
  • find antacid tablets with added calcium have become
    your sole source of nutrition?
  • achieve a runner's high by merely getting out
    of bed in the morning?

If this sounds like you, or if you often feel exhausted, anxious, frustrated or irritable, it may be time to take a serious look at the cause and the harmful effects of stress in your life. Stress today has many sources - work overload, strained relationships with co-workers or family members, unrealistic expectations and demands, physical exhaustion, emotional burnout, money worries or health problems. The good news is there are ways to work out solutions that are practical, feasible and attainable. Of course, you can manage to eliminate some stresses. But more important is learning to manage unavoidable stress. Here are five strategies and tactics that can get you started.

1. Get physical

  • For starters, stretch more.If you sit at a desk or work on a computer for long periods of time, remind yourself to relax your muscles with simple stretches regularly throughout the day. You can stand or remain seated, bending from side to side. To benefit the most, watch your cat to find out how it's done! Having a periodic full-body therapeutic massage is another way to relieve tension that is stored in muscles.
  • Getting wet helps to soothes jangled nerves. Warm water has a remarkable calming effect. Enjoy a relaxing soak in a hot bath once or twice a week and add some fragrant bath oils or salts, light a few scented candles and listen to soft music. Sip on your favorite herbal tea or a blend of sparkling mineral water and juice poured in your best crystal goblet. If you can't manage a bath when you re in the midst of a chaotic situation, massage your hands under warm, running water for a few minutes and you'll sense the tension leaving your body.
  • Don't overlook the benefits of exercise. Simply walking for 15 minutes, three times a week can have a greater calming effect than a tranquillizer. Activity helps to drain away stress hormones that circulate in the body and prompts the brain to release endorphins - chemicals that promote a sense of peace and serenity. You'll be more likely to stick with an exercise routine if you find something you really enjoy, whether it's walking, skipping rope, swimming or dancing nude to big band music in your living room!
  • Understand how nutrition affects your ability to cope with stress. Try cutting back on caffeine, fats and sugar. Add lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean meats. You may want to supplement your diet with B vitamins, vitamin C and the trace minerals.
  • Be sure to get enough rest. Rather than disturbing sleep with worrying about tomorrows events, write out your thoughts before getting into bed. Sleep is improved when you have a regular evening ritual that programs your mind and body to wind down. You can promote deep sleep by practising abdominal breathing and progressive relaxation - alternately tightening and releasing muscles from head to toe - just after you crawl into bed.
2. Get an attitude
  • Be solution-minded. Turn stress energy into a positive force by brainstorming possible answers rather than focusing on what's wrong. Since much of stress comes from a feeling of being out of control, stress-resistant people take charge and actively create their own circumstances. Instead of blaming situations beyond their control, they are problem- solvers, always gathering new information and examining their options. Treat stress as a puzzle that needs to be solved.
  • Banish negative thoughts. Or as author and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar would say, get rid of stinkin thinkin ! On an average day, about 80% of what we think is negative. Watch for all-or-nothing thinking ( I m having difficulties with my budget. I guess I'll never get out of debt. ); exaggerating or overreacting to frustrations ( The boss didn't go for my suggestion. I m a total failure. ); assuming the worst ( I know I won t get that promotion. Nothing good ever happens to me. ); blaming others ( Look what you made me do. ); and awfulizing (when everything from getting ink on your suit to misplacing a document becomes a gigantic, life-altering disaster).
  • Develop your sense of humor. Laugh more. It relaxes muscles, prompts the brain to release stress-relieving hormones and lowers blood pressure. See the funny side of what's happening. Try imagining how a comedian would tell your story. Create a humor survival kit with funny reading material, comedy videos, joke books, a collage of cartoons and humorous quotes or sayings. Be more playful. Clown around more. Tell a joke a day to someone.
  • Keep things in perspective. Focus on changing the things you can, and accepting and developing coping mechanisms for conditions beyond your control. Make molehills from your mountains. When uninvited change enters your life, see the new situation as a challenge rather than a threat. Don t be afraid to fail. If you do, big deal! There are few things in life that really matter that much. Ask yourself what this will mean to you in one year, five years, or better yet, in the light of all eternity. You've probably had some best - worst experiences in your past. At the time you thought it was the worst thing that could happen and now, when you see where it's brought you, you realize it was for the best. When faced with yet another injustice, take a few minutes to breathe and ask yourself if it's really worth losing your cool. That rude sales clerk isn't out to get you. She's probably stressed out herself!

3. Get real

  • Learn to ask for help - at work and at home. You can't do it all. People who are reluctant to delegate or hire help may experience unnecessary stress. Sometimes we hold back because we don't want to take the time to give instructions, we think that in order to get the job done correctly we have to do it ourselves or we feel we'll appear inadequate. Always ask yourself, Is this the best use of my time right now? Choose to spend your time doing things you love to do.
  • Set limits. Lighten your load by simplifying your life. Buy more underwear so you don't have to do laundry as often. Learn to say no to yourself and others. You don t have to answer the phone just because it's ringing. Maybe it's not necessary to join yet another networking group. Setting limits may also mean lowering your standards. Determine what would make you happy and don t compare your lifestyle to others. Your yard doesn't have to look like the cover of a gardening magazine. Take some time to do nothing.

4. Get a life

  • Develop a social support system. For many people, isolation and loneliness are major sources of stress. Connections with family and friends along with involvement in church or community organizations are crucial for times when we distressed. We all need to be loved and cared for, and having others to turn to is comforting and encouraging. A strong social network is a two-way street. Giving as well as receiving assures both person's needs are met. Volunteer work, support groups and having a pet are also known to reduce stress. Helping others helps to put your own troubles into perspective.
  • Practice healthy selfishness. One of the best things you can do for the other people in your life is to look after yourself. Yet, many people feel guilty about the time or money it takes. Yet, when flight attendants go over the safety routine, they remind us that, if necessary, we are to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first and then look after the person who needs our help. The truth is you are not equipped to give to others until you look after yourself! When you plan leisure time for yourself, others will benefit and begin to expect - and accept - that it's your time.
  • Give yourself a time-out. Even though you think you can go all day without taking a break, you won t be as effective or productive as you could be. Build regular breaks into your daily plan rather than waiting for leftover time. Take a mini-vacation - just a few minutes to listen to your favorite music, go for a walk in nature, browse through a magazine, play the piano or doodle with some art supplies - and you will come back to your schedule feeling refreshed and energized. It's usually the day you think you can't afford the time for a break that you need it the most!

5. Get spiritual.

The key that links all other stress survival techniques is to spend less time looking outward for answers and more time trusting your inner wisdom.

More and more, today's progressive organizations and corporations are recognizing the role of spirituality in success in the workplace. Yet, as individuals, many of us begin to consider that part of our life only after the physical, mental and emotional aspects have been looked after. And because of the demands of daily routines, to-do lists, challenges that arise and general busyness, many of us never get around to balancing body, mind and soul.

  • Spend some quiet time meditating. The secret to tapping the amazing power of spiritual guidance is ponder, pray and open up to new solutions before trying to figure out problems logically. Sadly, most of us opt for reason and analytical thinking before going to that part of us that goes beyond logic.
  • Trust your inner voice. Very few of us even hear, let alone trust, that inner voice - the very voice of God - which can be our most accurate personal advisor. That small, still voice within is always speaking in the form of intuitive gut feelings, hunches, urges and impulses. So often, we would rather talk to everyone else - friends, family, trained professionals - believing another person must have the perfect answer for us. While talking things over with someone else is a good way to get unstuck and to see your situation more clearly, chance are others won't have the ideal solution for you. In fact, you may want to alert the other person to the fact you are not looking for an answer, but merely need them to be a willing listener and confidant. When you need guidance, or you're faced with a decision to make, once you have shared your concerns with a trusted friend, it's possible, through prayer and meditation, to know better that anyone else what is right for you. The best answers are always within you. Ask for answers and expect to receive them. Listen to your heart!

Certainly, stress is a fact of life, but it doesn't have to be a way of life. Rethink how you are living and pay careful attention to your physical well-being, your mental outlook, the expectations you place on yourself, your personal leisure time and spiritual matters. Most of all, live in the moment. Look around you and count your blessings. Develop the attitude of gratitude for all that is good about your life. A lot of stress is worrying about what happened yesterday and what's coming tomorrow. A long time ago, one of my seminar attendees handed me a note that has helped me to live in the now.

It read:

Adapted from the book, With Wings, There Are No Barriers 1997, by Sue Augustine (Pelican Publishing) Sue Augustine is an internationally-recognized keynote speaker and a contributing author to the #1 New York Times bestseller, Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul.

 

 
 

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