August 30, 2006

Simple ways to handle stress

We live in a stressful world. While we can't do much to control people or events, we can control how we respond to them and use techniques to help us cope.

“It's so important to learn to protect yourself and develop some practices to relieve stress,” says Dr. Mimi Guarneri, cardiologist and medical director of the Scripps Center for Integrative Health.

“Whether it's deep breathing, meditation or biofeedback, you must have a foundation for stress relief. Because if you don't have that foundation and a big breeze comes, you'll get knocked over.”

While some stress reducers are simple common-sense practices, others require the guidance and teaching of a professional.

To find an effective stress-management program, ask your health-care practitioner for recommendations. You can also check out the counseling centers at colleges and universities. Make sure that the program is operated by licensed therapists.

The following tips and strategies may help you get a handle on stress:

Develop a support network of friends and family.

Eat nutritiously
. “Junk food is stressing your body, and your body doesn't know how to deal with these (artificial) substances,” says Dr. David Leopold, family practitioner at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, who recommends a balanced diet with minimal food additives.

Breathe deeply. Inhale slowly through the nose, hold your breath for a few seconds and then exhale very slowly through the mouth.

“Deep breathing is an excellent way to ease stress. It's something you always have with you,” Guarneri says. “When you take a deep breath, you slow the heart rate and immediately lower the blood pressure.”

Work up a sweat. Get some cardiovascular exercise to burn off the stress hormones your body produces, but make sure you pick an exercise you like. If you hate pounding away on the treadmill, it may add to your stress.

Meditate or pray. “Reciting a mantra and meditating keeps us from negative thinking,” Guarneri says. “Research shows that if you break that cycle of going over and over a stressful thing in your mind, it reduces harmful stress.”

Mind/body exercise. Yoga, tai chi or other slow stretching exercises can help relax the mind and body.

Positive imagery. To calm distressing thoughts, imagine yourself in a peaceful, serene setting, doing something you enjoy.

Write it down. Expressing your tensions and stress on paper or a computer can be a simple release.

Biofeedback. Biological functions, such as blood pressure, heart rate and skin temperature, are monitored via electronic equipment. The monitor signals changes in these normally unconscious functions through a beep or flashing light. Eventually, you learn to make those changes on your own.

“Biofeedback becomes a toolbox for patients to use on their own to learn how to control stress,” Leopold says.

One-on-one therapy with a licensed therapist.

Cognitive behavioral stress management. A therapist or stress management coach can help you change the way you interpret stress.

“Using the powers of logic, we change the way we perceive stress,” Leopold says. “We can learn to reframe stress and change the way our body reacts to it.”


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Red Clover said...

Ironically, the more I try to "handle" stress the more I just need someone to listen.

Yep, I ramble, I bounce from one subject to another like a man on a bungee jump changes views.

It doesn't make the subjects less important. Even the story I tell the same friend 3 times teaches me something different every time.

Perspective changes everything.

May the Gods bless the man who loves me. He listens. Well. Often. Even, no especially when it's odd and disjointed.

He understands that's when my brain can piece together the puzzle, and allow me to let it go.