18 Managing Stress
How can I help handle my stress?
Everyone has to deal with stress. There are steps you can take to help you handle stress in a positive way and keep it from making you sick. Try these tips to keep stress in check:
Develop a new attitude
- Become a problem solver. Make a list of the things that cause you stress. From your list, figure out which problems you can solve now and which are beyond your control for the moment. From your list of problems that you can solve now, start with the little ones. Learn how to calmly look at a problem, think of possible solutions, and take action to solve the problem. Being able to solve small problems will give you confidence to tackle the big ones. And feeling confident that you can solve problems will go a long way to helping you feel less stressed.
- Be flexible. Sometimes, it’s not worth the stress to argue. Give in once in awhile or meet people halfway.
- Get organized. Think ahead about how you’re going to spend your time. Write a to-do list. Figure out what’s most important to do and do those things first.
- Set limits. When it comes to things like work and family, figure out what you can really do. There are only so many hours in the day. Set limits for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to say NO to requests for your time and energy.
- Take deep breaths. If you’re feeling stressed, taking a few deep breaths makes you breathe slower and helps your muscles relax.
- Stretch. Stretching can also help relax your muscles and make you feel less tense.
- Massage tense muscles. Having someone massage the muscles in the back of your neck and upper back can help you feel less tense.
- Take time to do something you want to do. We all have lots of things that we have to do. But often we don’t take the time to do the things that we really want to do. It could be listening to music, reading a good book, or going to a movie. Think of this as an order from your doctor, so you won’t feel guilty!
Take care of your body
- Get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep helps you recover from the stresses of the day. Also, being well-rested helps you think better so that you are prepared to handle problems as they come up. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night to feel rested.
- Eat right. Try to fuel up with fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Don’t be fooled by the jolt you get from caffeine or high-sugar snack foods. Your energy will wear off, and you could wind up feeling more tired than you did before.
- Get moving. Getting physical activity can not only help relax your tense muscles but improve your mood. Research shows that physical activity can help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Don’t deal with stress in unhealthy ways. This includes drinking too much alcohol, using drugs, smoking, or overeating.
Connect with others
- Share your stress. Talking about your problems with friends or family members can sometimes help you feel better. They might also help you see your problems in a new way and suggest solutions that you hadn’t thought of.
- Get help from a professional if you need it. If you feel that you can no longer cope, talk to your doctor. She or he may suggest counseling to help you learn better ways to deal with stress. Your doctor may also prescribe medicines, such as antidepressants or sleep aids.
- Help others. Volunteering in your community can help you make new friends and feel better about yourself.
What Are Relaxation Techniques?
Relaxation techniques include a number of practices such as progressive relaxation, guided imagery, biofeedback, self-hypnosis, and deep breathing exercises. The goal is similar in all: to produce the body’s natural relaxation response, characterized by slower breathing, lower blood pressure, and a feeling of increased well-being.
Meditation and practices that include meditation with movement, such as yoga and tai chi, can also promote relaxation. You can find additional information about these practices on the NCCIH web site.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being. Mind and body practices focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior.
There are many types of meditation, but most have four elements in common: a quiet location with as few distractions as possible; a specific, comfortable posture (sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions); a focus of attention (a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or the sensations of the breath); and an open attitude (letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them).
What the Science Says About the Effectiveness of Meditation
Many studies have investigated meditation for different conditions, and there’s evidence that it may reduce blood pressure as well as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and flare-ups in people who have had ulcerative colitis. It may ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, and may help people with insomnia.