Cooked, burned, whipped, beaten – we all know what it feels like to get emotionally mangled by the boulder weight of day-to-day struggles. Our bosses yell at us, our spouses yell at us – it feels like an endless circle where getting ahead at the office can leave us with so little energy for home that home turns into a battleground that leaves us with no energy for work.
But is stress really a catch-22? And is mere survival all you can ask of a hassle filled world? No. Stress, in fact, is not only something you can beat but a force you can turn to your advantage. You don’t have to run from it, and you don’t have to go to a special stress management seminar to find out how to manage it. The following doctor tested tips show you how to combat stress and win. For instant relief when the world has you in a headlock, read on.
1. Work on your attitude.
“I think the single most important point you can make about stress is that in most cases it’s not what’s out there that’s the problem. it’s how you react to it, ” says Paul J. Rosch, MD., president of the American Institute of Stress and a clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College. And how you react is determined by how you perceive a particular stress.
”‘Watch people on a roller coaster ride,” Dr. Rosch says. “Some sit in the back, eyes shut, jaws clenched. They can’t wait for the ordeal in the torture chamber to end and to get back on solid ground. Up front are the wide eyed thrill seekers who relish every steep plunge and can’t wait to get an the very next ride. And in between are those who are seemingly quite nonchalant or even bored.
“They’re all having exactly the same experience the roller Coaster ride but they’re reacting to it very differently: bad stress, good stress, and no stress.”
Emmett Miller. M.D, medical director of the Cancer Support and Education Center in Menlo Park, California, a nationally known expert on stress. draws on Chinese wisdom to make this point. “The Chinese word for crisis is weiji two characters that separately mean danger and opportunity. Every problem we encounter in life can be viewed that way – as a chance to show that we can handle it‘
The message from both men: Changing the way you think – viewing a difficult assignment at work as a chance to improve your skills, for example – can change a life of stress and discomfort to a life of challenge and excitement.
2. Think about something else.
”Anything that will help you shift your perspective instantly is useful when you’re under the gun,” says Dr. Miller. “You want to distract yourself to break whatever chain of thought is producing the stress. And thinking about almost anything else will do that.”
3. Think positive.
“Thinking about a success or a past achievement is excellent when you’re feeling uncertain before a presentation, for example, or a meeting with your boss.” Dr. Miller says, “You’re instantly reminded that you’ve achieved before, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t achieve this time.”
4. Take a mental vacation.
“Taking a mini vacation in your mind is a very good way to relieve or manage stress,“ says Ronald Nathan. PhD” director of educational development. coordinator of behavioral science, and associate professor in the departments of Family Practice and Psychiatry at Albany Medical College.
“Visualize yourself lying in warm sand on a beach in the Bahamas, a cool wind blowing in off the ocean, the surf rolling in quietly in the, background its amazing what this can do to relax you.”
5. Recite an antistress litany.
Stress can strike anytime, not just at work in the bathroom before work in the deli at lunchtime, in the car on the way home. To help yourself unravel when unpleasant thoughts knot the muscles in your neck and tension mounts, recite the following. litany, suggested by Dr. Miller.
- “There’s no place I have to go at this moment in time.”
- “There’s no problem I have to solve at this moment in time.”
- “There’s nothing that have to do at this moment in time.”
- “The most important thing that I can experience at this moment in time is relaxation”
It’s necessary to think these thoughts consciously, Dr. Miller says, because doing so automatically changes the mind-set that’s producing the stress. If you ‘re reciting the litany you’re not thinking about whatever bothers you.
6. Use affirmations.
“You should have a list or affirmations ready that you can start repeating when you feel stressed,” Dr. Miiler says. “They don’t have to be complicated. Just chanting ‘I can handle this’ to yourself or ‘I know more about this than anyone here’ will work. It pulls you away from the animal reflex to stress the quick breathing, the cold hands-and toward the reasoned response, the intellect-the part of you that really can handle it.”
The result? You calm down.
7. Count to ten.
Simply refusing to respond to a stress immediately can help defuse it, Dr. Nathan says. And making a habit of pausing and relaxing just for a few seconds before responding to the routine interruptions of your day can make a clear difference in the sense of stress you experience. When the phone rings, for example, breathe in deeply. Then as you breathe out, imagine you are as loose and limp as an old rag doll.
“One of the things pausing like this does is give you a feeling of control. “Dr. Nathan points out. “Being in control is generally less stressful than being out of control. Make a habit of using rapid relaxation during the pause before you answer the phone. Deliberately pausing can become an instant tranquilizer”
Amazing! Counting to ten works.
8. Look away.
“If you look through a window at a far-distant view for a moment away from the problem that’s producing the stress the eyes relax, and if the eyes relax, the tendency is for you to do the same.” Dr. Nathan says. “Take a pot off the burner and it quits boiling.”
9. Get up and leave.
“Leaving the scene can do the same as looking away” says Dr. Nathan.
10. Take several deep breaths.
Belly breathing is what some people call it. It’s an old and useful trick for defeating anxiety and nervousness.
“The basic idea is act calm, be calm,” says Bradley W Frederick. D.C., director of the international Institute of Sports Medicine in Los Angeles. California. “When you’re experiencing stress, your pulse races and you start breathing very quickly. Forcing yourself to breathe slowly convinces the body that the stress is gone, whether it is or isn’t.”
The correct way to breathe? Abdominally-feeling the stomach expand as you inhale, collapse as you exhale.
10. Yell or cry.
It’s not always possible in the typical office, but in some situations a private office or your car, for example a purely emotional outburst is perfectly acceptable. Screaming or crying can provide a release for the emotions generating the stress you’re feeling, Dr. Miller says.
“Essentially everything we feel has a physical manifestation.” says Dr. Frederick. “A lot of us respond to stress with muscle tension. Ideally, we’d prefer to eliminate the cause of the stress. but stretching the muscles at least reduces the sensation of stress the muscles relax, we feel less tense. And given that we often can’t do any thing about the source of stress, that’s important.”
And for many of us, that’s all we need.
12. Massage your target muscles.
“Most of us have particular muscles that knot up under stress.” Dr. Miller says. “It’s sort of a vicious cinde: Stress produces adrenaline which produces muscle tension, which produces more adrenaline, and so on. A good way to break the circle is to find out what your target muscles are the ones that get tense under pressure, usually in the back of your neck and upper back and massage them for a couple of minutes whenever you feel tense.”
13. Press on your temples.
This application of acupressure-the oriental system that uses pressure points to relieve pain and treat a variety of ailments works indirectly. Massaging nerves in your temples, says Dr. Miller, relaxes muscles elsewhere-chiefly in your neck.
14. Drop your jaw and roll it left to right.
“People under pressure have a tendency to clench their teeth,” says Dr. Miller. “Dropping the jaw and rolling it helps make these muscles relax, and if you relax the muscles, you reduce the sensation of tension.”
15. Stretch your chest for better breathing.
The tense musculature of a person under stress can make breathing difficult, according to Dr. Frederick, and impaired breathing can aggravate the anxiety you already feel. To relax your breathing, roll your shoulders up and back, then relax. The first time, inhale deeply as they go back, exhale as they relax. Repeat four or five more times, then inhale deeply again. Repeat the entire sequence four times.
16. Relax all over.
Easier said than done? Not if you know how. A simple technique called progressive relaxation can produce immediate and dramatic reductions in your sense of stress by reducing physical tension.
Starting at top or bottom, tense one set of muscles in your body at a time, hold for a few seconds, then let them relax. Work your way through all major body parts feet, legs, chest and arms, head and neck and then enjoy the sense of release it provides.
17. Take a hot soak.
Hot water works by defeating the stress response, says Dr. Frederick. When we’re tense and anxious, blood flow to our extremities is reduced. Hot water restores circulation, convincing the body it’s safe and that it is okay to relax. Cold water is a no no for the opposite reason. It mimics the stress response, driving blood away from the extremities. Result: Tension increases.
An office alternative might be running hot water over your hands until you feel tension start to drain away.
18. Move around.
Regular exercise, of course, builds stamina that can help anyone battle stress. But even something as casual as a walk around the block can help you throw off some of the tension a rough business meeting or a family squabble leaves you carrying around.
“Exercise is what your body instinctively wants to do under stress: Run or fight,“ Dr. Miller says. “And it works. One, it burns off some of the stress chemicals tension produces. And two, a tired muscle is a relaxed muscle.”
19. Tune in the music.
“Music is an enormously powerful tool for fighting stress.” Dr. Miller says. “You can use it in two basic ways to relax or to inspire. New-Age music is very relaxing.”
Stress: 20 Tips to ease tension