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Ways to deal with stress: top 12 ways of dealing with stress

How to deal with stress? There are 12 ways to deal with stress. The main anti-stress self-help principles are laid out below in a twelve-point plan.

1.Exercise more. The important features are not what you do, but how much, and how often. Regularity is essential, and so is making it aerobic (getting out-of-breath and a bit hot and sweaty). Try to vary the pace and the type of aerobic exercise. There are some suggestions later on. Exercise that is enjoyable is also probably much better for you: a forty-minute stiff walk to the nearest hilltop is sometimes nicer than pounding away on a running machine in a gym for the same period. Playing football in the park with the kids is usually more fun (even if you lose) than bench-pressing weights with macho bodybuilders in the gym. Remember that these are all principles of de-stressing: so don’t stress yourself too much doing any type of exercise. Just do it! Ideally, about five times per week, fortyf ive minutes minimum.

2.Regular relaxation. An absolute minimum of twenty minutes once a day or ten minutes twice a day. Look for deeper, regular breathing first, then an absence of “busy” thoughts, and then try for an inner feeling of warmth and relaxation throughout the body. Try to keep wiping out invasive thoughts. Whether your relaxation method is called “deep relaxation”, “heart coherence”, “Autogenic Technique” or is some form of meditation, the method is relatively unimportant: the regular experience is essential. Lying on the sofa listening to Chopin or Mozart can also bliss you out, so can a Radox bath. Do whatever works for you!

3.Manage present stress and conflicts better. There are many simple ways of doing this, though they are not, by any means, usually easy. There are many different techniques, and again the method is not particularly important, but the principles are:

Identify what your stressors are. External stressors can be pollution, excessive sun exposure, heavy workloads, emotional problems, bereavement, divorce, or separation, difficulties at home or work. Self-inflicted stressors are caffeine, hydrogenated fats, alcohol, smoking, and other recreational drugs. Internal stressors can be food allergies and intolerances, autoimmune diseases, high cholesterol, metabolic waste not being eliminated properly, blood sugar imbalances (and diabetes), hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, endogenous depression (from chemical imbalance), etc.

Conflicts. With conflicts or emotional stress, try go to the source of the conflict: talking to other people does not usually work. Arrange a time and place and let the people involved know that it is about a problem you are having with them: approach them amicably; talk about some good things first, and then about the (difficult) behaviour or the conflict you are experiencing and how you are affected by it; finally, say what you would like, or need, to happen next. This does not guarantee that the conflict will disappear, but at least you are talking about it, saying you have a problem, and doing it in a way that is least likely to cause offence.

Prepare in advance for known (stressful) events. Obtain good information; do not rush things; do not leave things to the last minute; do not skimp. Prioritize the important or immediate tasks. Know what you do well and stick to that. Take one day at a time. Learn not to be a perfectionist. Try not to escape from the present. Address any problems now!

Avoid debt!

Try not to overspend or get into debt (any further). Consult someone to help manage your finances a bit better or to consolidate your debts. There are plenty of experts and good advice is fairly readily available. You might have to get over some embarrassment about being in debt, or the extent of your debts, but it is best to be open and honest with those people who matter: partners, parents, bank managers, creditors, etc.

Talk to someone. Ask for support. Get some professional help, be it from the Human Resources or the Health and Safety departments, a staff counsellor, an employee assistance programme (EAP), someone in the church, marriage guidance, your doctor, etc. Also, listen to those around you; they can often see your situation more clearly than you can. Whatever the cost to your pride, pocket, or principles, just do it. Life is complicated enough already without any inner turmoil, as well as more everyday stress and conflict to deal with. Try to develop a more positive attitude to yourself, your work and family, and the world.

4.Ahealthy diet. When we are stressed, or in distress, our diet usually goes to pieces and we focus much more on “comfort foods”. Often our intake of alcohol and other legal “drugs” (sugar, caffeine, chocolate, and cigarettes) also increases. We are what we eat! And the road back to health usually means adopting a better balanced diet. Most people know the main principles:

reduce unhealthy (animal) fats;

increase healthy (Omega-3) fats (oily fish, nuts, seeds, some oils);

reduce carbohydrates considerably;

reduce sugar and salt intake; don’t drink too much alcohol;

drink much more water—at least two litres a day;

eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day;

eat less processed foods and pre-prepared meals;

eat more organic and home-cooked foods, if possible.

5.Dealing with trauma and painful memories. If there have been traumatic events and/or events that provoke anger, sadness, or other painful memories, these really need to be dealt with by working on them, talking through them, and eventually coming to terms with them, in some way. You will not heal fully if you are still traumatized, or if old wounds are still upsetting you emotionally. These sorts of things, albeit in the past, can carry a lot of current stress. Which method you use: EMDR, emotional counselling, psychotherapy, etc., is relatively unimportant, but the process of emotional healing is totally necessary. Be as honest with yourself as possible about your need to heal.

6.Enrich your relationships. Talk more to those around you, spend more quality time with them, listen to them (really listen), and value them more. Discover more about their background, their (general and specific) thinking, their feelings, and their ideas. Ask about what affects them, or what troubles them. They will then feel that you are genuinely interested in them. Respect their views and how they cope—and how they cope with you. Empathy is a key concept. Then you can talk to them about what troubles you have, and open up and share a bit more. Now you know (about) them a bit better, you might trust them more. This can become the start of a much better relationship. You might also have to learn to say “No” to those who you feel are imposing on you, using you, or abusing the present relationship. Become more aware of your own limits and boundaries. When you do, others might respect your limits and boundaries better. Maybe there is one particular friend you can already really trust and relax with; when did you last spend quality time with them?

7.Regular sleep and waking gently. Getting into a regular routine of sleep is one of the most essential ways of avoiding stress. Always try to go to bed at the same time, and to wake up at the same time. Getting in to the habit of such a sleep pattern is very important, and not very easy. Try to avoid stressors right before bedtime: these include coffee, sugar, and alcohol. Agentle walk after dinner can be a good relaxant; so can a nice warm bath, or a massage. Thentry to adjust the amount of sleep you get to the right amount for you: different people need different amounts: anywhere between six to eight hours is the most common. Then try “dawn simulators” or a light (on a timer) going on gently before the alarm clock wakes you. Try to spend a few minutes in bed before getting up: don’t rush into the day already stressed. Don’t worry if you wake a little early: learn to stay lying down, reasonably relaxed, without getting anxious. You are still resting, even if you are not asleep.

8.Focus on your health. Your health is very important and it also is not a constant. It needs to be worked at—actively—in order for you to stayhealthy. So, learn to take care of yourself, on all different levels, especially when you are stressed. Explore some of the other activities and possibilities that are around or available; there are probably many more than you think and some of them can be quite fun. Try something a little different, as you might have got yourself into a rut. Take a little time out, like a long weekend break, that can really refresh you (you may have some time “in lieu” available). Get away and regenerate yourself. One of the twenty-four-hour packages spent at a hydro hotel can be really nice (massage, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, etc.), without breaking the bank. Consider also some of the more holistic approaches, alternative health concepts, or complementary medicine perspectives. Shiatsu, massage, acupuncture, tea-tree oil, green tea, or lavender oil baths can often help with stress and be very pleasurable, so treat yourself!

9.Contact with nature. We have often lost contact with nature and we do not realize how important this can be for us. The woods, the fields, the beach, the moors, the hills are all easily available, and wonderful. Go and take a walk. Get your hands in the earth, digging the garden or potting out some plants in window boxes. It is not an extra chore; it can be really relaxing. Allow yourself a breathing space: do something gentle that you enjoy in nature.

10.Breathe! Breathe! Breathe!Become much more aware of your breathing, regularly, daily, hourly. When we are anxious or stressed, we tend to breathe in and hold our breath. Eventually this adds to our stress and distress. Stop and breathe in for a count of five, through your nose, and then exhale for a count of seven, out through the mouth. You can visualize breathing in peace, strength, or whatever it is that you need, and then breathing out all that stress and anxiety and pain and distress. Let it all leave your body as you breathe out. When you breathe in, fill up your chest area and torso, up to the shoulders. When you breathe out, breathe out right down to the bottom of your belly. Ahand on the chest or belly when you breathe deeply can serve as a reminder. Try doing this regularly, even every fifteen minutes or so, just for a few in-breaths and out-breaths each time.

11.Humour. There is an archetypal story of a man who cured himself of cancer by locking himself in a hotel bedroom for three weeks with nothing but a collection of silent movies by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. He laughed his way back to health. Humour is very important for stress release. Find something that makes youlaugh. Go out with people who you feel comfortable with, and with whom you can laugh and have a good (pleasant) time.

12.Talk to someone. This has been mentioned before. It is so important that it gets mentioned again. Not everyone finds this easy, but it does work. Trying to do it all by yourself (macho), or not wanting to bother other people (self-sacrificing), or thinking that other people are more important or have more worries than you (self-demeaning), or whatever—just does not help you one little bit. You are still stuck with the problems or difficulties that you have and are causing you stress. Many people are capable of listening, and just the experience of talking about some of the things that are worrying you can often mean that you provide yourself with some of the answers that you need. Take the plunge: just say to someone—a good friend, your partner, your (friendly) manager, a colleague perhaps: “I read this little booklet at the doctor’s surgery on stress and I have just realized that I am a lot more stressed than I thought I was”. See how they respond. It is a start, or it is a good first step.

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