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You are describing what so many are experiencing right now, and it is not to be taken lightly. Stress raises our blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol and blood sugar. It causes us to make poor lifestyle choices (like eating unhealthy and not exercising)and losing contact with those we love. Short term stress is part of life, and our bodies react, then revert back to normal. It’s long term, chronic stress that is harmful. If you “come down” off high stress twice a day, your body can repair the damage that has been done. Here are a few ideas to manage stress at work and at home:
- It is a proven fact that three deep breaths will lower your heart rate and lower your blood pressure! This is a great stress relief technique and is something you can do anywhere, anytime, and begins to reverse the stress response. Use your abdomen to breathe, like filling a balloon slowly to a count of 4; hold for a couple seconds, then slowly exhale through pursed lips for a count of eight. Think about taking in a deep, cleansing breath, and blowing out all the tension. You will notice that your shoulders relax and your body settles down.
- Change your environment, external and internal. Give yourself a “release valve” by venting in some way; this can be done verbally or in writing. Journaling can offer great relief–studies have proven it improves sleep, reduces pain and improves mood. Just write continuously, with no attention to punctuation, capitalization or penmanship…just write until you have let everything out.
- Disconnect/disengage–this is a way of escape when you are physically unable to get away. Visualizing works well, and meditation is excellent.
- The number one stress reliever is EXERCISE! Take 1-2 minutes several times a day and jog in place, run up some stairs, or walk briskly down the hall and back; then stretch your shoulders, back and legs. The best daily exercise is just taking a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes, to release tension and endorphins.
- Take one minute, five times a day, to close your eyes and think about someone, or something, you love. This changes your internal environment, and there is definitely a “mind/body” connection.
Conditions and situations are not inherently stressful…it’s how we perceive them. Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can, or you can’t, you’re right.” Wherever your thoughts are going, that’s where YOU are going. Ask yourself, “How important is this, and can I change it?” Sometimes it is not that important in the scheme of things, and perhaps it won’t be that important in a week, a month or a year, so it makes it easier to just let it go. Sometimes we can’t change the whole situation, but we can change some part of it, and we can always inject some humor to change the atmosphere. Many of these suggestions can be implemented at your desk, in a conversation, in the car, or when you take a few moments in the restroom!
Always try to give yourself some transition between work and home, by changing your thoughts, changing your physiology and changing your environment. Stop at the park or walk into a store, just for a few minutes to allow yourself to let go. Be true to your values, and give your time and effort to those that top your list. No one ever wanted put on their tombstone, “I wish I would have spent more time at the office.”
I recommend a book “Stress Free for Good” by Dr. Fred Luskin and Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier. We offer a stress management class every month, free of charge. Not only do you learn about the destructive forces of stress, but also what to do, and practice some techniques. Class is the fourth Wednesday of every month, and meets from 12-2 pm on the even months, 4-6 pm on the odd months. We would love to see you there! Call 1-866-PROVENA to register.