When you're chronically stressed, your body lives in a fight-or-flight mode. Your heart beats faster. Some times too fast and it wears your heart out. Your blood vessels constrict and you have high blood pressure. You feel exhausted because of the hard work your body has to handle.
When stress is too much
Sometimes, to relieve the anxiety, you drink too much alcohol or eat sugar or other food that you know is not good for you. Sugar gives you an energy boost for a short time, but then you have to deal with depression. Alcohol is liquid sugar. It makes you feel good for a while then you become depressed. You have to deal with feeling guilty which causes more stress. I am not telling you anything you didn’t already know. Give yourself some kind of reminder that you need to do something about your stress when you are in the middle of it. Having a companion or co-worker remind you helps.
Here are a few things you can do to lower your stress level.
Take deep breaths
When you are under stress, you tend to hyperventilate. Breathing deeply helps your body relax which lowers your heart rate and your blood pressure. It also brings more oxygen to your brain. Try breathing deeply, *belly breaths, for 5 minutes. Choose to let your body relax. Concentrate on your breaths. You might also try this if you are trying to go to sleep.
Another deep breathing exercise is called square breathing. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds. It will lower your blood pressure and cause you to concentrate on your count as you breathe. Meditating for 5 minutes will do the same.
*Belly breaths are when you breathe deeply and fill your belly. You can see it expand. Then breathe out through your nose and your belly contracts.
Set aside 5 minutes. Turn off your phone. Sit comfortably upright. Close your eyes, or don’t concentrate on what is around you. Take a few *belly breaths, breathing deeply and slowly through your nose. Now just breathe naturally. Concentrate on the inside of your nose. Notice that the air is cool going in and warm going out. Keep your attention on how your nose feels. Notice if you are taking short, shallow breaths or long, deep breaths. Your mind will probably wander. Just come back to your nose and your breathing style. Concentrate on that. Don’t get annoyed when your mind wanders. In time you will get better at concentrating. Feel the breath and also observe the breathing at the same time.
You can do this for a minute if need be. When you feel yourself getting upset, stressed, angry at life, stop and concentrate on your breathing. It can be at work or anywhere you are. It can be a few seconds or a few minutes.
Resolve situations that cause you stress
Check the gas level and when it gets to half way fill it up to avoid running low and trying to work it in on a busy day. Make lunches the night before to slow the pace as you walk out the door. Look at areas that are stressful, hectic and think about ways to reduce or eliminate them. Get others to help.
If there is anything you can do about it, do it. Avoid toxic people whenever possible. If you have a problem at work, speak to someone about resolving it. If that is not possible, tell yourself that you are doing the best you can and give the tension up. Choose not to feel stress. When you walk out the door, leave work behind you. When you think about it, choose to change the subject in your mind. Have something pleasant to think about.
Listen to music
Calming music can help you relax. It affects your heart rate. Any music will help, but classical music that is calming with a slow beat helps the heart and in turn helps you relax. If you feel depressed, listen to happy, uplifting music . Some people find that praying or listening to the bible on their phone helps. Bible Gateway has the option to listen to the Bible being read.
Thank others. When you feel upset, think of something someone did for you and be grateful. If you haven’t told them, make sure they know. If you are talking to someone on the phone in a business and you notice that they are trying to do their best to resolve your problem, tell them. Not only will it make you feel better, it will make their day to know they are appreciated. Another option is to take a small spiral notebook and write in it each day everything that went well or anything special that someone did for you. When you feel upset, read it. Remember that not everything will go wrong.
Prioritize your day
Do one thing every day that moves you toward your goal. Check off something you did today that was bothering you. Take breaks. Don’t expect to do more than you can without getting stressed and don’t feel guilty if you have to say “no” to someone. Your first priority is to take care of yourself.
When you feel you are reacting to anything, stop and remember that anything or anyone you react to is controlling you as long as you react to it. Sometimes it feels good to react until you realize it is getting out of hand and your body is not happy. Reacting can kill you. Decide to maintain control of yourself and you will find it will affect your brain to think more clearly. If it involves another person, they will be affected by your unwillingness to react to them. A good mood covers a 3 feet area and affects everyone around you. Someone in a bad mood will also affect you. Determine that your good mood will override their bad mood.
Have a hobby
Prioritize something relaxing each day even if it is a few minutes. It can be talking to someone or watching a favorite video, working in the garden, cooking something tasty, volunteering or anything that makes you happy and gets your mind off the stressors of life.
Consider your family, friends, a support group or a coach to feel better about yourself and your life. A coach can give you an emotional or morale boost and offer practical tips to help you cope.
For more ideas on handling stress, look at MORE ABOUT STRESS.
Copyright LifeSkills International 2010
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