Monday, December 18, 2017

Stress Exists. Here’s How to Deal

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

April is National Stress Awareness month. You’re probably already aware of stress. What’s needed is a new perspective on dealing with it …

Stress exists every day, even for those who live a healthy lifestyle. It can be managed and tolerated, coexisting with a happy mood and blissful day. It cannot be eliminated. Once we realize this, we can learn to accept daily stressors, allowing them on the sidelines of our life rather than refereeing it. They may even energize us to try harder when struggle is at its most real.

Don’t Expect Something for Nothing

Lace up regularly. Be ready to respond!
Lace up regularly. Be ready to respond!

There are many coping skills for dealing with stress. These are scientifically proven methods of increasing our resilience against stress and reducing our response during stressful situations. Success depends upon the doing. Exercise, meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing, and a hot soak in the bath—all these help return us to calm, balanced beings. The trick is to practice them, and regularly. Thinking about a relaxing bath doesn’t soothe us, just as thinking about exercise doesn’t release feel-good hormones and burn off tension and calories.

Some days require more stress combat than others. It may take effort to banish a mood sabotaged by a day full of mishaps. It definitely takes work to overcome stress from a job loss or relationship breakup. Get in the habit of positively reacting to stress by executing coping mechanisms. When life’s biggest challenges hit, you’ll be able to function better.

Be Proactive

Lessen the impact of stress. Have your favorite go-to techniques for when tensions mount. Practice these often so they come naturally when you need them. Try these top choices for effective stress-relief and prevention:

Exercise: If you’re stressed out from anger, go for a fast, intense workout. Circuit training can be very effective. Your mind will be busy focusing on fast transitions and maintaining momentum, clearing negative thoughts. Your body will achieve healthy physical exhaustion with a release of endorphins.

Practice Yoga: A version of exercise, yoga (and similar disciplines like Pilates and T’ai Chi) emphasize mindful awareness of movement and breathing. Any workout can—and should—be done mindfully for maximum benefit. However, breathing and awareness is a defined part of yoga, necessary for proper execution.

Simple yoga poses can be done everywhere from your desk chair (pre-meeting stress) to the kitchen (carrots-versus-cookies stress) and the airport (your-flight boarded-10-minutes-ago stress). Wherever stress strikes, you can break into a peaceful asana (that’s guru for “pose”).

Indulge. Make your own spa-time.
Indulge. Make your own spa-time.

Indulge: Do something nice for yourself. Keep it simple. Spend 10 quiet minutes witnessing nature. Turn off your devices and just sit. Play a favorite song. Dance. Stretch. Hug someone. Do something that makes you feel suddenly good, even during a stressful situation. Nothing ends an argument like a spontaneous game of fetch with a puppy. Break from that tedious spreadsheet and email a friend.

Don’t Try So Hard

It is not possible to eliminate stress from your life. The most positive thinkers among us succumb to stressful times, despite calming mantras, a healthful diet, and a frequently used gratitude journal at bedside. Set a realistic goal. Rather than work (to the point of stress) to remove stress from your life, recognize that as impossible. Instead, work to better manage it.

Stress is needed to motivate growth and improvements. For example, a person may find his/her body weight as stressful. This stress can be a catalyst for a healthier lifestyle that eliminates more serious stresses like weight-related health issues. Stress can be a challenge to find solutions and make a better life.

mountain-top hiker, picRecognize that stress can be an acceptable part of life. It is not a sign of failure at optimism. Not every negative mishap can be glossed over. Sometimes, you get rejected, neglected, or injured. Acknowledge it and take care of yourself so you can heal and get on with life.

There is not a magic solution to living stress-free. Sometimes inner peace takes a lot of outer work.

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