Stress is a deeply unpleasant state that saps out all the texture, beauty, and joy of being alive. It is an important cause of anger, depression, suicide, accidents, headaches, heart attacks, cancer, and countless other ills. Stressed people live poorer and shorter lives. They live less.
Although stress is often related to life events, such as losing a loved one, getting divorced, or falling ill, most of the day-to-day stress that we experience comes from smaller "background" stressors, such as constant deadlines, tense relationships, painful memories, isolation, discrimination, poor housing, and unpaid bills.
The amount of stress that a person can handle is largely related to her thinking styles and social skills. People with positive thinking styles and social skills are in a better position to diffuse stressful situations — for example, by doing something about them, putting them into perspective, or talking through them with someone.
1. The first step in dealing with stress is to recognize its warning signs.
2. Next, make a list of situations in which you feel that way.
3. For each situation on your list, come up with one or more strategies for preventing, avoiding, or diffusing it. Here's an example:
You can also use some more general strategies for reducing stress.
Deep breathing involves regulating your breathing:
You can combine deep breathing with relaxation exercises:
Other general strategies for reducing stress include listening to music, particularly classical music like Bach or Chopin, taking a hot bath, reading a book or surfing the internet, calling or meeting up with a friend, practicing yoga or meditation, and playing sports.
Lifestyle changes can assist both to reduce stress and to increase your resilience to stress. Lifestyle changes to consider include:
These lifestyle changes are useful not only for reducing stress, but also for improving your overall health and quality of life. Though individually small and simple, their cumulative effect can be transformative.
If you continue to struggle with stress, discuss the issue with a professional or seek relaxation training.