Stress may be inevitable, but how you deal with it is largely up to you. Here are some ideas to help you create your own stress defense.
- Use your support system – You may feel better sharing your feelings with a caring friend or family member. It can help to know that you're not the only one who has disagreements with a spouse, problems with parenting or other worries.
- Talk it over with yourself – We often have no control over the unpleasant events that happen in our lives, but we can change what we say to ourselves about these events. All our feelings are greatly affected by what we say to ourselves.
- Catastrophizing ("This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.")
- Generalizing ("My dog doesn't like me therefore, no one will.")
- Projecting ("I'm sure this isn't going to work out.")
Instead, try telling yourself "I am loved and safe" Practice talking nicely to yourself.
- Don't demand perfection – Ease up on yourself and those around you – accept that everyone has both strengths and shortcomings.
- Just say no – Sometimes, we take on too much. You can avoid feeling overburdened by setting realistic goals and priorities. Remember, it's OK to say no to requests that push you beyond your limits.
- Take one thing at a time – Instead of thinking of other things you should be doing, focus on the task at hand and do it well. You'll enjoy the sense of accomplishment and regain a sense of control.
- Strive for balance in your life – Make time for activities and people you enjoy. Taking your mind off stressful matters for a while can help you keep a healthy perspective.
- Be active – Walk your dog, go dancing or join a gym. If you're generally healthy, aim to get at least 2.5 hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. At least two days a week, work in some muscle-strengthening activity at a moderate intensity or higher. Just be sure to check with your doctor before significantly increasing your level of physical activity.
- Eat healthfully – Some people reach for junk food or turn to other unhealthful eating habits when they are under stress. Reduce consumption of caffeine and refined sugar, and increase your consumption of whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid unhealthy behaviors – Some people drink too much alcohol or over-eat to cope with stress. Talk with your doctor if you need help.
- Get in touch – Hug someone, hold hands or stroke a pet. Physical contact is a great way to relieve stress.
- Practice rest and relaxation – Take six deep breaths. Breathe slowly and deeply in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Use your imagination to place yourself on the beach, or in some other pleasant place from the past. Close your eyes and imagine the scene in detail, including all your senses. In just a couple of minutes you can re-experience the pleasure of actually being there. Get at least seven hours of sleep nightly. And, if your health permits, meditation, yoga or even tai chi can help you feel calm. Look for these types of classes in your community or try a video. Even losing yourself in a good book or taking a quiet walk can help you unwind.
- Learn to laugh – Rent a comedy video and watch it with others (you'll laugh more).
- Stretch – Stand up. Raise your arms above your head. Stretch left and hold 1-2-3-4. Stretch right and hold. Repeat the stretch several times.
- Stop smoking – Nicotine is a stimulant, and it can increase anxiety.
- Seek professional help – If your stress your level becomes severe, seek help from a mental health professional who can help determine the best course of treatment for you.