Stress Make You Sick. Stress suppresses the immune system and has been linked to many chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome. Stress Kills. How can we learn to counter its ill effects?
Here are ten strategies for managing stress:
Breathe. Take time each day to practice deep diaphragmatic breathing, inhaling and exhaling through your nose while feeling the rib cage expand in all directions. Try to return to deep breathing whenever you think of it during the day, especially in stressful situations and see how much difference something as simple as deep conscious breathing can make.
Give Thanks. It’s hard to feel stressed and thankful at the same time. Allocate a few minutes a day to being grateful for all the blessings in your life. Start a gratitude journal.
Focus. Do one thing at a time, instead of multitasking. Pay attention to the task at hand. Focused attention brings us into the present moment, slows us down, and disengages us from our over-busy scattered thoughts.
Connect. Make love and friendship top priorities in your life. Social connection helps alleviate the effects of stress, builds a sense of belonging minimizing isolation and loneliness, improves health, and encourages the release of stress-lowering hormones.
Journal. Write away negative thoughts and feelings by recording them on paper. Writing removes negativity from body and mind in a way that talking doesn’t.
Assess. Make a list of things that bring you joy and another list of things that deplete your energy. Keep track every day for a week. Try to incorporate more things that bring joy into your daily life and let go of the energy drainers where you can.
Cultivate Compassion. Begin with yourself. It’s not selfish; it’s self-preservation and necessary for your health and well-being. Show yourself kindness. Be indulgent with yourself.
Take a Timeout. Visualize a peaceful place. Memorize an empowering phrase. Turn to these in times of stress to bring you back to center and calm down.
Unwind. Set aside some time each day doing something that helps you decompressâ€“take a walk, do yoga, talk with a friend, have a bath, read something uplifting.
Schedule a Siesta. Studies show that people who nap for thirty minutes at least three times a week are 37% less likely to die from a heart attack. Give yourself permission to give it a try. Find a quiet space, close your eyes and try to drift off for just ten or fifteen minutes and see how refreshed you feel.
Martha, these are all really, really good tips. I have been letting myself get caught up with stress, and that sense of constant striving takes up so much of my energy and time. So now things I do to alleviate stress include taking time to do yoga, going for walks, reading, and taking the periodic naps during the day. I feel like I'm also trying to be much more intentional about incorporating beauty into my life on a regular basis because that has a very calming effect, as well.
Martha, I think that the idea of beauty varies from person to person, but here are some of the things that do it for me:
1) Yes, definitely fresh flowers, scented candles, and aromatherapy around the apartment. I feel that the sense of scent is one of the most primitive, and I always associate it with beauty and memory.
2) Incorporating the arts into my life as much as possible. I'm a writer but I also love going out to theatrical performances, art galleries, etc.
3) Dancing. I just recently took up Argentinean tango and I absolutely love everything about it--the music, the movements, the way it anchors me in the present and adds a little Technicolor to my life.
4) Being out in nature as much as possible. Need I say more? :)