We all experience stress. It’s an unavoidable part of life. Some stress is positive – like when we’re preparing for a party. Other stress is negative – such as dealing with loss of employment, natural disaster or debilitating illness. The normal human response to stressful events is emotional or physical tension.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) lists the following as common reactions to a stressful event.
Disbelief and shock
Tension and irritability
Fear and anxiety about the future
Difficulty making decisions
Being numb to one’s feelings
Loss of interest in normal activities
Loss of appetite
Nightmares and recurring thoughts about the event
Sadness and other symptoms of depression
Headaches, back pains, and stomach problems
Increased use of alcohol and drugs
Stress manifests differently in each person, so stress management strategies may be unique and highly individual. However, we can all find useful, meaningful ways to remain physically and emotionally healthy during stressful times of life. Here are three simple steps anyone can use to reduce stress.
Relax. Take time to step away from stressful situations. This may mean taking a walk, enjoying nature, getting a therapeutic massage or finding a quiet place to stop and just breathe. Did you know that breathing exercises are natural stress-reducers? Slow, deep breaths trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, which creates a relaxation response in the entire body. You can try this right now and feel immediate results.
Sit in a comfortable position, place both feet on the floor, rest your hands on your legs. Now, take three deep cleansing breaths (breathe in deeply, then exhale fully). After these deep breaths, spend the next full minute – sixty seconds – just breathing gently and easily. Try closing your eyes. Pay attention to air flowing in and out of your lungs. Listen to the sound. Feel your chest expand and contract. Notice your feet, firmly supported by the floor beneath them. How do you feel after just one minute of quiet, focused breathing? This simple exercise can instantly reduce stress symptoms and can be done anytime or anywhere. Try it for three or four minutes for even greater relaxation!
Find support. Talk to someone about your situation. Even if you are shy or if you “keep things to yourself” consider sharing your thoughts and feelings with caring friends or family. Sometimes just talking about it can relieve symptoms and bring hope and perspective to a stressful event.
Stay active. The CDC suggests: “Take your mind off your problems by giving.” Help your neighbor, take your dog for an extra long walk, look for volunteer opportunities. These are small ways to bring positive feelings to a stressful situation.
How have you found relief from stress? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Please note: If you or someone you love becomes severely depressed or suicidal, seek help from your local emergency department, primary care physician or mental health professional.
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