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Stress Management - 10 Tips For Coping

From 1985 to 1991, the percentage of Americans reporting high stress doubled from about 20% to over 40%. During the same period, the percentage of people who reported stress-related illness also doubled.*1

Here at, we care about you! If you find yourself under a great deal of stress and you're looking for a few helpful tips to get you through, here's our collection of the Top Ten Tips For Managing Stress. We hope they help you (as much as they have helped us) during this stressful time in your life.

Stress Tip #1 - Deep Breathing

I start this section off with deep breathing, because it is something you can do anywhere and anytime. I also highly recommend you perform deep breathing exercises at least 3 to 5 times throughout the day - more if you feel the need.

Whether standing, sitting, or laying, try this... Take a long deep breath to the count of 3 (as in one-thousand-and-one, one-thousand-and... you get the picture?). Feel the air fill from the diaphragm up slowly to the top of your lungs. Hold it for a count of 4 - then release it slowly for a count of 8 to 9 - long and slo-o-ow. Repeat 4 times for a total of 5 deep breaths. (Increase or decrease your counts and repetitions as needed.)

Stress Tip #2 - Relaxation Meditation

I have this excellent soothing cassette tape - 10 Minutes to Relax - it's old, and worn, yet still a favorite of mine when times get particularly busy! (I think it's only available in CD now?) I find a quiet spot, pop it into my cassette player, then lay back and let the soft tones of the announcer guide me through a "virtual vacation" in my mind. You'd be amazed at how refreshed and calm I feel after this brief 10 minute interlude in my day.

Whether you choose a guided meditation tape like I have, or prefer quiet music or total silence, take 10 minutes to breath deeply and let your long-drawn exhales sweep the stress and tensions from your muscles - head to toe. Surprise yourself with the extra energy and coping skills you feel as a result.

Stress Tip #3 - Stretching Exercises

Notice how a good long stretch can make you feel great all over, even when you're not under stress? Whether you choose Yoga or Tai Chi for relaxation, it's a great way to loosen up those muscles which tend to tighten up subconsciously during stress. Pay attention to your breathing again, and let your deep breaths help push the tension out and away with each stretch.

Stress Tip #4 - Healthy Diet

Sometimes I just get way too busy to eat right, especially during times of increased deadlines (my major cause of stress). I already know how important breakfast is, but geez-oh-petes, I just don't have the time and don't want the junk that comes with most snackbars out there. At the very least I try to start my day off with a protein drink - whether it be a high-protein smoothie, or one of the many excellent protein shakes (from non-GM soy or other)

It is strongly recommended from highly qualified sources that you get your necessary nutrition from the foods you eat - and during times of stress, this is a time when a well-balanced diet is more important than ever. As PDRHealth*2 states it, "The best stress-fighting diet plan is one that ensures general good nutrition and health - one that builds a 'bank account' of nutrients to deal with the damage of stress." Check out the Food Pyramid and do your best to help your body help you through.

Stress Tip #5 - Getting "Outside The Box"

Okay, now this one may seem a bit strange to some, particularly when it comes to stress, but for me it works. I learned it from an excellent book I received as a gift one year call The Artist's Way and it has served me well over the years.

During stressful times it may seem like your entire world is closing in on you... that you can't see beyond the demands, pressures, etc. This is when getting "outside the box" can help. It's called opening your heart, mind, and eyes to natural beauty - and letting it pour into your life.

For example, notice the unique shapes in a fluffy cloud, a beautiful shade of green in a spring leaf, the interesting textures and patterns in the bark of a tree, the soft reflections in a pool of water... the point is to get outside of your current situation psychologically and see - and acknowledge - the beauty that surrounds us all. Noticing and paying attention to things outside your current situation can help you approach things inside with greater calm. Try it, and see if it doesn't help you too.

Stress Tip #6 - Massage

Okay, I know I don't have to say much on this subject. I'm sure just thinking about a long, relaxing massage can get you smiling. But what if you can't afford the time (or the expense)? A soak in the hot tub might work, but still may take too much time. How about a warm pulsating shower? Works for me! Hope it will for you, too.

Stress Tip #7 - Caffeine and Nicotine

Now hang on there... I'm not going to increase your stress by telling you to quit or avoid the above. We all know how harmful nicotine is and you don't need me hanging a guilt trip on you. That isn't going to help you here and now, but here's some tips that may help you cut back.

I switch from coffee or caffeine laden sodas to tea with milk and/or herbal teas, for starters. As for the smoking, try chewing on something instead of reaching automatically for the smokes (like I chew on my pen or even a toothpick - but be careful with these :). When a craving comes, take a deep breath, or better - do some deep breathing exercises first before caving in.

Stress Tip #8 - Use Your Support Network

Talking to family, friends, and close associates can be an effective method for releasing the inner anxieties that may increase your stress levels. Make sure the people you choose for your support network have your best interests at heart. You don't want someone judgmental - often you just need a good listener. There really is a skill to venting for release... First and foremost - be polite. Once you've found your vent partner, be sure to let them know before you begin ... "this is a vent" and explain you're not asking them to solve, judge, or critique, what you are about to say - all you need is a friendly ear to just listen. Knowing when to ask for help may avoid more serious problems later.

Stress Tip #9 - A Sense Of Humor

When you lighten up, and smile more, you actually can release a great deal of tension. A good strong belly laugh over something funny can really get those endorphins rocking. (Hey, a warm hug helps too!)

It's more important to have fun than be funny. Look at things from a different perspective. Laugh with people (never at them - and never use humor as a weapon). Try watching a favorite funny movie. Sometimes laughter can be good medicine.

Stress Tip #10 - Change Your Routine

Have you ever heard the expression "a change is as good as a rest?" Well, surprise! It may also help reduce your stress. Try it... find a pleasant change in your routine you can make and see if it doesn't lighten your load.

Be gentle with yourself... kindness to yourself and others can go such a very long way. And hey - thanks for reading this article. We appreciate you!

Additional Sources and Resources for Stress Relief

*1 DHSS Div. Of Public Health - What Is... Stress???

*2 PDRHealth - Best Bets When You're Stressed Out

NEHC - Managing Stress Resources

What Are The Major Causes Of Stress?

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