Stress Management for a Happier, Healthier Life!

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If you are feeling stressed out or exhibiting the symptoms of stress in your daily life, it is important to take action. In small or occasional doses, stress is actually a beneficial reaction that helps us boost our alertness and focus when we need it most. The adrenaline boost that you get when you are frightened, for example, is a natural stress mechanism that allows you to react faster to potential danger. But when our bodies are constantly in this state of heightened stress response, it takes a serious toll on our bodies and minds.

If you are experiencing too much stress in your life, one of the first things that you should work on is decreasing your exposure to stressful situations. It is not always possible to escape the things that cause us unhealthy stress; however you can sometimes work to minimize your exposure. For example, if work is stressing you out too much, stop bringing work home with you, and set a "blackout" rule for your household. Turn off all cell phones and PDAs after a certain time. If your stress comes from money, see if your partner would be willing to take on the budget, or talk to a financial counselor. It may also be helpful to change your perspective. Will your current stressors be an issue five years from now?

Sometimes high stress levels are not caused by any one large thing, but rather by small stressors that accumulate until we have trouble coping with them. This could indicate a very good time to take a "time out," either in the form of a short meditation period, or even as a time to go on a vacation and let the toxic stress accumulation dissipate.

Managing Stress with Relaxation Techniques

When something about your situation becomes very stressful try to remove yourself from the situation, even if only for a few minutes. This can be as simple as walking out of the room for a moment to catch your breath, or even closing your eyes and blocking out the situation if that works for you. The traditional advice to count to ten is long lived for a reason, and can give you the time you need to allow your heart rate and blood pressure to drop back to normal.

For persistently stressful feelings, schedule some time that is all your own, and do things that you love to do. Enjoy a glass of wine and a novel, take a steaming hot bath with music and candles, play a round of golf, or simply be silly and roll around on the floor with the kids. Whatever makes you feel happy and calm is an ideal tool for bringing down your stress levels. Schedule an hour or two for yourself once a week, and write it in your planner as an appointment that you cannot miss. It is an urgent matter of health, in fact.

Exercise Routines for Stress Management

One wonderful way to take care of your body and reduce your stress levels at the same time is to start a regular exercise routine. This gives you the physical benefits of being more in shape and feeling better, but also releases feel-good chemicals like serotonin and endorphins to really help you relax and just be happy.

Exercise also gives your heart a good workout, helps to release the tension that you hold in your muscles when you are stressed out, and burns off that "nervous" energy. You will probably also find that your quality of sleep improves when you work out regularly. Yoga in particular is an excellent workout, and is famous for the sense of peace that regular practice brings.

While it is best to talk to a doctor before beginning any new exercise or other physical regimen, you might also consider spending a little time meditating in a sauna or steam room after your workout sessions. It is said that saunas and steam rooms can help to leech toxins from the body, which could include stress hormones like cortisol. Leave if you start to feel dizzy or unwell, and be sure to drink water before and after to keep yourself hydrated.

Stress Management with Medication

Ideally, medication should be a short term fix and a last resort for stress sufferers. Stress is a natural response to the environment, but medication will do nothing to change that hostile environment. Instead, medication for stress will shut down that vital warning system that we are taking on too much, and suppress the symptoms of our stress instead of addressing the cause.

If you're experiencing high levels of stress, there are several management options available. Relaxation techniques, exercise and medication can all help you manage the symptoms of stress and regain emotional and physical balance in your life.

Jason Nichols is a freelance writer who writes about self improvement and stress management.

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