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Managing Stress

It was a moonless night and the tire was flat. There were no apparent signs or landmarks along that repetitive stretch of highway between Chicago and Springfield. How long had it been since I passed a town sign or turnoff? I stumbled through a vague description to AAA, grateful that, at least, my cell phone worked. Then I hoped and waited. And waited. And waited.

Stress has existed since the first human being was frightened by lightning or animals, but it has become the epidemic of our times. The “fight or flight” mechanism of the body keeps triggering even when the cause isn't life threatening. Ask anyone, and they'll recite a litany of stresses, from relationships, to work and the global economy.

Usually the long list doesn't have a “cure” and what's worse, stress is a highly contagious disease. Add just one stressed out person to a group and soon, signs of dis-ease are rampant.

How do you cope with the rate of change, the “do more with less in less time” philosophy, and be expected to remain calm? Many of us find ourselves in an endless cycle of negative stress because we either accept it as a way of life or have failed to identify the true cause and take action.

Go back to my flat tire dilemma. The stress wasn't caused by the flat tire, the moonless night or the flat terrain. These are all neutral. The stress had to do with how much I felt out of control and a victim.

Stress is caused by loss of control or perceived loss of control. Many people seem to thrive on “victim mentality.” They quickly assume they have no control, blame someone or something and then wait for someone else to fix things. They spend much of their lives angry.

If you don't thrive on victim mentality or want to change, here are a few things you can do to gain control and reduce your stress no matter how difficult the situation.

1. Learn to relax through deep breathing.

You can do it anywhere. When stressed, breathing becomes shallow and rapid, and blood pressure and heart rate increase. By doing deep, slow breathing (a Yoga class could help), you can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, calm yourself, and think more clearly.

*Tip: When you know you will be entering a potentially stressful situation, take a few minutes alone (I've even done this in a restroom) to breathe deeply and prepare myself mentally.

2. Exercise.

Running marathons or lifting weights isn't necessary. Just walking, going dancing, or playing with your children helps burn that excess adrenalin and increases your endorphin level. Do something every day and you'll get the bonus of better health.

3. Take control of what you can and let the rest go.

Most of the things you lose sleep over are outside your control. Concentrate on the things you can do to take control of the situation, (these usually mean taking control of yourself), and stop agonizing over the rest of it. You accomplish nothing and waste your valuable time otherwise.

Tip: You can always control your response to a situation.

4. Laugh a lot.

Laugh at yourself, be forgiving of yourself and enjoy the fun in life. A good laugh can increase your endorphin level for 45 minutes. If you're not in the mood, fake it. Your body can't tell the difference between a fake laugh and a real one.

5. Delegate.

Many corporate executives, managers, and small business owners want complete control. You can't do it all. Micro-managing is bad business and bad for your health. When others can do the job, or can learn, delegate. At least, share the load. Create a team atmosphere. This is true for families, too. If you take total control you have total responsibility.

6. Learn to ASK for help or information.

The American way is self sufficiency. While a good thing, it can be taken to extremes by those who will muddle through rather than risk appearing, weak, incapable or without adequate knowledge. Most people will help if your request is reasonable. ASK.

7. Simplify.

Life is simple. Human beings complicate it. How are you complicating your personal life or work? Make a list of the redundant paperwork or unnecessary tasks you perform. Eliminate them. Whittle down that greeting card list or find a better way to do it. Don't say yes when you want to say no. Get rid of that “stuff” you've been saving. Use new technology to help you not overburden you. Find a better way.

8. Make every day wonderful. Enjoy the little things.

It doesn't have to cost a fortune. Sunsets are free and bubble bath is inexpensive. A fresh flower in a beautiful vase, a cup of exotic coffee at a sidewalk cafe, a drive in the country, great music, a lovely meal, stimulating conversation, candlelight, or a round of golf with a friend can put a smile on your face and in your heart. Do something nice for yourself every day.

These brief tips are a starting point for taking control of your life and reducing stress. Try them for two weeks. (It takes at least two weeks to develop a habit.) They will change your life.

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Linda Nash
Linda Nash is a nationally recognized consultant, speaker and author in the areas of change and resilience. To receive her free E-zine Bouncing Back go to www.Lindanash.com  To contact Linda call
314.872.8787 or e-mail Linda@Lindanash.com

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Linda Nash
1010 Thoreau Court, Suite 310
St. Louis, MO  63146
Ph: 314.872.8787  |  800.701.9782
linda@lindanash.com | www.LindaNash.com 

Copyright 2000 by Linda Nash. All rights reserved. You may not reproduce this material without explicit prior written permission.