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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
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
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.
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.
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
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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
314.872.8787 or e-mail
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