Being hostile in a stressful situation, drowning stress with alcohol, accepting muscle tension and headaches are not healthy ways of dealing with stress.
So what can we do? How can we cope with stress in healthy and productive ways?
One thing we can do is identify the things that stress us, and when possible avoid them. For example, if waiting in line at the grocery store causes you stress, you could try shopping early in the morning, or late at night, when there are fewer customers.
Another way to avoid stress is to use positive self-talk when you encounter a potentially stressful situation.
“If I feel a situation is bothering me greatly, then what I’ll do is go through all the positive things that I have.”
Remember, events or situations themselves are not stressful -- it’s how we see them.
“Really, we just need to have a little bit more time…”
You’re sure to begin feeling stressed if you view the situation as negative and threatening. Instead, try looking at it in a more positive way.
“I’m retired now, and I still have problems. I have to say to myself, ‘Hey you’re retired. Take it easy. You don’t have to be go, go, go!’”
For those stresses in life that can’t be easily avoided, there are a number of stress relief methods you can practice.
Relaxation techniques can be done just about anywhere, anytime you feel stressed. Take long deep breaths and exhale slowly. Moving and stretching your head and neck, or shoulders, is a good way to relieve muscle tension.
Meditation is another good relaxation technique. One of the most common types of meditation involves sitting comfortably in a quiet place and concentrating on a word or phrase, or on the rhythm of your breathing. As your concentration deepens, all other thoughts and concerns leave you, and you begin to experience deep physical and mental relaxation. For some people, prayer has the same effect.
“When I’m stressed out, I pray, and he usually helps me.”
Another technique is visualization, in which you picture yourself in a pleasant, restful environment. You might see yourself in a quiet garden feeling the warm sun on you, as the flowers wave in the air. Or, you might picture yourself walking along an empty beach, feeling wet sand on your bare feet and hearing the waves roll in.
Some people find biofeedback helpful in managing stress. Biofeedback teaches you how to judge your stress level and ways to relieve it.
“What you are going to do is you’re going to be looking at your monitor over there, and you’re going to be trying to have your green bar above the line, and keep the blue and yellow bar below the line.”
During biofeedback sessions, you will see how tight your muscles are, or how rapid your heart rate is, and learn what you can do to reduce these levels.
“Great job. How would you rate your overall level of alert, focused, and relaxed attention?”
“I feel very relaxed, but at the same time alert and aware.”
Using biofeedback skills, along with visualization and relaxation techniques, can help you learn to reduce stress in everyday life.
“I go through a biofeedback exercise that I learned at the clinic. And basically what I do is close my eyes after I’ve gone into a good place. And I just go through the process of relaxing all the little muscle groups in the body. It takes me probably about three-to-five minutes to do that, but I feel the difference.”
So, begin your goal of healthy stress management by identifying the things that stress you. Then talk to a healthcare professional about the productive methods available to help you cope with stress.