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Stress Relief: Habits that can Save your Life

By HERWriter
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Stress related image Photo: Getty Images

Why Do I Need Stress Relief?

Everyone experiences stress at some point in their life. For most of us, it happens every day. For some of us, barely a moment goes by in our daily lives that we’re not stressed about something.

Finances. Shuttling children to different activities. Managing school and homework. Managing school, work and home responsibilities.

Some stress is good and can help us perform under certain circumstances, and in some cases it is unavoidable. But unrelenting and prolonged periods of stress have been shown to increase the risk for heart attack and stroke, and other symptoms such as headaches, upset stomach, back pain and sleep disruption.

Lack of sleep in particular over a long period of time can make it more difficult for your body to fight off infections and colds. Stress can also affect your relationships with other people and compromise your ability to work.

The way a person manages his/her stress can make a huge difference in his/her emotional state, physical health and relationships with others.

Stress Relief Strategies

Because everyone’s stressors are different and people react differently to them, no one particular stress relief strategy is right for everyone. It’s important to try a few and see which works and which doesn’t, and keep trying until you find the right activity or combination of activities.

The first step in any stress relief strategy, however, is the decision to change how you deal with stress. This is crucial.

Perhaps you’ve never managed stress well. Perhaps your previous stress relief practices haven’t been as effective. Perhaps there is a new stressor in your life that just doesn’t allow the time you once had for your favorite stress relief activities (ie: new baby). Whatever your situation, recognize that you need to do something -- that is the first step.

Second, identify your stress triggers. Some people get stressed watching or listening to the news. For others tests or meetings are stressors. Since many stress triggers are unavoidable we must learn what our bodies and minds need to relax and prevent long-term damage to our body’s systems and organs.

Stress relief activities can include: prayer/meditation, listening or participating in music, playing or watching sports, exercise, social gatherings with friends, and a personal “time-out”.

Stress Relief in Three Minutes

Many of us are on the go and don’t always have time for a prolonged stress relief regimen, but many of us can find three to five minutes somewhere during our day. In fact, I would go so far as to recommend scheduling a three to five minute break before any activity (make it part of your routine) so you’re relaxed and prepared for any situation.

This controlled-breathing exercise is suggested by Medicinenet.com:

1) Sit upright in a comfortable position.

2) Focus on your present state of mind. Block out intrusive thoughts. Many people find it helpful to close their eyes to block out distractions around them.

3) Focus on your breathing as you breathe in through your nose for several seconds.

4) Exhale through the mouth, aim to make exhale longer than you inhaled.

5) Repeat for three to five minutes.


Stress Relief. Mayo Clinic. Web. Dec 26, 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-management/MY00435/DSECTION=stress-relief

Stress Management – Ways to Relieve Stress. WebMD. Web. Dec 26, 2011. http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-relieving-stress

“Three Minutes to Stress Relief!” by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD. MedicineNet.com. Web. Dec 26, 2011. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=46922

Reviewed December 28, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Great piece. Really enjoyed the part about identifying the stress triggers. Thanks Darlene.

January 8, 2012 - 10:38pm
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

Thank you and you're welcome!

January 9, 2012 - 7:11am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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