Living with Stress - Ten ways to get a handle on stress

Exercise is a key method of working off stress and tension. But there are many other useful approaches to managing these problems. Ten ways to cope are:

1. “Blow off steam!” When angry or upset, or when feeling any kind of stress or tension, it's wise to engage in some kind of physical activity. You can garden, jog, play tennis, lift weights, or walk. Virtually any kind of physical activity provides an outlet for the “fight” impulse—as contrasted with a “flight” urge—thus relieving mental or emotional stress.

2. Talk it out: Is there someone in your life whom you trust and respect? That person may be the one to sit down and “talk it out” with. The person need not be close; it could be a clergyman, a physician, a teacher, a counselor. Professional listeners like psychologists and guidance counselors may be the answer.

3. Accept what you cannot change: Many problems lie beyond our powers of control. These the individual has to accept—at least until they can be changed. Why spin your wheels? Why beat your head against a brick wall? Even a padded brick wall?

4. Avoid self-medication: The person who treats himself or herself with medications in hopes of relieving the distress of stress may have a fool for a patient. Many agents and chemicals, including alcohol, may seem to alleviate stress, but they do not help you to adjust to the stress itself. Also, many such substances are habit-forming and should not be taken without a doctor's prescription or approval.

5. Get enough sleep and rest: Lack of sleep and rest can reduce your ability to deal with the stress that invades every life at one time or another. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep in every 24-hour day. If stress interferes with sleep, a physician should be consulted.

6. Balance work and recreation: “All work and no play can make you the richest man in the graveyard.” On the way there, you may become a nervous wreck. Because the mind needs recreation just as the body does, you should include some time off in your schedule. Loafing may do it if no other kind of recreation is possible.

7. Help someone: Doing things for others provides a genuine stress reducer. In many cases stress involves overconcentration on oneself and one's problems. Doing something for someone else helps you to get your mind off your problems as it gets your mind off yourself—and you may win a new friend.

8. Take one thing at a time: Tackling a dozen tasks at once usually means that none of them will get done right. If you can, line them up either in writing or in your mind and take one at a time.

9. Give in now and then: A common source of the stress experienced by many people is other people. One possible solution is to give in now and then; try to relax and enjoy your own defeat or change of mind. Stress may fly out the window.

10. Make yourself available: Does stress hit you when you are feeling bored, left out of life, mired in the slow track? The answer may be to go where the action is. Make yourself available to those who may be able to involve you in an interesting way—in life, in activities, in cultural programs, in whatever you find exciting or important. To withdraw with your stress and feel sorry for yourself is the worst response.

Stress and tension are normal parts of life. But many persons can combat and even eliminate them through regular exercise. Although the program that the fitness novice draws up will generally be geared to the achievement of other goals, elimination of stress should be a by-product of the exercises.

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