Learn how to manage the stress in your life

Margaret Brackett - Contributing Columnist

We are in the age of materialism with the two-career couples working and bringing up children. More single parents exist than ever before. Change is constantly swirling around us — at work, home and in society. Cities are bigger, faster and more unsafe. And it seems stress is here to stay — in a big way. People are expected to do more, with less, in less time.

This week’s NOTES will begin with a question: What is stress?

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand — be it physical, mental or emotional. Stress has both positive and negative implications. We need to observe our bodies and know when the level of stress has gone too far and respond.

Distress is a negative stress response. It occurs when stress continues without relief. Distress disturbs the body’s internal balance causing physical and emotional symptoms: headache, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, insomnia, depression, panic attack and anxiety.

Successful stress management starts with identifying the problem, recognizing when your stress is too much, and taking time to rejuvenate. Unless you are clear about what exactly makes you nervous, about what makes you feel discomfort, you will never manage distress in our life. You will treat only the symptoms and not the causes.

Distress tolerance techniques

Imagery: Imagine relaxing scenes or other things that please you.

Meaning: Find some purpose in what you are feeling Prayer and meditation. Spiritual practices have healing benefits

Relaxation: Relax muscles, breathe deeply Focus your attention on what you are doing now. Keep yourself in the present Take a break from it all for a short period of time

Encouragement: Tell yourself you can make it through this.

Distract from unpleasant emotions

Activities: Use positive activities that you enjoy.

Contribute: Help others or your community

Comparisons: Compare yourself to other people that are less fortunate.

Emotions: Provoke your sense of humor with corresponding happy activities.

Thoughts: Think about something else. Laughter eases stress.

Self-soothe with the senses

Smell can change your thought patterns and it will also change your emotions. Smell is the only sense that goes straight to your cerebral cortex.

Add smell to your life: Place a few drops of oil on a cloth or handkerchief and put it in your top shirt pocket to get constant aroma throughout the day. Use candles. Walk outdoors. Suggested aromatherapy includes bergamot for a good night’s sleeps, sage and sandalwood for help with grief, frankincense and rose for relaxation, lavender to revive yourself and rosemary and peppermint for memory.

Your skin is your largest organ. In a grown man, it covers about 19 feet. Touch can reduce stress by releasing serotonin and oxytocin in the body. Touch can help with communication. It produces a series of neutral, glandular, muscular and mental changes that we interpret as emotion.

Touch provides reassurance and comfort and aids in the development of self-identity and self-esteem. Add touch to your life with hugs, handshakes, clothing, animals, blankets, rocks and hot showers.

Hearing different types of music may significantly affect blood cortisol levels. Cortisol and adrenaline are two “stress” hormones. Add soothing sounds to your life with music, nature sounds (rain, birds, leaves rustling) or listen to tapes of nature sounds. Sing your favorite songs or learn to play an instrument.

Increase your exposure to scenes that create peaceful feelings through books, photos and television.

Ten tips to de-stress

1. Make time to relax

2. Keep a normal routine

3. Eat a healthy diet

4. Exercise regularly

5. Think positively

6. Participate in things you enjoy

7. Laugh

8. Journal

9. Get plenty of sleep

10. Be flexible”

Information compiled from Information for a Healthier Life — Mayo Clinic Health Letter


Margaret Brackett

Contributing Columnist

Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.

Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.