Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How To Lower Your Stress

The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)I recently realized that stress was affecting me after I came down with shingles. This is a condition that usually affects people who are over 50. It does occur in younger people, but usually only if something is compromising the immune system. Since I am in my 30s I attributed it to stress.

At first I thought that I wasn't stressed, not anymore than usual anyway, but the more I looked at my life the more I realized that I simply live with a level of stress all the time and it isn't healthy.

Many people don't realize that their stress levels are unhealthy.

Some people get stressed more easily than others due to past experiences or genetics or personality. I am certainly one of those people that gets stressed easily, so that is why I looked into this subject.

There are many good ideas in the book, " The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook" by Marth Davis, Elizabeth R. Eshelman and Matthew McKay. Stress comes when an event seems dangerous, difficult or painful and you don't feel you have the resources to cope with it.

Among other things; the book suggests lying on your back (you can bend your knees up if you need to) and take deep breaths through your nose, ensuring that you are breathing from your diaphragm and not your chest only. Lie there thinking words like "in" and "calm". This is getting the oxygen you need to your brain. Lie there for 20 minutes or so.

I also found that there are many good "exercise" DVD's that incorporate relaxation, breathing and stretching with calming music and scenery which can be helpful.

Recently I told my husband that periodically I get a headache and then I realize it is because I am not breathing. Breath-holding is a sign of stress. Shallow- chest breathing is also a sign of stress.

Pay attention to how you are breathing all the time. Pay attention to how you are feeling- the sensations in your body. Let go of tension by stretching or tightening and releasing every area of your body (arms/hands, neck, face, stomach, legs and feet).

Focus your thoughts on a beautiful picture in your mind such as a field of flowers, a sunset or walking with your child-self or a person you trust on top of a glistening lake. Don't let your mind think on anything disturbing. Look at yourself with compassion. Don't judge any event that has happened or will happen. Just be in the present moment without judgement of yourself or others.

Prayer is also a very good help for stress and can build faith in a loving God in the Universe, however you interpret that God to be. It can put you in touch with a spiritual power. As you breathe, imagine that power flowing through you to sustain you and build you up. Let God's love fill you.

The book states that, "Even the strongest emotion will become manageable if you concentrate on the sensations in your body and not the content of the negative thoughts that produced the emotion."

Chronic stress can lead to disease, so it is important to alleviate it. Sometimes this means simplifying your life and getting your needs met (see the post before this one). Learning to say no to people and taking time for yourself can help you get back on track. Also, thinking about why you are stressed at particular moments and calming yourself down as you go throughout the day can help.

Find solutions to situations that bring stress. Problem solving, instead of giving up can be empowering. Brainstorming some ideas that could help lower your stress can be helpful. Sometimes talking with a friend or counselor can help.

This is just the tip of the iceberg on the ideas in the book and some of my own ideas. If you are having a serious stress problem, check it out.


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