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De-Stressing Your Life

by Julie Fischer, MSE, Licensed Professional Counselor
STRESS

-- one word that we all have in common. No matter what your sources of stress may be, it's important to take some time to first recognize the impact of stress in your life, and then begin to implement some healthy relaxation practices into your life.

RECOGNIZING STRESS --- WHAT IS IT?!
  • a personal response to the demands life makes on your body, mind, feelings and spirit
  • can be positive or negative, but is a normal part of life
  • affects our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health
PHYSICAL PROBLEMS

Failing to cope with stress increases your chances of becoming ill (75% to 95% of illness is stress related). The energy and enzymes normally used by the immune system to protect the body against infection are being diverted to deal with stress. Some physical manifestations of stress are:

Immediate reactions Intermediate reactions Long-term effects
-increased heart rate -headaches/migraines -heart disease
-sweaty palms -backaches -high blood pressure
-shallow breathing -hives/rashes -depression
-muscle tenseness -fatigue -ulcers and insomnia
-increased blood pressure -indigestion/diarrhea -chronic fatigue

MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS

Failing to cope with stress can affect our thoughts and feelings on a daily basis in the following ways:

-excessive worry or fear -inability to concentrate -agitation
-feeling "on edge" -hopelessness/depression -anger/lashing out

SPIRITUAL PROBLEMS

Failing to cope with stress can impact our very spirit, affecting the essence of who we are and who we want to become. We may begin to feel:

-empty -disharmony between our beliefs and daily life practices
-"lost" -engaged in a "hopeless" search for meaning

The common tendency is to treat the symptoms, but not the real problem, which is the source of the stress! Taking the time to reveal, feel and heal the source(s) of the stress is one of the single best strategies toward complete health and wellness. A Professionally Trained Counselor is often the key to guiding you through this important process.

HEALTHY RELAXATION PRACTICES TO COPE WITH STRESS
Deep Breathing

One of the body's automatic reactions to stress is rapid, shallow breathing. Breathing slowly and deeply is one of the ways you can "turn off" your stress reaction and "turn on" your relaxation response. Best of all, it can be done anytime, anywhere in as little as five minutes!

Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Become aware of your breathing. Place your hand on your abdomen. Without forcing, let your abdomen rise and expand as you inhale, and fall as you exhale. Gradually allow your breathing to become deeper and slower, and enjoy increasing relaxation with each exhalation.

Exercise

According to Kansas State University physical education and leisure studies professor Karla Kubitz, exercise can help people cope better with stress. In her study, she found that people who exercise regularly recover faster from psychological stress and their bodies are more efficient in responding to stress. So choose an activity and get moving!

Clear Your Mind

Clearing your mind helps you take a mental and physical break from the "outside world" and helps balance the stress of everyday life. This practice also forms the basis for other relaxation techniques such as meditation and requires only 5-10 minutes of your time.

  1. Reduce distractions, noise and interruptions as much as possible.
  2. Sit or lie down comfortably, loosen tight clothing, kick off your shoes and begin to do some deep breathing as described above.
  3. Mentally focus on one peaceful word, thought or image. If other thoughts enter (they probably will) don't be discouraged. Simply acknowledge these thoughts and release them, continuing to breathe deeply and relax.
  4. Stretch and exhale as you complete this exercise. With practice, clearing your mind can help you feel refreshed, energetic and ready to tackle the next challenge!
Communicate and Express Your Feelings

Talking to others who care enough to listen is important in reducing stress. Sharing your thoughts, feelings, goals, frustrations, joys and successes with people who listen validates and affirms your sense of worth.

Communication also means listening...your partner, family, children and friends experience stress when they're not listened to. Both talking and listening to others helps you build a support system.

Another important concept is to allow yourself to feel and express your emotions alone or with a supportive person. Children release emotions naturally and immediately, and each of us is born with the innate ability to do this. But our culture teaches us early on the need to suppress and control our emotions. Only after you are able to access and express emotions that have been "stuffed" or "controlled" can true inner healing begin.




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