Smart Ways to Gain the Upper Hand with Stress
By Sandy Schroeder
When we think of stress, it usually triggers negative images, but stress actually comes in three flavors, positive, moderate, or extreme, according to Natalie Sisson, author of Mind Your Mindfulness.
Positive stress – Risk or adventure appears when you start a new business, get engaged, or host an important party. Whatever is happening, it’s all good and pretty exciting.
Moderate stress – Something negative happens, such as losing a pet, gaining weight, or incurring unexpected expenses. Life goes on, as you use your resources to level out the situation.
Extreme stress – Something happens that is so overwhelming you have trouble accepting or coping with it. The sudden loss of a loved one, a devastating financial crisis, or a serious illness can turn everything upside down, creating mental or physical issues.
Most of us are familiar with the “fight or flee” stress response, but Sisson suggests a “rest and digest” counter-response, in which the nervous system relaxes, providing a better balance.
How it Works
Start by figuring out what relaxes you. You may like hanging out with friends, curling up with a book, biking, hiking, cooking, gardening, or puttering in the garage. Whatever works, use your favorites as a refuge when stress shows up.
Then take more steps to reduce stress.
Take a mind/body break – Use meditation in any of its many forms to ease stress. Consider deep abdominal breathing, mindfulness meditation, or moving meditations such as long walks or tai chi classes.
Step away from tension – Use your favorite fitness routines to let go of stress. When the pressure mounts at home or work, head out for a run or a brisk walk. Or try the mind/body focus of yoga. I found a weekly yoga class could erase a week’s worth of tension when I was caught in a demanding project.
Connect with your favorite people – Reach out to friends, family, co-workers, and mentors. Make the time to sit and talk, as you absorb support and regain your perspective in the face of stress. Make the effort to stay in touch with your circle of people, lending a hand when needed, and knowing they will be there when you need help.
Pause to be grateful – After a long day, when stress seems determined to hang around, pause and ask yourself what you are grateful for. Focusing on blessings can shift the emphasis from negative to positive, and the current stress situation may seem less imposing.
Wherever you are with stress, keep looking for ways to let it go, and enjoy the peace when it works.
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