How to Manage Your Stress

Provided by Making Life Better™

Stress is an inevitable by-product of your fast-paced life. Stress generates hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can cause heart rate and blood pressure to rise. The effects of stress can range from the merely annoying to the life-threatening, including increased muscle tension, insomnia, digestive problems, headache, irritability and suppressed immune response. But here's the good news: You can manage it.

Ready, set — pace yourself.

Generally speaking, you can reduce stress, increase stamina and get a lot more done if you make an honest assessment of your daily routine. Visualize your day as an athlete would visualize a race: See the hours ahead as a whole, rather than as a frazzling series of demands. That way, you can create a game plan for prioritizing, combining, postponing or even eliminating tasks.

Delegate and designate.

Create a weekly household "chore chart" for your family to avoid confusion and arguments. Spread everyone's chores throughout the week to avoid a weekend pile-up.

Make technology your friend.

Your computer is ready and willing to help you cut down on errands. Pay credit-card and utility bills online to save time, gas and stamps. Use grocery websites to have food staples delivered to your door. Buy gifts online and have them sent gift-wrapped.

Get your Z's.

Is sleep productive? Believe it. Shortchange yourself of the eight hours of sleep you need, and your memory, mental focus, driving safety — your health itself — could be in jeopardy. Need more shut-eye? Take half of your before-bed TV hour and give it back to sleep.

Keep an appointment with yourself.

Whether it's a self-manicure, a walk, or a long soak in the tub with some favorite sweet-smelling salts and soaps, reserve some quality time for yourself. Write "the appointment" in your calendar, and respect it as you would a work commitment.

Be body-wise.

Stress can disguise itself as feeling "low" or a stiff neck or any of dozens of other symptoms. Learn to read yourself for telltale signs, then try these quick remedies:

  • Breathe: Inhale a deep eight-count breath through your nose. Breathe out even more slowly through pursed lips. Repeat 10 times.
  • Tense and release: Select a muscle group — like your feet and lower legs, for example. Tense those muscles as tightly as you can, then gradually release. Repeat with each group of muscles in your body.
  • Try yoga: Sign up for a lunchtime class at your local gym or yoga studio. The midday break will help relieve stress and make your afternoon more productive.

Make a date with your spouse.

Set that perfect time with your spouse — don't wait for it. Create a babysitting co-op to have nights off you can count on. Take a six-week course together, and prebook a sitter for those nights.

Harness the power of scent.

Aromatherapy is not new; it has been used for thousands of years to influence the brain. So, invoke the power of scent to fight stress, spur stamina, lighten a mood or chase one. Peppermint, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon are energizing scents that help fight fatigue and boost energy. Tension-taming scents that soothe and relax include honeysuckle, myrrh, patchouli and lavender.

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