Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Don't Compartmentalize Your Stress Relief

When I began my wellness coaching and consulting practice, I was surprised how frequently I had requests for stress management training. It continues to be a major issue for people, and I think our obsession with technology is not helping. If stress is an issue for you, keep in mind that compartmentalized stress relief such as the occasional weekend away is not effective with chronic stress. Within just a few hours of your return, it’s likely that you’ll find your stress level right where it was before your weekend jaunt. You’re best to focus on making small lifestyle changes such as these, instead.

• Take ten 10 minutes for relaxation and/or laughter daily – Take steps to physically relax. Go for a walk, play with your pet, or watch a few minutes of “I Love Lucy.” Light candles, play soft music, and soak in a hot tub. Consider various disciplines such as meditation, feng shui, and prayer, as these incorporate a variety of breathing techniques to alleviate distress and quiet the mind.

• Learn to say “no” – While we all have the same 24-hours in a day, some of us manage this resource more effectively than others. Learn to say “no” when appropriate and routinely ask yourself, “What is the best use of my time right now?”

• Incorporate exercise that involves consistent repetitive motion – Exercise that requires a fairly consistent repetitive motion can alter one's state of consciousness. Consider jogging, cross country skiing, swimming, hiking, and bicycling.

• Clear your clutter – Maintaining order in our environment can minimize the small, but continual stressors that clutter creates through wasted time, lost articles, broken objects, and physical hazards.

• Get it out – Develop a support system of family and friends with whom to share your problems and concerns. Use a journal to write down your frustrations and worries. Avoid rereading the journal if you find it reawakens the frustration and anger. If necessary, seek help from a therapist, counselor, or member of the clergy.

• Get to sleep – Most people need 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night. When we are regularly short of sleep, our ability to concentrate and our energy levels decline, reducing our effectiveness. We make more mistakes, become less proactive in our efforts, and end up in distress. Make getting enough sleep a priority. To sleep better, don’t eat or drink too much before bed and avoid late night activities that are mentally or physically stimulating. Stop listening or watching to news programs at least one hour before going to sleep. Finally, create a sleep-promoting environment that is quiet, dark, cool and comfortable.

• Learn to accept what is – This does not mean you can’t strive for better. It just means not to resist what has already happened. Say for example that you go out to the parking lot and find you have a flat tire. You could spend time and energy lamenting over the unfairness and inconvenience of the situation, or you could accept that the tire is flat and no amount of angst on your part will change that. Then you could direct your energy to adjusting your schedule and getting the tire repaired.

• Banish perfectionism – Richard Eyre (Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There) rewrote the cliché maxim – if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well – to read: “if a thing is just barely worth doing, then just barely do it.” Make your bed, but don’t obsess over it!

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