7 Smart Ways to Outsmart Stress

You’re likely familiar with the symptoms of stress — a pounding heart, increased perspiration, tight neck and shoulder muscles, anxiety and even fear. But you may not know how to prevent or relieve these symptoms. We’re here to help!

Stress can be triggered by events, ideas, memories, emotions or failed expectations. The holiday season is especially fraught with challenges to remaining cool, calm and collected. Gift buying, entertaining, baking and sending out holiday cards are among the many extra tasks we try to squeeze in during the month of December, leaving us feeling anxious, tired and anything but joyful.

“Sometimes, we have no control over the events that cause us stress, but other times it’s a long list of little things that add up and make us feel overwhelmed,” said Beth Ryan, regional clinical director at New Directions, a company that provides behavioral health services for many Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members. “Accomplishing small tasks to take care of ourselves, like going for brisk walk, getting involved in a favorite hobby or talking to a trusted friend can make tackling our responsibilities seem less scary.”

Here are seven ways to counteract the negative effects of stress:

  • Exercise. A regular workout can release pent-up frustrations. Experts recommend getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Choose any aerobic activity: walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, stair climbing or step aerobics.
  • Keep communicating. One of the best ways to fight stress is to discuss your problems with a friend or relative or write in a journal. Our immune systems get a boost when our feelings are released. It may even lead to a solution to your problem.
  • Pay attention to your diet and habits. A diet of wholesome, healthful foods can help stabilize your moods. Consuming caffeine, sugar, alcohol, nicotine and prescription or illegal drugs can increase your stress, making coping more difficult.
  • Make time for laughter and fun. Surround yourself with happy people who like to laugh. Let the child in you come out. You’ll find that laughter and play are among the best stress remedies.
  • Immerse yourself in a favorite activity or hobby. Give yourself a block of time to focus on a task or activity instead of on the problems in your life. Gardening, carpentry, sewing, working with clay, painting and drawing are just a few of the choices available to you.
  • Use a variety of relaxation techniques. Deep-breathing exercises, progressive relaxation, visualization, creative imagery, yoga, meditation or listening to relaxation tapes can help you to cope.
  • Live in the present. Many causes of your stress probably come from thinking about the past or worrying about the future. If you can plant yourself firmly in the present, you can leave worries behind and focus on enjoying the present moment.

Whatever your source (or sources) of stress are, it’s good to know there are steps you can take to relieve it, rather than just reacting negatively to it.

How do you plan to de-stress this month?

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Sources: New Directions and The StayWell Company, LLC

 Photo credit: Jupiter Images

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