There are a number of basic rules for keeping from getting wound too tight. The first is to add balance to your life. Make a special attempt to seek out leisure activities that are in a different field as compared to your work. Our bodies require variety and change. We have to shift gears, readjust our speeds, or our nervous system will keep racing right into the next day. An accountant or lawyer who spends his week in analytical, left brain pursuits might find relaxation in chopping wood, gardening, building a deck, or tinkering with a car engine. In fact, almost any white-collar worker would benefit from manual labor of some kind.
The second rule is to sweat it out once in a while. Regular aerobic workouts reduce stress more effectively than meditation, psychiatric intervention, biofeedback and conventional stress management. Exercise helps burn off all stress-related chemicals in your system. During a workout, your body releases mind-relaxing endorphins. Exercise strengthens your heart, further protecting you against the ravages of stress. Stress comes from within. Your attitude towards life has a lot to do with how stressful you feel. A 30-minute intense aerobic exercise immediately reduces body tension and does it more effectively, than moderate exercise such as walking. Weight lifting counters anxiety and depression and boosts self-esteem as well as or better than aerobic exercise.
The third requisite is that whatever you choose to do, it has to give you a feeling of relaxation. If someone tells you to do something that you find boring, it will actually add to your stress. Finally, you have to carve short breaks in your schedule. You need to put together a relaxation package, a set of techniques that will calm you down. Here are a few ideas which you can try:
- Plan your schedule: Realize that nearly everything will take longer than you anticipate. By allotting yourself enough time to accomplish a task, you cut back on anxiety. In general, if meeting deadlines is a problem, always give yourself 20% more time than you think you need to do the task.
- Don't be listless: So many projects, so little time. To beat stress, you have to learn to prioritize. At the start of each day, pick the single-most important task to complete, then
finish it. If you are a person who makes to-do lists, never exceed one with more than five items. In this way, you are more likely to get all the things done, and you will have a greater feeling of accomplishment and control. While at work, make a list of things that you can delegate to co-workers and family members. Remember, you need do everything by yourself. You can take help and support from people around you.
- Just say 'no': Sometimes you have to draw the line. Stressed-out people often cannot assert themselves and so they swallow things. Instead of saying "I do not want to do this" or "I need some help", they do it all themselves. Then they have even more to do. Give your boss a choice. Say, "I would really like to do this, but I cannot do without giving up something else." By doing this, you can manage your time, work and self more efficiently.
- Keep a bottle handy: Keep a bottle of water at your desk and drink often. When you are under stress, you sweat more, and then of course, there is bound to be dryness in the mouth. You will feel better if you hydrate your high anxiety.
- Kill the temper: You can blow off your emotions at a ball game and get some of the tension out of your system. Other places to let off steam — sports bars, pep rallies, political conventions. Places not to let off steam — church services, snow-capped cliffs, your father-in-law's house.
- Practice your snorkeling: If you really want to relax your muscles, soak in a hot tub for 15 minutes, just a few degrees warmer than your body temperature or about 100° F to 101° F. But be careful: Longer soaks in warm water can actually lower your blood pressure considerably.
- Get a grip: Keep a hand exerciser or a tennis ball in your desk at work and give it a few squeezes during tense moments. When stress shoots adrenaline into the blood
stream, that calls for muscle action. Squeezing something provides release that atisfies our body's fight-or-flee response.
- Serve others, live longer: Be a volunteer. Isolation magnifies your worries. Helping others will give you a sense of accomplishment and self-respect and remind you that relatively speaking; your own troubles do not amount to a hill of beans in the world. Self-sacrifice may help you live longer. A study found that the death rate was twice as high in men who did no volunteer work as in men who volunteered their time at least once a week.
- Sit up straight: A good upright posture improves breathing and increases blood flow to the brain. We often slouch when stressed, which restricts breathing and blood flow and can magnify feelings of helplessness.
- Pop a bubble: A study found that students were able to reduce their feelings of tension by popping two sheets of those plastic air capsules used in packaging.
- Trade in the Jag for a Hyundai: Living beyond your means can actually make you sick. Families that tried to maintain lifestyles they could not afford are more likely to have health problems.
- Hold your breath: This technique should help you relax in 30 seconds. Take a deep breath and keep it in. Holding palm-to-palm, press your fingers together. Wait for 5 seconds, then slowly exhale through your mouth while letting your hands relax. Do this five or six times until you unwind.
- Take a ten-minute holiday: Meditation is a great stress reliever, but sometimes it is hard to find the time or place. Just close your eyes, breathe deeply (from your stomach) and picture yourself lying on a beach. Just try and draw a line between yourself and your stress. A few minutes each day can be of great help.
- Smell the apples: Keeping a green apple on your desk may calm your nerves. A study found that men doing mathematical problems under time pressure were less stressed if they were exposed to the scent of green apples. There is evidence that the scent of vanilla may also induce relaxation in men.
- Keep it down: If you work or live or play in a high noisy area, consider wearing earplugs. Make sure the ones you buy reduces sound by at least 20 decibels. You can also use sounds to your advantage.
Try listening to gentle music, with flutes or other soft sounding instruments. Taking walks in quiet places and listening to the rustling of leaves and to babbling of streams also helps in reducing stress.
- Dare to be dull: Join the International Dull Men's Club. "We are regular guys who are not hyper, self-absorbed or pushy" said its President Joe Troise. When you can say "It is okay to be dull," it takes off a lot of pressure of life.
- Tune out — have a potato: If you want to unwind at the end of the day, eat a meal high in carbohydrates. They trigger the release of the brain neurotransmitters serotinin, which soothes you. Foods rich in carbohydrates include rice, pastas, potatoes, bread, popcorn and low calorie cookies. Just 1.5 ounces of carbohydrates is enough to relieve the anxiety of a stressful day.
- Try some fibre: Stress often goes straight to the gut, which may lead to cramps and constipation. Eat more fibre to keep your digestive tract moving, at least 25 grams per day. Eat more fruits, vegetables and grains. Try eating whole fruits instead of fruit juice at breakfast time, and try wholegrain cereals and fibre-fortified muffins.
- Tune in — have tuna: It is of no help unwinding if you feel sluggish and unalert. A high protein lunch of lean meat, fish or poultry to prevent the afternoon blahs.
Protein is loaded with tyrosine, an amino acid that has been shown to boost mental performance in the face of stress.
- Quit the bowling league: Reflect on your life. Are you working too much? Are you doing too much? Prune your activity branches. Decide what gives you the most
pleasure, and only work on those lines.