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Tips for Reducing Stress in Your Life

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Set Realistic Goals | Set Aside Time to Meditate | Picture This | Slow Down | Be Active | Get Involved in Hobbies | Practice a Healthy Lifestyle | Open Up | Learn to Be More Flexible | Let Go of Perfection

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Stress—we have all felt it at one time or another. But, many people feel stress often. Some even feel it as a part of their daily lives. Stress can contribute to numerous conditions, like heart disease, stroke, immune disorders, gastrointestinal problems, eating problems, sleep disturbances, and sexual problems. Learning to reduce your stress can help you live happier, healthier, and maybe even longer.

The organization Mental Health America offers the following tips for reducing or controlling stress:

Set Realistic Goals

Do not take on everything; learn to say no. Set realistic goals for yourself. If you are feeling overwhelmed, try eliminating an activity that is not absolutely necessary. Ask yourself, "What really needs to be done? Is the deadline realistic?" No one is perfect, so do not expect perfection from yourself or others. And ask for help if you need it.

Set Aside Time to Meditate

It only takes about 10-20 minutes to get a benefit from meditating. These few moments of quiet reflection may bring relief from stress as well as increase your tolerance to it. And it is simple to do: sit quietly, listen to peaceful music, relax, and try and think of pleasant things or clear your mind of all thoughts.

Picture This

Take a moment to picture how you can manage an upcoming stressor. This can work with just about anything, whether it is an important meeting at work, a big move, or a final exam. Going through the challenge in your mind can help you to feel more confident.

Slow Down

When you start to feel overwhelmed, try taking one task at a time. Make a list of things you need to do, and prioritize these list items. Once you have tackled something, mark it off your list. This can bring about feelings of accomplishment and confidence.

Be Active

Regular exercise is a great way to reduce stress, and it benefits both the body and the mind.

Get Involved in Hobbies

What do you love to do? By setting aside time for your favorite hobby, you will remove yourself from life's stressors. Whether it is trying out a new recipe, planting in your garden, or playing pool, you will be giving your brain a welcome break.

Practice a Healthy Lifestyle

Having a healthier diet will help give your body and brain the energy that it needs to face the day. If you need guidelines on changing your diet, visit the website ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Avoiding things like smoking, excessive alcohol, and excessive caffeine will also help you to be healthier.

Open Up

Talking about things can help you feel better. A conversation with someone can help you relax. And listening to someone else can take the focus off of yourself—something we all need to do every now and then. Stay in touch with your family and friends.

If you feel that you need more help in dealing with a difficult situation, there are therapists and support groups available. Your doctor may be able to recommend someone.

Learn to Be More Flexible

You do not always have to be right. By being flexible when issues come up, it will be easier to find the middle ground. If you feel strongly that you have the best solution, discuss your point of view in a respectful way, and take the time to listen to other people's perspectives.

Let Go of Perfection

When you expect too much from yourself or others, you may end up feeling frustrated, let down, and disappointed. Remember that each person, including yourself, has shortcomings. But, you also have beautiful qualities to share with the world.

RESOURCES

Mental Health America

http://www.nmha.org/

National Institute of Mental Health

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Mental Health Association

http://www.ontario.cmha.ca/index.asp

References:

How much physical activity do adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html. Updated March 2010. Accessed April 13, 2010.

Risk factors for stroke. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated December 2009. Accessed April 13, 2010.

Stress—coping with everyday problems. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.nmha.org/infoctr/factsheets/41.cfm. Accessed April 12, 2012.

Stress and your health. Women's Health.gov website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/stress.htm. Updated August 2005. Accessed June 16, 2008.

Last reviewed May 2012 by Peter J. Lucas, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.