Stress Management Tools
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7 Stress Management Skills that can be practiced at any age:
1. Breathe Deeply and Slowly: One of the first things that happens when we are stressed is that our breathing becomes more rapid. Deep breathing from our diaphragm is a signal to the body to slow down and helps to invoke the relaxation response. Over time many adults adapt a habit of breathing shallow breaths from their chest. Bringing conscious attention to your breathing and noticing whether you are breathing fast or slow, shallow or deep and from your chest or your diaphragm is the beginning of stress management. For diaphragmatic breathing, your stomach should inflate when you breathe in and when you breathe out your stomach pulls in toward your back.
2. Practice an Attitude of Gratitude: Gratitude can turn any external circumstance or event into a secondary matter. When we focus on what we have to be grateful for it helps us shift perspective on the things that are causing stress in our lives. It can also help us to connect with a larger meaning that extends beyond our current circumstances.
3. Focus your thoughts on what you can influence: Spending time thinking about matters outside of our control can be an instant stressor. First, determine whether you can change the thing that is causing you stress. For example, if you are retired and having a difficult time adjusting to life without the structure of work, you can create a routine for yourself that fits your life now. Even if we can’t change the situation, person or event that is happening in our lives, we can, with practice influence how we think about the stressor. None of us can change the fact that we are aging, but we can focus on the rewards of growing older and the unique gifts of this time in our lives. Our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are connected and when we change the way we think about something, our feelings about it and our behaviors often change too.
4. Feel your feelings: Feelings are friendly even though they may be uncomfortable. They give us information about how we are doing, how we are impacted by people and events and what is important to us. It can be tempting to avoid feelings if they are uncomfortable or painful. Feelings of loss, sadness, anger, anxiety can feel unwelcome. Stored feelings can cause a chronic stress reaction. Find a way to feel your feelings – journal, talk to someone you trust, cry, create art, do something physical. Express your feelings.
5. Move your Body: Our physical body is designed to move. Movement flushes stress related hormones out of our body and promotes healthy physiological reactions. Ten minutes a day of physical activity or exercise has been shown to lower blood pressure, body mass index and improve overall health. The sooner that you get up and move after you feel stress, the better. It is like cleaning up a spill as soon as it hits the carpet.
6. Let Go and Let God: Things in life happen that are outside our control. Acknowledging that we can’t control everything and finding meaning and purpose beyond ourselves can alleviate stress. Whatever spiritual or religious beliefs, practices and traditions you have, a connection with your spiritual life is good for your health. In addition to the wisdom of the ages, there is now a substantial amount of research that supports the health benefits of spirituality.
7. Laugh: We’ve heard that laughter is the best medicine and it does in fact, help us to relieve stress. Laughter helps us find delight, experience joy and release tension. The first documented case of humor positively affecting disease was in 1964 when Norman Cousins, published “Anatomy of an Illness”. Humor allows us to shift perspective about a situation, expresses emotions and increases respiration and circulation. Tell a joke or read a joke, watch a funny TV show, see the humor in your situation.
Links to Other Great Resources
The following links provide online mental health care information.
Addiction and Recovery
Alcoholics Anonymous Recovery Resources
Answers to Your Questions About Panic Disorder
National Center for PTSD
Obsessive Compulsive Information Center
Associations & Institutes
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
American Counseling Association
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADDA - Attention Deficit Disorder Association
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, NIH
Born to Explore: The Other Side of ADD/ADHD
Child Abuse and Domestic Violence
SAMHSA's Children and Families
SAMHSA's Protection and Advocacy
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Bipolar Disorder News - Pendulum.org
Depression and How Therapy Can Help
Pervasive Developmental Disorders
American Dietetic Association
Mental Help Net - Personality Disorders
Personality Disorders - Focus Adolescent Counselor Services
National Stepfamily Resource Center
Suicide Awareness and Hotlines
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
Suicide: Read This First