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Learn To Manage Stress
Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD

Stress is something we cannot see, hear or touch. But everyone is affected by it; it's a natural part of life. Sometimes parts of our lives can become too stressful and can make us tense, cranky and tired.

Times of change are the hardest. Even happy changes, like a marriage of the birth of a new baby, can be stressful. If the change is painful, like losing your job or home, or the death of someone close, it can be hard to cope. Some kinds of stress, like war experiences, can last for years.

People react to stress in different ways. You may become moody, tense, or depressed. You may have problems with eating or sleeping, or aches and pains. Some people drink alcohol or smoke too much. Others try to cope by taking drugs and end up with a drug problem.

Get to know what is stressful in your life, and how it makes you feel. Ignoring stress can lead to bigger problems, even illness. Learn to manage your stress and to find ways to take better care of yourself.

Ways To Avoid Stress
Get enough rest and eat well. Make sure you are strong enough to deal with stressful situations.

Know how much you can handle. Make a list of what you need to do, then start with the most important one first. Plan to do one thing at a time.

Set aside some time every day that's just for you -- time to relax and have fun.

Cry. A good cry will get your emotions out and help you feel less tense.

Join a stress management class.

Ways To Handle Stress You Can't Avoid
Learn to recognize your signs of stress.

Get some physical exercise -- it will relax you and help ease tense feelings.

Write your feelings down or talk to someone you trust -- don't keep your emotions inside!

Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. You'll be calmer and can look at your problem more clearly.

Avoid using drugs or alcohol to relieve stress. They can be habit-forming and create more stress than they take away.

Ways To Help You Sleep
Do something that you find relaxing an hour before going to bed. You might read, listen to music or take a warm bath.

Sleep in a quiet dark room that is between 60-65 degrees.

Establish a regular sleeping schedule, but don't go to bed until you are sleepy. If you can't fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, get out of bed and return when you are sleepy.

If you suffer from chronic or severe insomnia, consult your doctor or a sleep disorders clinic.

Quick Relaxation Techniques -- Four Ways To Relax In 20 Minutes Or Less

Close your eyes and count backward from ten or twenty. Say each number quietly as you breathe out. Imagine you are going down a stairway or past the floors of a building in an elevator. When you reach zero and are ready to come back, breathe in and count to three.

With your eyes closed, picture a beautiful scene. It would be someplace you've been or somewhere in your imagination. Spend a few minutes thinking about and enjoying each detail of your picture. If you are near water, listen to the sound of the waves. Count the flowers and trees. See, hear and smell things.

The Turtle.
This is an exercise from yoga you can do almost anywhere. It will help relax your neck and back muscles. Sit up straight and let your chin drop slowly to your chest as you breathe out. Breathe in and move your head back slowly like you are trying to touch the back of your neck with your head. Then lift your shoulders up toward your ears and slowly release them.

Check In.
You can do this at your desk, on a break, or even waiting for the bus or at a red light. Close your eyes and breathe in slowly. Check in with every part of your body. Think about each muscle group -- in your face and neck, shoulders, arms, tummy, back, legs and feet. As you breathe out, relax all the muscles that are tense.

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First appeared March 7, 2010