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Have you ever said that you've had enough of stress, that you will react differently next time, that you hate it when you lose it? We've probably all felt that we've handled stress badly at one time or another. We hate the feeling of snapping at loved ones, being impatient with other drivers, or just plain over reacting and feeling embarrassed afterwards.
So how can you help yourself make a genuine and lasting change with how you deal with stress? These five quick tips might help...
1. Give Yourself a Break
You can't expect yourself to handle stress well if you constantly feel overloaded. No matter how busy you are you can find five minutes a day to sit quietly and unwind a little. You could try a simple tension relief exercise, take a quick brisk walk, or play a song that makes you feel happy and take some deep breaths as you listen.
The point is to lower you stress threshold. If you don't do something to discharge stress it will build and cause you to blow. By taking five minutes here and there you can protect yourself and bring your threshold down from red alert. Not only will you feel better emotionally, but you will help your health too.
2. Pause to Find a Higher Perspective
Stress comes from your mind, where all incoming information from your senses is gathered. Your perception of these incoming events is where you get the chance to choose your response. But if you're right there in your mind all stirred up with a swirling array of thoughts and impressions you can easily get overwhelmed and react without thinking.
So take a step back, and allow your higher reasoning - your intelligence - to look at events for you. To give your intelligence room to think you need to buy a little time. Here's one easy way to do that:
Next time you feel yourself starting to build up to a stressful outpouring stop and take a deep breath. Just one really deep breath. Then when you breath out make your out breath as long as you can. In that second's pause to take a deep breath you get the space to stop an automatic hot response. And as you take your long breath out you have the chance to ask your intelligence: "How can I handle this well?"
It's Ok if you don't remember to try this every time you feel stressed at first, but with practice you can learn to make this a natural response. Just keep reminding yourself to pause and breath and you will soon find yourself doing it automatically.
3. Stop and Smile
Some stress masters set up mental prompts to consciously de-stress several times a day. For example, every time they stop at a red light, every time they go to answer the phone, the door, greet someone, take a sip of tea. It's easy to set up little cues for yourself during the day to take a deep breath, drop your shoulders and remind yourself to relax. If you can smile too you will relax even deeper. Smiling when you don't feel smiley can seem a bit odd, but it isn't really. Just move your mouth into the rough shape of a smile and the rest of you will get the idea to stand down and relax.
4. Better Sleep, Less Stimulants
If you're not getting enough sleep, or sleeping soundly, you will not cope with stress as well as someone who's well rested. Tiredness causes us to make more mistakes, can make us irritable too.
To improve your sleep set a sensible bed time and stick to it. Routine helps reduce stress and settling down to sleep in good time every night is a self respecting habit. Turn off your computer and resist the temptation to work or check mails for at least an hour before going to bed, otherwise you'll stimulate your mind and have thoughts of work with you when you eventually get off to sleep.
Instead, settle down and relax in a warm bath with some lavender oil, or sip a cup of hot milk with a pinch of nutmeg. You could massage some oil into the soles of your feet, or do some gentle stretches, or try a guided meditation to put yourself in a relaxed mood.
As for stimulants, alcohol may make you feel sleepy for a while, but later it will wake you up and disturb your sleep and caffeine found in coffee or energy drinks can leave you feeling wired and jittery hours after drinking them.
5. Keep a Calm Log
Keep a little notebook with you and make a note of your progress. List some points from this article, along with any other stress tips that you find helpful and give yourself a tick every time you remember to try one.
At the end of each day note down a quick review. Did you remember to take five minutes to relax? Did you take some mini breaks and remember to breathe and smile?
If you had a tough day, don't be hard on yourself but rather note down what you can learn from the experience to take with you for future improvements. Slip ups are fine so long as we learn from them and keeping a log will help you do that.
In summary: take time out to lower your threshold, remind yourself to breath and smile several times a day, learn to let your higher intelligence handle your responses for you, look after yourself by improving your sleep, and keep a calm log to record your successes and help you stay focused.
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