Your misplaced wallet. A dead car battery. It’s easy to encounter situations that can make you feel stressed. But it’s just as easy to arm yourself with approaches that can help you relieve stress without getting your stomach twisted in knots or losing sleep.
What can you do to feel better? Try these techniques to keep your stress levels under control.
Change your attitude
Say you’re about to run your first half-marathon and your stomach is in knots. The goal is to switch your “Oh, no!” thinking to “Bring it on!” bravado. Easier said than done, but know this: Short stints of stress can actually help with performance. Blood pressure rises and digestion of food slows, allowing your body to summon the energy to combat the anxiety-inducing situation. If changing your mind-set isn’t working, try this: Decide it’s OK to feel anxious as you face a challenge head-on. One recent study found that people who learned to identify and acknowledge stressful thoughts and think them through showed notable improvements in their inner calm.
Find your Zen zone
Have a big presentation to make? Try this before venturing into the conference room: “Close your eyes. In a quiet area, settle into a comfortable position. Relax every muscle, starting with your toes and moving upward,” says Evangeline Lausier, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Duke Integrative Medicine in North Carolina. “Focus on your breathing. With every inhale, sink deeper into your body. As you exhale, imagine tension leaving your muscles.” Feel better? That’s because you’ve just performed a meditative exercise that helps you become aware of where your body is holding stress, so you can physically let go of your worries.
Get a rubdown
Want to feel better? Book yourself a massage. When stressed-out ER nurses received twice-weekly chair massages, their tension levels dropped significantly, according to researchers at Griffith University in Australia.
The endorphins released during workouts can make you feel great. Volunteers who signed up for a three-month stress-management course that included hour-long workouts of walking, jogging and dancing not only lowered their cardiovascular-disease risk but also eased their anxiety and depression.
Adopt an animal friend
Recent studies have found that people with pets have lower blood pressure than the rest of the population. One explanation: pets provide constant companionship and unconditional affection.
Confide in your journal
Writing about a traumatic event — and what you plan to do about it — can reduce levels of anxiety, according to researchers at the University of Amsterdam.
Draw, paint and dance
According to Lausier, “Artistic activities may reduce stress because you’re able to access the creative part of your brain to express your thoughts and feelings — rather than relying on words, which most of us usually do.”
Listen to music
Ever notice how your dentist cranks up Chopin before jackhammering your gums? Studies show that playing music can reduce perceived psychological stress. Now that’s reason for an encore!
(Fitness is fuel for women who are serious about being healthy and staying strong. Online at www.fitnessmagazine.com.)