Although stress is a normal part of life, it can become overwhelming and have several adverse effects on both the body and mind, including impaired immunity, headaches, tiredness, muscle tension, depression, an inability to concentrate, anxiety, irritation, frustration and persistent worry.
Here are tips and tools to counter stress:
Cognitive reframing. This is a psychological technique that involves changing the negative thoughts that circulate around unfortunate situations. It can be as simple as focusing on the positive to evaluating negative thought patterns.
Meditation. This core practice of many eastern religions is a great way to reduce stress. Some techniques include mindful meditation, deep breathing and chanting mantras while listening to calming, unobtrusive music.
Progressive muscle relaxation. This is a technique where you sequentially tense and relax targeted muscle groups. This technique is very good at isolating specific areas where you hold stress in your body. For instance, if you have a tendency to hold stress in your shoulders, you can do just that section of the sequence.
Exercise. Besides losing weight and toning muscles, exercise is great for
relieving stress. Any form of exercise will do as long as it gets you moving. It can be as simple as a light 20-minute walk. Break a sweat and release some endorphins.
Sleep. Sleep is an underrated necessity. Few people get the recommended eight hours. Not only is sleep required for the formation and solidification of memories, but it is also an important time for the body to regenerate and rebuild. Not getting enough sleep increases irritation and decreases the ability to concentrate.
Social interactions. Reaching out to friends and family when stressed can be very rewarding. Doctors have long known that happy patients make quicker recoveries and, in fact, laughter is said to be the best medicine. And who makes us laugh more than beloved friends and relatives? Close friends and relatives can offer practical advice and support as well as a good laugh.
Get professional help. When stress is overwhelming, getting professional assistance can be quite beneficial. Mental health professionals such as licensed mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychologists are trained in an array of techniques to help with any of the psychological effects of stress.
Maria Reid is a Broward College professor of Psychology. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org