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3 Steps to Reduce Stress

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When we look back on how human beings and the world we live in evolved over time, we can see that the role stress plays in our lives has changed dramatically. Historically, stress was a reaction to some sort of life-threatening situation that required action. Today, stress is more common in the form of daily mental challenges. When we first experience stress, we\'re energized and alert, and we\'re driven to meet its challenge. This reaction is often called the fight-or-flight response. The heart rate increases, muscles tense, breathing accelerates, and blood pressure rises. For thousands of years, this reaction by our bodies protected us from harm and prepared us to physically respond in dangerous circumstances. Stress tended to be brief and specific to certain threatening events. In general, these types of stressors happened one at a time, were dealt with, and were resolved. In the modern world, the majority of stresses we experience rarely call for a direct physical response. They tend to be complex, long-term challenges that require thought, problem solving, patience, and negotiation. Also, many of these more \"chronic\" stressors seem to happen at the same time. The activation of the fight-or-flight response may in fact make it more difficult to respond effectively to the types of challenges we face today. Chronic stress can have serious physical and emotional consequences. Here are some simple steps to help you disrupt the stress cycle.

1. Identify and modify stressors

For Major Stress more planning is needed but a similar process is involved for both types:

  1. State the problem clearly.
  2. Brainstorm all possible solutions without judgment.
  3. Consider which of these solutions are desirable and realistic given your circumstances.
  4. Make an action plan that will allow you to start to make progress in reducing that stressor.
  5. Implement, evaluate and modify the plan for maximum effectiveness.

A modest reduction in the number and intensity of stressful situations can improve your quality of life.

2. Adjust your perceptions of stressful events

The way you think about situations may make them much more stressful. Negative patterns of thinking that involve perfectionism or criticism of yourself and others usually end up working against you. If you find yourself engaging in negative thoughts try:

Also check out our articles on cognitive behavioral techniques for managing mood since many of those strategies will work here.

3. Release stress

You can certainly reduce the amount of stress you face; however stress is a healthy part of life. As we grow and improve and seek our life goals we will encounter stress. It is only unhealthy when it builds up. So learn to release your stress effectively. Below are some examples of stress releasers:

How do I get started with meditation?

Deep breathing is the simplest form of relaxation, and it can be done just about anywhere and at any time:

  1. Let out all your breath while releasing the tension from your body and allowing your shoulders to slump.
  2. Take a long, gentle, full breath in; allowing your stomach and chest to expand as you fill your lungs with air (count to three or four as you inhale).
  3. Allow all the air to flow back out of your lungs (repeating the first step), and say the word \"relax\" to yourself as you exhale.

You can perform deep breathing for just a few breaths or for 5, 10, or 20 minutes a day. With practice, just a few minutes will produce a large reduction in tension.

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