Posted on Aug 22nd, 2006

Stress bombards us every day from all directions. Maybe it’s sitting in the midst of highway gridlock when you are already late for an important appointment. Or how about the bill you forgot to pay? It could be a phone call from the school complaining about your child’s behavior.

These are just the annoying little stress triggers that we handle every day. What about the larger issues? Retirement, moving, divorce or, heaven forbid, the death of a loved one or friend can come out of the blue and here comes the stress, launching you into treading murky waters one more time.

The impression is that the feelings of stress come from outside sources when, in reality, it happens inside of us.

Stress put you at risk for heart attack, stroke, insomnia, backache, headache, irritable bowel syndrome, sports injuries and infertility.

Stress can trigger serious illness like Graves’ and fibromyalgia. Stress even makes us more susceptible to the common cold.

With your health at stake, you owe it to yourself to take the time to use the stress-reducing techniques on a daily basis.

Here are 12 keys to stress reduction to help you open the door to a more relaxing life. Choose those best suited for you.

Breathe deeply. Relax your muscles, expanding your stomach and chest. Exhale slowly. Repeat several times.

Follow your breath as it flows in and out. Do not try to control it. This is a good way to relax in the midst of any activity. This technique allows you to find a breathing pattern that is natural and relaxing to you.

Exercise regularly. Aerobic exercise, such as walking and swimming, produces brain chemicals that uplift your mood and mental well being.

Exercise also improves sleep and gives you time to think and focus on other things. Beware of compulsive exercise, however.

Eat healthy foods. You should never skip meals. Take time out for lunch no matter how busy you are.

Don’t let others get you down. Choose positive friends who are not worriers. Friends who constantly put you down or talk gloomily about life will increase your anxiety.

Be optimistic. Count your blessings, especially when everything seems to go wrong. Believe that most people are doing the best that they can.

Plan your time wisely. And realistically. For example, don’t schedule back-to-back meetings with tight travel time. Remember to leave room for unanticipated events - both negative and positive. Be flexible about rearranging your agenda.

Prevent problems before they occur.This takes some planning. If you are flying to another city for an important meeting, carry your presentation materials and dress suit on board the plane. Baggage does get lost.

Retreat to recharge your spirit. Schedule private time every day. You deserve it. Unplug the telephone and enjoy a quiet evening alone or with your family, or even 15 uninterrupted minutes in the shower or bathtub.

You may want to spend a few minutes writing your feelings out in a journal. It can help you find a new perspective and relieve hidden conflicts.

Savor life’s little delights. Give yourself some physical pleasure to help your stress slip away.

Example: Give yourself permission to enjoy a movie, watch a sports event, listen to music or read a book.

Use visualization and affirmation techniques. You can inoculate yourself against a situation you fear by going over the event in your mind. Imagine the scene in vivid detail and picture the best possible outcome.

You can also shrink an imagined fear down to size by picturing the worst possible results. Imagine describing this worst case to your best friend the next day and the sympathy you receive.

Get enough sleep. Determine how much sleep you require for optimum performance. Sleep deprivation aggravates the body’s responses to stress.

Consider setting an alarm clock to remind yourself that it is time to go to bed.

Strive for your dreams. Plan ahead to meet your most cherished goals in life.

Knowing that you are striving toward your dreams relieves frustrations that mount when you feel stuck in a rut of endless responsibilities that seem to lead nowhere.

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Wan Ibrahim is the Publisher of "Healthy 4Life eZine" - Bringing You the Top Quality and Fresh Material to Help You Get the Best Healthiest Body Possible! To Subscribe, send blank email to: healthy_4life@stressmanagementarticles.com

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