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Feeling stressed? Learn how to manage it effectively!

As we approach the end of the semester, you might be feeling the stressors, eustressors (fancy name for positive experiences), and micro-stressors (another fancy name-- for daily hassles and annoyances) of exams, deadlines, upcoming holidays, vacations, cold weather, and even (I’m going to say it) SNOW!

The good news is that you can learn to manage the stress you may be experiencing.

What happens when we’re stressed?

Our nervous system is aroused, resulting in an increased blood pressure, muscle tension, and altered breathing, and other physical reactions.  Prolonged stress leads to irritability, disrupted relationships, fatigue, agitation, headaches, sleep disturbance, overeating or loss of appetite, and depressed feelings. Unfortunately, all that distress can lead to misguided attempts at reducing  stress, such as alcohol abuse, overeating, watching too much television, spending excessive time on the internet, and shopping.

Take a minute to reflect on whether you are managing your stress effectively. 

Fortunately, there are many wonderful ways to manage stress.

1.   Don’t Laugh---I Mean---Do Laugh

Vigorous laughter is a great stress reducer. A good laugh relaxes your whole body, improves immunity, mood, and sleep, so have a good laugh with friends.

 

2.   Fight or Flight

Our stress response mobilizes us to fight or take flight. Let’s not fight. It’s much better to take flight and release your energy. Enjoy 30 minutes of physical activity, whether it be running, swimming, biking, spinning, dancing, playing an athletic game (i.e. basketball or soccer), or  engaging in some creative form of movement that you prefer. Take yourself outdoors, even when it’s cold outside. Physical activity is not only a great way to manage stress, it is also gives you a boost of energy!

 

3.   Eat Well

The holiday season can include many large meals. Enjoy them, but concentrate on eating nutritious food, and be sure to eat those 5-7 servings of fruits and veggies every day.

 

4.   Meditate and/or Relax

The benefits of meditation are striking. Just check with UW-Professor Richard Davidson. It only takes 15-20 minutes of meditation per day to see the benefits. Meditation lowers stress, leads to an improved immune system, and even increases positive activity in your left, prefrontal lobe.

 

Muscular relaxation is another great way to relieve stress, especially if you are noticing physical tension. If you think that you don’t have enough time for any of these methods, just try closing your eyes and taking 3-4 slow, deep breaths. Check out the relaxation exercises on UHS website.

 

5.   Remember, Multi-Tasking is a Stressor

If you are thinking that you don’t have time for all of these stress management techniques, and can’t decide whether to laugh, meditate, socialize, or exercise, be creative and combine them.

 

You can share laughs with friends while running or socializing together. Exercising alone can be a moving meditation. Focus on your movement, not on all the things you have to do.

 

6.   Prevent Stress

Lastly, take an approach that preempts stress--- Live your life with psychological hardiness, a sense of challenge, control, and commitment.

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·         Challenge--Perceive stressful situations as challenges, rather than threats or unwanted demands.

·         Control--Recognize that you have control of and influence on the events in your life.

·         Commitment--Retain a sense of purpose in regard to work and relationships.

And  a few more positive approaches

·         Have a genuine interest in the activities in your life and in your community

·         Recognize opportunities for change and personal growth.

·         Think about situations optimistically and act decisively


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