How to handle stress like a pro

How to handle stress like a pro

At the end of a frayed rope? White-knuckling it in silence? Mental toast? Whether you're sweating money matters, under the thumb of a boss that won't relent, or frazzled for reasons you don’t even understand, there are ways to cope and carry on.

You don't have to lose your edge to dispense with the edginess. Take a five-minute stretch break from those TPS reports to make your health priority No. 1, and check out this medical memo on expert stress management tips to help you stay calm, cool and collected:

Breathe deep

Even in the time between meetings, you can take deep breaths and lower your blood pressure, by taking a full breath in and counting a few seconds — one, two, three — then doing the same as you breathe out, ah.

Rest up

Sleep loss compounds stress and stress can cause and exacerbate sleep problems. So attack the predicament at both ends. First, give yourself the opportunity to get at least seven hours of sleep. Some of us need more, a few of us can get by on less — but most of us are just torching our health when we burn the candle at both ends.

Problem-solve

All the deep breaths in the world won’t alleviate your stress long-term if the elephant in the room is the monkey on your back. Take time to reflect, identify what’s most bothering you, and set about to affect change. Get creative. If money is the issue, develop a budget, talk to a financial planner or find other ways to start getting your house in order. Whatever it is, don’t just gloss over it.

Accept what you can’t change

Some problems — such as a chronic disease — may not come with a cure, but that doesn’t make despondency your only choice. It may prove difficult in the short run but accepting what you can’t change and addressing what you can, such as symptom management, can help focus attention and empower.

Blow off loneliness

Connect with friends and family. Seek support. In good times and bad, make sure you check in regularly with those you know best. They can offer perspective for how you're handling the cares of the world.

Mind the fundamentals

Eat well and exercise. Whole fruits and veggies, lean meats and nuts. Easy on the sugar, salt, sodas and anything processed. Do cardio and some weight-bearing exercises to equip your brain and body for all the big cats the corporate jungle tosses your way.

Lay off of the stimulants

Besides quitting tobacco, also moderate consumption of caffeine and alcohol, the latter which produces both stimulant and sedating effects. Go overboard and your jitters, troubles, or both will only worsen.

Meditate or pray

Mental health research shows increased mindfulness and spirituality can help lower stress levels and has a restorative and protective effect on health. Make time to consider matters weightier than your next deadline.

Practice optimism

Fill the glass half full. Irrespective of what you tell yourself, most of us are quite capable of changing our internal dialogue, according to mental health experts. Change the conversation in your head by focusing on what you can do, what’s going right, what opportunities challenges present. Take stock of the long view, and it may sound trite, but experts say it’s critically important to focus on what makes you happy.

Rock on!

No, that's an order. Rock ‘n’ roll already. Or turn on some smooth jazz. Or Miley Cyrus. Whatever you're into. Try music to calm and soothe, or to lighten your mood just find something you want to sing aloud to, not an anthem that incites your rage. The latter — anger and hostility — can raise cardiovascular risk.

Have sex

Physical, relational and personal considerations and limitations not withstanding, this proves a most reliable stress reliever and healthful activity on Monday or Friday.

Take a walk

Sometimes fleeing from a stressor happens in slow motion. Pick your battles, and let combustible situations cool and cooler heads (yours) prevail. Don’t wait, either, until you’re at wit’s end to take a stroll.

Seek professional help for stress

Mental health disorders, such as depression, can exacerbate stress and undermine even the best efforts to find calm. Don’t go it alone if you feel overwhelmed, despondent or your feelings of dread don’t relent, and you find yourself time and again in the same rut. Talk with a mental health professional, such as a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist, for advice on how to move forward.

Strike a balance

Do more than work. If your life’s toils occur at home, the same applies. Doctor’s orders. More than momentary breaks, most manage best with a life outside the office and endeavors that extend beyond the day’s responsibilities. Not possible? See the last tip.

Do what you love — or at least like

We’re not built for chronic misery and your body will find a way out one way or another, fight, flight, or early demise. Most of the action will happen within, from headached noggin and strained heart to nervous, twitching foot. Look around. If it looks like the end of days in the cubicle to your right and your left, think long-term, and check the path to the door and into another job.


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Josiane Abel of South Miami says she now makes managing stress a priority in her life, and takes time to unwind. (Photo by Chantal Lawrie)
Josiane Abel of South Miami says she now makes managing stress a priority in her life, and takes time to unwind. (Photo by Chantal Lawrie)

High levels of stress can wreck our health, erode quality of life, and even hasten death. Fortunately, there are ways to manage stress. Find out how.

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