Stress management tips
. Stress is a fact of life, but being stressed out is not. We dont always have control over what happens to us, says Allen Elkin, Ph.D., director of the Stress Management Counseling Center in New York City, and yet, that doesnt mean we have to react to a difficult, challenging situation by becoming frazzled or feeling overwhelmed or distraught. Being overly anxious is not just a mental hazard; its a physical one too. The more stressed out we are the more vulnerable we are to colds, flu, and a host of chronic or life threatening illnesses. And the less open we are to the beauty and pleasure of life. For your emotional and bodily benefit, weve consulted experts and come up with 37 easy, natural alternatives to anxiety.
. Breathing from your diaphragm oxygenates your blood, which helps you relax almost instantly, says Robert Cooper, Ph.D., the San Francisco coauthor of The Power of 5 Rodale Press, 1996, a book of five second and five minute health tips. Shallow chest breathing, by contrast, can cause your heart to beat faster and your muscles to tense up, exacerbating feelings of stress. To breathe deeply, begin by putting your hand on your abdomen just below the navel. Inhale slowly through your nose and watch your hand move out as your belly expands. Hold the breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly. Repeat several times.
. It sounds New Age y, but at least one study, done at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, has found that its highly effective in reducing stress. Dr. Cooper recommends imagining youre in a hot shower and a wave of relaxation is washing your stress down the drain. Gerald Epstein, M.D., the New York City author of Healing Visualizations Bantam Doubleday Dell Press, 1989, suggests the following routine Close your eyes, take three long, slow breaths, and spend a few seconds picturing a relaxing scene, such as walking in a meadow, kneeling by a brook, or lying on the beach. Focus on the detailsthe sights, the sounds, the smells.
Make Time for a Mini Self Massage
. Maria Hernandez Reif, Ph.D., of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, recommends simply massaging the palm of one hand by making a circular motion with the thumb of the other. Or use a massage gadget. The SelfCare catalog offers several, such as the S shaped Tamm unit, that allow you to massage hard to reach spots on your back.
Try a Tonic
. A study at Duke University in Durham, NC, found homeopathy effective in quelling anxiety disorders. Look for stress formulas such as Nerve Tonic from Hyland or Sedalia from Boiron in your health food store, or consult a licensed homeopath. To find one near you, contact the National Center for Homeopathy, 801 North Fairfax St.
. Smiling is a two way mechanism. We do it when were relaxed and happy, but doing it can also make us feel relaxed and happy. Smiling transmits nerve impulses from the facial muscles to the limbic system, a key emotional center in the brain, tilting the neurochemical balance toward calm, Dr. Cooper explains. Go ahead and grin.
Do some math
. Using a scale of one to 10, with one being the equivalent of a minor hassle and 10 being a true catastrophe, assign a number to whatever it is thats making you feel anxious. Youll find that most problems we encounter rate somewhere in the two to five rangein other words, theyre really not such a big deal, says Dr. Elkin.
Stop gritting your teeth
. Stress tends to settle in certain parts of our bodies, the jaw being one of them. When things get hectic, try this tip from Dr. Cooper Place your index fingertips on your jaw joints, just in front of your ears; clench your teeth and inhale deeply. Hold the breath for a moment, and as you exhale say, Ah h h h, then unclench your teeth. Repeat a few times.
Compose a Mantra
. Devise an affirmation a short, clear, positive statement that focuses on your coping abilities. Affirmations are a good way to silence the self critical voice we all carry with us that only adds to our stress, Dr. Elkin says. The next time you feel as if your life is one disaster after another, repeat 10 times, I feel calm. I can handle this.
Check your chi
. Qigong pronounced chee gong is a 5,000 year old Chinese practice designed to promote the flow of chi, the vital life force that flows throughout the body, regulating its functions. Qigong master Ching Tse Lee, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Brooklyn College in New York, recommends this calming exercise Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and parallel. Bend your knees to a quarter squat position about 45 degrees while keeping your upper body straight. Observe your breathing for a couple of breaths. Inhale and bring your arms slowly up in front of you to shoulder height with your elbows slightly bent. Exhale, stretching your arms straight out. Inhale again, bend your elbows slightly and drop your arms down slowly until your thumbs touch the sides of your legs. Exhale one more time, then stand up straight.
Be a Fighter
. At the first sign of stress, you often hear people complain, What did I do to deserve this? says Dr. Cooper. The trouble is, feeling like a victim only increases feelings of stress and helplessness. Instead, focus on being proactive. If your flight gets canceled, dont wallow in self pity. Find another one. If your office is too hot or too cold, dont suffer in silence. Call the building manager and ask what can be done to make things more comfortable.
Put It on Paper
. Writing provides perspective, says Paul J. Rosch, M.D., president of the American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, NY. Divide a piece of paper into two parts. On the left side, list the stressors you may be able to change, and on the right, list the ones you cant. Change what you can, Dr. Rosch suggests, and stop fretting over what you cant.
Count to 10
. Before you say or do something youll regret, step away from the stressor and collect yourself, advises Dr. Cooper. You can also look away for a moment or put the caller on hold. Use your time out to take a few deep breaths, stretch, or recite an affirmation.
Switch to Decaf
. Wean yourself slowly, or you might get a caffeine withdrawal headache that could last for several days, cautions James Duke, Ph.D., the Fulton, MD, author of?The Green Pharmacy?Rodale Press, 1997. Subtract a little regular coffee and add some decaf to your morning cup. Over the next couple of weeks, gradually increase the proportion of decaf to regular until youre drinking all decaf. You should also consider switching from regular soft drinks to caffeine free ones or sparkling mineral water.
Just say no
. Trying to do everything is a one way ticket to serious stress. Be clear about your limits, and stop trying to please everyone all the time.
Take a Whiff
. Oils of anise, basil, bay, chamomile, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, rose, and thyme are all soothing, say Kathy Keville and Mindy Green, coauthors of?Aromatherapy A Complete Guide to the Healing Art?Crossing Press, 1995. Place a few pieces of rock salt in a small vial, then add a couple of drops of the oil of your choice the rock salt absorbs the oil and is much less risky to carry around in your purse than a bottle of oil. Open the vial and breathe in the scent whenever you need a quick stress release. Look for the oils in your local health food store, or try one of the following mail order companies Aroma Vera, 5901 Rodeo Rd., Los Angeles, CA 90016, 800 669 9514; or Leydet Aromatics, P.O. Box 2354, Fair Oaks, CA 95628, 916 965 7546.
. Try this tip from David Sobel, M.D., in San Jose, CA, author of?The Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Handbook I S H K Book Service, 1997? Rub your hands together vigorously until they feel warm. Then cup them over your closed eyes for five seconds while you breathe deeply. The warmth and darkness are comforting.
Say Yes to Pressure
. Acupressure stimulates the same points as acupuncture, but with fingers instead of needles. Michael Reed Gach, Ph.D., director of the Acupressure Institute in Berkeley, CA, recommends pressing on the following three points
The Third Eye, located between the eyebrows, in the indentation where the bridge of the nose meets the forehead.The Heavenly Pillar, on the back of the neck slightly below the base of the skull, about half an inch to the left or right of the spine.The Heavenly Rejuvenation, half an inch below the top of each shoulder, midway between the base of the neck and the outside of the shoulder blade.Breathe deeply and apply firm, steady pressure on each point for two to three minutes. The pressure should cause a mild aching sensation, but not pain.
Schedule worry time
. Some stressors demand immediate attention a smoke alarm siren or a police cars whirling red light. But many low grade stressors can be dealt with at a later time, when its more convenient. File them away in a little mental compartment, or make a note, Dr. Elkin says, then deal with them when the time is right. Dont let them control you.
Shake it up
. This quick exercise helps loosen the muscles in your neck and upper back, says Dr. Sobel Stand or sit, stretch your arms out from your sides and shake your hands vigorously for about 10 seconds. Combine this with a little deep breathing, Dr. Sobel says, and youll do yourself twice as much good.
Munch some snacks
. Foods that are high in carbohydrates stimulate the release of serotonin, feel good brain chemicals that help induce calm, says Dr. Cooper. Crackers, pretzels, or a bagel should do the trick.
Boost your vitamin intake
. Elizabeth Somer, R.D., author ofFood and MoodOwl Books, 1999, in Salem, OR, recommends that women take a daily multivitamin and mineral formula that contains between 100% and 300% of the recommended dietary allowances of vitamin B, as well as the minerals calcium, magnesium, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc. Avoid stress formulas, which often contain large amounts of randomly formulated nutrients, such as the B vitamins, but little or nothing else, Somer says.
. If sex has been on the bottom of your to do list for too long, move it to the top. Sex increases levels of endorphins, those mood boosting chemicals in the brain, and its one of the best total body relaxers around, says Louanne Cole Weston, Ph.D., a sex therapist in Sacramento, CA. Make a date with your mate, and dont let anything get in the way.
. Each of us has uniquely individual stress signals neck or shoulder pain, shallow breathing, stammering, teeth gritting, queasiness, loss of temper. Learn to identify yours, then say out loud, Im feeling stressed, when they crop up, recommends Dr. Rosch. Recognizing your personal stress signals helps slow the buildup of negativity and anxiety.
. Look out the window and find something natural that captures your imagination, advises Dr. Sobel. Notice the clouds rolling by or the wind in the trees.
. By now most of us know about the calming properties of chamomile tea. But a steaming cup of catnip, passionflower, skullcap or kava kava also work, according to Dr. Duke. Whether you use tea bags or loose tea one teaspoon of tea per cup of boiling water, steep for about 10 minutes to get the full benefits of the herbs.
Take a Walk
. It forces you to breathe more deeply and improves circulation, says Dr. Cooper. Step outside if you can; if thats not possible, you can gain many of the same benefits simply by walking to the bathroom or water cooler, or by pacing back and forth. The key is to get up and move, Dr. Cooper says.
Soak it Up
. When I have the time, nothing is more stress relieving for me than a hot bath, Dr. Weston says. But when I dont have time, I do the next best thing I wash my face or even just my hands and arms with hot water. The key is to imagine that Im taking a hot bath. Its basically a visualization exercise, but the hot water makes it feel real.
Play a Few Bars
. A number of recent studies have shown that music can do everything from slow heart rate to increase endorphins. Good bets Bachs Air on the G String, BeethovensPastoralesymphony, Chopins Nocturne in G, HandelsWater Music,or pianist George Winstons CDsAutumnorDecember..
Fall for Puppy Love
. In a study of 100 women conducted last year at the State University of New York at Buffalo, researchers found that those who owned a dog had lower blood pressure than those who didnt. If you dont have a pooch, visit a friends Petting an animal for just a couple of minutes helps relieve stress, researchers have found.
. Heighten your awareness of the moment by focusing intently on an object. Notice a pencils shape, color, weight and feel. Or slowly savor a raisin or a piece of chocolate. Mindfulness leads to relaxation.
Dial a Friend
. Sharing your troubles can give you perspective, help you feel cared for and relieve your burden.
. Muscles tighten during the course of the day, and when we feel stressed out, the process accelerates. Stretching loosens muscles and encourages deep breathing. Molly Fox, creative fitness director at the Equinox Fitness Center in New York City, says one of the greatest stress relieving stretches is a yoga position called the child pose, which stretches the back muscles. On a rug or mat, kneel, sit back on your heels, then lean forward and put your forehead on the floor and your arms alongside your legs, palms up. Hold for one to three minutes.
Say a Little Prayer
. with those who profess no faith, religious and spiritual people are calmer and healthier.
. Looking forward to something provides calming perspective, Dr. Elkin says. Buy concert tickets, schedule a weekend getaway, or make an appointment for a massage.
. It temporarily removes you from a potentially stressful situations. Esther Orioli, president of Essi Systems, a San Francisco consultant company that organizes stress management programs, keeps a harmonica in the drawer for when shes feeling stressed out. Bonus Playing it promotes deep breathing.
. When people are under stress, they slump over as if they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Slumping restricts breathing and reduces blood and oxygen flow to the brain, adding to muscle tension and magnifying feelings of panic and helplessness, Dr. Cooper explains. Straightening your spine has just the opposite effect. It promotes circulation, increases oxygen levels in your blood and helps lessen muscle tension, all of which promote relaxation.
Tiptoe Through the Tulips
. Tending your garden helps get you out of your head and lets you commune with nature, a known stress reliever. If youre not a gardener, tend to a houseplant. Plants growth cycle of life, a nice reminder that stress, too, will pass.
Avoid unnecessary stress
. Not all stress can be avoided, and its not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed. You may be surprised, however, by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.
Learn how to say no
. Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress.
Avoid people who stress you out
. If someone consistently causes stress in your life and you cant turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time you spend with that person or end the relationship entirely.
Take control of your environment
. If the evening news makes you anxious, turn the TV off. If traffics got you tense, take a longer but less traveled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore, do your grocery shopping online.
Avoid hot button topics
. If you get upset over religion or politics, cross them off your conversation list. If you repeatedly argue about the same subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when its the topic of discussion.
Pare down your to do list
. Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. If youve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the shoulds and the musts. Drop tasks that arent truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.
Alter the situation
. If you cant avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Figure out what you can do to change things so the problem doesnt present itself in the future. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.
Express your feelings instead of bottling them up
. If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you dont voice your feelings, resentment will build and the situation will likely remain the same.
Be willing to compromise
. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, youll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.
Be more assertive
. Dont take a backseat in your own life. Deal with problems head on, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them. If youve got an exam to study for and your chatty roommate just got home, say up front that you only have five minutes to talk.
Manage your time better
. Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. When youre stretched too thin and running behind, its hard to stay calm and focused. But if you plan ahead and make sure you dont overextend yourself, you can alter the amount of stress youre under.
Adapt to the stressor
. If you cant change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.
. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station, or enjoy some alone time.
Look at the big picture
. Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
Adjust your standards
. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with good enough.
Focus on the positive
. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This simple strategy can help you keep things in perspective.
Accept the things you cant change
. Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You cant prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, its easier than railing against a situation you cant change.
Dont try to control the uncontrollable
. Many things in life are beyond our control particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.
Look for the upside
. As the saying goes, What doesnt kill us makes us stronger. When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes.
Share your feelings
. Talk to a trusted friend face to face or make an appointment with a therapist. The simple act of expressing what youre going through can be very cathartic, even if theres nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation. Opening up is not a sign of weakness and it wont make you a burden to others. In fact, most friends will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your bond.
Learn to forgive
. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments. Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.
Make time for fun and relaxation
. Beyond a take charge approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce stress in your life by nurturing yourself. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, youll be in a better place to handle lifes stressors.
Set aside relaxation time
. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule. Dont allow other obligations to encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
Connect with others
. Spend time with positive people who enhance your life. A strong support system will buffer you from the negative effects of stress.
Do something you enjoy every day
. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the piano, or working on your bike.
Keep your sense of humor
. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress in a number of ways.
. Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress. Make time for at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week. Nothing beats aerobic exercise for releasing pent up stress and tension.
Eat a healthy diet
. Well nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day.
Reduce caffeine and sugar
. The temporary highs caffeine and sugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, youll feel more relaxed and youll sleep better.
Avoid alcohol cigarettes and drugs
. Self medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Dont avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems head on and with a clear mind.
Get enough sleep
. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.
. Although many techniques have traditionally been developed to deal with the consequences of stress considerable research has also been conducted on the prevention of stress, a subject closely related to psychological resilience building. A number of self help approaches to stress prevention and resilience building have been developed, drawing mainly on the theory and practice of cognitive behavioural therapy.
. Levels of stress can be measured. One way is through the use of psychological testing The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale is used to rate stressful life events, while the DASS contains a scale for stress based on self report items. Changes in blood pressure and galvanic skin response can also be measured to test stress levels, and changes in stress levels. A digital thermometer can be used to evaluate changes in skin temperature, which can indicate activation of the fight or flight response drawing blood away from the extremities. Cortisol is the main hormone released during a stress response and measuring cortisol from hair will give a 60 90 day baseline stress level of an individual. This method of measuring stress is currently the most popular method in the clinic.
. Acute stress is the most common form of stress among humans worldwide. Acute stress deals with the pressures of the near future or dealing with the very recent past. This type of stress is often misinterpreted for being a negative connotation. While this is the case in some circumstances, it is also a good thing to have some acute stress in life. Running or any other form of exercise is considered an acute stressor. Some exciting or exhilarating experiences such as riding a roller coaster is an acute stress but is usually very fun. Acute stress is a short term stress and in result, does not have enough time to do the damage that long term stress causes.
. Chronic stress is unlike acute stress. It has a wearing effect on people that can become a very serious health risk if it continues over a long period of time. Chronic stress can lead to memory loss, damage spacial recognition and produce a decreased drive of eating. The severity varies from person to person and also sex difference can be an underlying factor. Women are able to take longer durations of stress than men without showing the same maladaptive changes. Men can deal with shorter stress duration better than women can but once males hit a certain threshold, the chances of them developing mental issues increases drastically.
Avoid stressful situations
. When you can, remove yourself from the source of stress. For example, if your family squabbles during the holidays, give yourself a breather and go out for a walk or drive.
Change your outlook
. Try to develop a more positive attitude toward challenges. You can do this by replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones. For example, rather than thinking, Why does everything always go wrong? change this thought to, I can find a way to get through this. It may seem hard or silly at first, but with practice you may find it helps turn your outlook around.
Do something you enjoy
. When stress has you down, do something you enjoy to help pick you up. It could be as simple as reading a good book, listening to music, watching a favorite movie, or having dinner with a friend. Or, take up a new hobby or class. Whatever you choose, try to do at least one thing a day that s just for you.
Learn new ways to relax
. Practicing relaxation techniques is a great way to handle daily stress. Relaxation techniques help slow your heart rate and lower your BLOOD PRESSURE. There are many types, from deep breathing and meditation to yoga and tai chi. Take a class, or try learning from books, videos, or online sources.
Connect with loved ones
. Don t let stress get in the way of being social. Spending time with family and friends can help you feel better and forget about your stress. Confiding in a friend may also help you work out your problems.
Change your emotional response
. Managing stress doesnt mean eliminating stressors from your life. It means developing positive strategies for dealing with stress to avoid negative consequences. Think about stress as your reaction to an event, rather than the event itself. This makes it easier to identify healthy ways to manage stress. Even though you cant control some of the stressors in your life, you can control your response to them.
. Certain tools to reduce stress are tangible, but there is another tool that helps many people manage stress in their lives embracing spirituality. Exploring your spirituality can lead to a clearer life purpose and better stress management skills.
Protect your time
. How does your behavior contribute to your stress? Some people find it hard to say no to any requests made on their time. But saying yes to everything comes at a price more stress and less peace of mind. Learn how to take time for yourself without feeling guilty.
Restore work life balance
. Finding work life balance in todays frantic world is no simple task. Spend more time at work than at home and you miss out on a rewarding personal life. Then again if youre facing challenges in your personal life such as caring for an aging parent or coping with marital or financial problems, concentrating on your job can be difficult.Whether the problem is too much focus on work or too little, when your work life and personal life feel out of balance, stress plus its harmful effects is the result.
. Different types of meditation techniques can calm your mind and reduce your stress. Concentration meditation involves focusing your attention on one thing, such as your breathing, an image you visualize or a real you look at ? for example, a candle flame.
Keep you cool
. Feeling stressed is normal. And so are setbacks in dealing with stress. If you lapse into your old ways, dont give up. Focus on what you can do to gain control of the situation.One easy way to help yourself keep your cool and lighten your load is to remember the four As of managing stress avoid, alter, adapt or accept.
Maintain a strong social network
. To help you through the stress of tough times, youll need a strong social support network made up of friends, family and peers. This differs from a support group, which is generally a structured meeting run by a mental health professional.Although both groups can play an important role in times of stress, a social support network is something you can develop when youre not under stress, providing the comfort of knowing that your friends are there if you need them. A coffee break with a friend at work, a quick chat with a neighbor, a phone call to your sister, even a visit to church are all ways to reduce stress while fostering lasting relationships with the people close to you.
Smile and laugh
. Our brains are interconnected with our emotions and facial expressions. When people are stressed, they often hold a lot of the stress in their face. So laughs or smiles can help relieve some of that tension and improve the situation.
Get social support
. Call a friend, send an email. When you share your concerns or feelings with another person, it does help relieve stress. But its important that the person whom you talk to is someone whom you trust and whom you feel can understand and validate you. If your family is a stressor, for example, it may not alleviate your stress if you share your works woes with one of them.
. Meditation and mindful prayer help the mind and body to relax and focus. Mindfulness can help people see new perspectives, develop self compassion and forgiveness. When practicing a form of mindfulness, people can release emotions that may have been causing the body physical stress. Much like exercise, research has shown that even meditating briefly can reap immediate benefits.
Set small daily goals
. Goals and aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It s better to walk every day for 15 20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three hour fitness marathon. Lots of scientific data suggests that frequency is most important.
. If you have a stress related problem, physical activity can get you in the right state of mind to be able to identify the causes of your stress and find a solution. To deal with stress effectively, you need to feel robust and you need to feel strong mentally. Exercise does that, says Cooper.Exercise wont make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that youre feeling, clearing your thoughts and enabling you to deal with your problems more calmly.
Connect with people
. A problem shared is a problem halved. A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way.If you dont connect with people, you wont have support to turn to when you need help, says Professor Cooper. The activities we do with friends help us relax and we often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever.Talking things through with a friend will also help you find solutions to your problems, says Professor Cooper.
Have some me time
. The UK workforce works the longest hours in Europe. The extra hours in the workplace mean that people arent spending enough time doing things that they really enjoy. We all need to take some time for socialising, relaxation or exercise, says Professor Cooper. He recommends setting aside a couple of nights a week for some quality me time away from work. By earmarking those two days, it means you wont be tempted to work overtime on those days, he says.
. Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. That in turn will help you deal with stress.By constantly challenging yourself youre being proactive and taking charge of your life, says Professor Cooper. By continuing to learn, you become more emotionally resilient as a person. It arms you with knowledge and makes you want to do things rather than be passive, such as watching TV all the time.
Avoid unhealthy habits
. Don t rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. Men more than women are likely to do this. We call this avoidance behaviour, says Professor Cooper. Women are better at seeking support from their social circle.
Over the long term, these crutches wont solve your problems. Theyll just create new ones. Its like putting your head in the sand, says Professor Cooper. It might provide temporary relief but it wont make the problems disappear. You need to tackle the cause of your stress.
Help other people
. Cooper says evidence shows that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient. Helping people who are often in situations worse than yours will help you put your problems into perspective, says Professor Cooper. The more you give, the more resilient and happy you feel.
If you don t have time to volunteer, try to do someone a favour every day. It can be something as small as helping someone to cross the road or going on a coffee run for colleagues. Favours cost nothing to do, and youll feel better.
Work smarter not harder
. Good time management means quality work rather than quantity. Our long hours culture is a well known cause of workplace illness. You have to get a work life balance that suits you, says Professor Cooper.
Working smarter means prioritising your work, concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference to your work. Leave the least important tasks to last, says Cooper. Accept that your in tray will always be full. Dont expect it to be empty at the end of the day.
Accept the things you can t change
. Changing a difficult situation isn t always possible. If this proves to be the case, recognise and accept things as they are and concentrate on everything that you do have control over. If your company is going under and is making redundancies, theres nothing you can do about it, says Professor Cooper. Theres no point fighting it. In such a situation, you need to focus on the things that you can control, such as looking for a new job.
Acknowledge your feelings
. If someone close to you has recently died or you can t be with loved ones, realize that it s normal to feel sadness and grief. It s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can t force yourself to be happy just because it s the holiday season.
. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
. The holidays don t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
Set aside differences
. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.