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Stress Management Techniques
Author: Dr. Frank P. Gonzales is a clinical psychologist at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology.
Today is one of those days…we all have them. Multiple demands; people, projects, and deadlines pulling in several different directions, all vying for attention at the same time…and in the middle of all of this, a blog is due today! Now I’m not complaining – all of this is inspiring me to examine stress management as the topic for this week’s blog.
First of all, stress is NOT a totally bad thing. Stress can push us, motivate us, energize us, and keep us focused. The more stress we have, the better performance tends to be…up to a point. If stress keeps piling on though, we reach a point where performance actually starts to decline, and if stress continues to build, our performance can become totally ineffective. Over time, this can lead to exhaustion and burnout. How do we keep that from happening? By developing effective stress management techniques and making them a part of our overall self-care.
Let me point out that, while we all have fantasies of running off to some island in the South Pacific to get away from it all, the day-to-day objective is stress management, not stress elimination. What’s the difference? The former is doable – the latter, less so. Stress is a part of all our lives and comes from all directions. And while we may be able to eliminate stress for short periods of time, it’s simply unreasonable to assume that we can do so for extended periods. Learning how to manage stress is much more effective over the long haul. In short, managing stress means keeping it at levels the benefit us rather than overwhelm us.
An effective stress management approach focuses on both the short and long term. Daily stress management incorporates things as simple as taking short breaks during the day, getting away from your desk to eat lunch, going for short walks, and occasionally engaging co-workers in non-work related conversation. If you have a smartphone, you can download the Breathe2Relax app and take a few minutes to practice relaxation breathing. Relaxation breathing is a simple, yet very effective stress management technique.
Long-term stress management entails essential lifestyle elements such as exercise, good nutrition, active and engaging social contact, a healthy sex life, and moderation or elimination of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. It’s also important to use your vacation time for relaxation and restoration. Frequent and regular activities and hobbies can be a vital part of an overall stress management approach. Taking a yoga class, singing in a choir, or attending an aerobics class are all great ways of moderating stress. You owe it to yourself to balance life’s stressors with effective self-care and stress management. Chances are you’ll live a longer and more satisfying life if you do!
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