Stress Management Techniques

Identify and deal with your stressors

Identify your stressors. Ask yourself, "Why am I feeling stressed?" "What just happened that made me feel stressed?"

Determine how you will deal with this stressor. For example:

  • Un-clutter your day. Take some of the pressure off yourself! Make a list of everything that you must do. Then reorder the list. Put the things that "absolutely must be done or else" at the top of your list. Next list the "could-wait-awhile" items in an order that makes sense to you. Work your way down your list. What you don't complete today, you can do tomorrow, or at a time when you are not so stressed.
  • Take time out to de-stress. For example, if caring for an aging parent or child is getting to you, take a break. Call up a friend and ask if they could relieve you for a few hours so you can take a breather.

Use deep breathing

This is a wonderful relaxation technique that can be used to either stay calm or to relax once you're stressed. It is simple to do and can be done just about anywhere.

  • Sit or lay down in a comfortable position.
  • Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose. (Your stomach area should rise as you inhale.)
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth. (Your stomach should go down as you exhale)
  • Repeat three or four times or until you feel calm or relaxed.

Use visual imagery

You can't think about calming images and stress at the same time. Visual imagery can help you do this.

  • Take two or three deep breaths. (Also see instructions for deep breathing).
  • Close your eyes.
  • For about five or ten minutes, picture a scene that you find relaxing (watching a babbling brook, wind rippling through the trees). Take in everything — the sound, smell, sight. If desired, play some soothing background music (a piece of music that you are familiar with and that you find comforting or relaxing).
  • When finished visualizing, take two or three deep breaths and slowly open your eyes. Now that you feel calmer and in a more relaxed state, you will be better able to cope or deal with your stressor.

A more advanced technique involves identifying a successful way out of the stressful situation.

  • Take two or three deep breaths. (Also see instructions for deep breathing).
  • Close your eyes.
  • Visualize the successful outcome of your stressful situation clearly and in as much detail as possible. What are you doing? Saying? Feeling? Focus your mental energy on this image for a minute or two
  • When finished, take two or three deep breaths and slowly open your eyes.

Do something physical

Physical activity is a great way to relieve tension (and burn a few calories at the same time!). Some examples include:

  • Take a walk
  • Rake the lawn or some leaves.
  • Weed the garden.
  • Wash the floor or the bathroom tiles.
  • Put on some music and DANCE!
  • Go to the gym.
  • Ride a bike.

Eat a crunchy, low-calorie food

Sometimes you may feel that you just have to eat! If so, choose a food that will help reduce tension but will not hurt your weight management efforts. Some examples include:

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • A crisp apple
  • Popcorn
  • Chewing gum (it's not crispy, but the chewing action may help reduce tension in your jaw). If you frequently chew gum, select a brand that is calorie-free.

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