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Stop Letting

Stress Rule

Your Life

Lynn Smith
Professional Health Coach

Ever had a day that left you feeling stressed out? Maybe traffic was at a standstill and it made you late for work. Once on the job, it seemed like everyone needed you for something, every phone call was for you, and that project with the deadline wasn't any closer to being done. On the ride home, all you could think about was getting home and putting your feet up. As traffic crawled, the anticipation of walking through your own door grew. Pulling into the garage, you could picture a quiet evening sheltered in your home, locking out the rest of the world.

Instead of the quiet refuge you were longing for, as soon as you walked through the door, you're bombarded. Your daughter, excited about an invitation to a slumber party, is begging for your permission to go. Your son has a science project due tomorrow that he needs supplies for and wants to go to the store right now. Over the sound of both kids talking at the same time, you hear your husband announce that he's hungry and what time is dinner. It is that very moment that all the stress that had been building during the course of the day hits you and you blow up. That only makes you feel worse. It's not your kids' fault you had a tough day and taking it out on them only makes you feel guilty.

How can you keep this scenario from repeating itself? How can you keep your stress level from rising so you don't take it out on your family?

There are some basics to managing stress that we've all heard before, but we'll cover them briefly:

1. Exercise relaxes the body and helps regulate hormones that can lead to stress.

2. Sleep is a key factor to managing stress. Keep a regular sleep schedule. Lack of sleep can make us more irritable and more prone to stress. Don't burn the candle and both ends! You'll be better equipped to deal with whatever comes up in the course of your day after adequate rest.

3. Deep breathing is something that can be done anywhere and in any situation. The physical effects of taking long, slow breaths are lowered heart rate and blood pressure, relaxing of the muscles and a clearing of the mind.

4. Diet is important. That donut may look appealing, but the sugar in it will cause a drop in your blood sugar levels, which can cause anxiety, depression, shaking, and make concentration more difficult. And don't skip breakfast! Skipping breakfast makes it hard for your body to maintain those stable blood sugar levels.

We've reviewed some stress management basics, now let's take a look at some specific situations that can occur and review some ways to manage them.

The daily commute can put us in a bad mood before we even get to work. It's important to give yourself enough time. Anticipate that there will be problems and leave a little earlier. Nothing brings on the stress more than seeing the clock moving faster than you are. Even if traffic is moving smoothly, isn't it better to get to work a few minutes early rather than racing, trying to be there on time? Since you are going to be spending commute time in your car, make it a comfortable place to be. Play your favorite CD or listen to an audio book.

Going along with the idea of making your car a comfortable place to be, do the same with your work environment. Make your work space your own by surrounding yourself with photographs, cartoons, decorative items, whatever creates an appealing environment for you. You spend a lot of time there, make it more enjoyable. During your day, give yourself a change of scenery. Take a walk; leave the building, if only for a few minutes. A short walk can relieve any tension and give you a break from phones, and demands from others.

It can be hard enough, sometimes, to handle the demands of the day. Is it possible that in an effort to cope, you are making yourself more susceptible to stress? You can be if you're relying on caffeine or cigarettes. Caffeine is not just in your morning coffee but it's in teas, colas, and chocolate. The effect of this on the body are revved up nervous, cardiac, and respiratory systems, which contributes to the depletion of vitamins and minerals and causes the release of adrenalin. This boost of adrenalin not only stimulates the stress response but also makes the nervous system more reactive, increasing susceptibility to stress.

Most smokers would say that when they feel stressed, lighting up helps them feel better. It may feel that way, but is that really the case? Nicotine is a sympathomimetic. What that means is that nicotine increases activity of neurotransmitters associated with the sympathetic nervous system. The reality of that is that nicotine can either trigger anxiety and stress or it can make your threshold for stress more sensitive. Either way, you'll be less equipped to handle stressful situations.

We can't get away from every possible stressor, but we can arm ourselves with defenses that help us cope.


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