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Stress Management

We all have ways of dealing with the demands of life. But what happens when we find ourselves with an overflowing plate of responsibilities and worries which feels like systems-overload? We feel like tossing responsibility out the window because we just can't seem to cope. However, we know we can't do this.

So…what can we do to better handle the stress?

First, let's define stress.

Stress is the effect that the demands of life have on our mind and body. Acute stress effects the nervous system - our heart rate increases, pupils dilate, muscles tighten and our adrenaline is pumping!!!

We know that these reactions to stress are not helpful in any situation, but yet we still often respond this way to stress. This leaves us feeling anxious with fast breathing and a racing heart.

Here are some tips for managing stress:

1. Prepare yourself mentally. If there is an upcoming situation you are thinking about, try visualizing how you may react. Then ask yourself if your anticipated reaction is reasonable. You should also begin to think of other possible responses. It helps to step outside the situation by imagining that you are giving someone else advice.

2. Organize yourself. Make possible plans of action or lists to help organize yourself. Remind yourself to stick to the plan as best you can and focus. Prepare yourself with materials when applicable (e.g. study materials).

3. Prioritize responsibility!!! You are only human and can't do all immediately; so think about what absolutely needs to get done today, and what can really wait until next week.

4. Give yourself permission to say, "NO!" We want to please people and be helpful, but remember, if helping someone else causes you to compromise your own needs, then you can say, "NO."

5. Slow down!!! Don't rush yourself - try your best to allow extra time for all you need to do.

6. Take care of yourself - Eat well, exercise, and get some sleep. All of the above help to keep us balanced and on target - physically, emotionally, and mentally.

7. Balance your day. Anything in extreme is not good for you; so break up your day as best you can.

8. Relax!!! Give yourself a break each day. Do something you enjoy - you deserve it - and your mind and body need it - no excuses!!!

9. Try a breathing technique Or imagery to help you calm down throughout the day. For imagery, practice thinking of a place in your mind that provokes peaceful feelings.

Here is a breathing technique that only takes a minute: 1) breathe in through your nose on a slow count of three; 2) push your stomach out as you breathe in; 3) breathe out through your mouth on a slow count of six; 4) repeat two more times.

If you feel lightheaded, breathe more slowly. Practice this technique 3 times a day and you will remember the steps when you are stressed out.

10. Talk it out. If you are really feeling overwhelmed, don't hesitate to sort it out and get some support from a counselor.

It may not be easy at first to make some changes in the ways we are used to handling our stress, but don't give up. Start with small steps and it will get easier with time and practice.

Life is a journey that has some smooth sailing and some bumpy roads; so it is really important to remember that you are worth the effort of practicing these tips toward a better you!!