We live in a world that produces lots of stress. While stress can sometimes help motivate us to focus and act, a lot of stressful things are nonproductive and harmful. Stress might help motivate you to meet that new project’s deadline at work, but the anger a traffic jam causes you really has no benefit. None of us can avoid all of life’s stress-causing events and people , but learning how to relax can keep that stress from causing you harm. Uncontrolled stress can make you react poorly or angrily, and prolonged stress can negatively affect your health in a number of ways.
Your starting point is simply to learn to recognize when something is stressful and is affecting you. Experts advise that one quick way to reduce that stress is deep breathing. It’s simply breathing in for 5 seconds, holding your breath for 5 seconds, then slowly breathing out for 5 seconds, and holding for another 5 before doing another breathing round. When you do breathing like this your brain is focusing on your breaths, not the source of your stress, and that gives your mind and body a chance to relax just a bit.
Another way to relax is as basic as exercise. If, when faced with a stressful situation, you can get up, go outside for a quick walk, and use the time to focus on the world around you rather than what is stressing you, you are going to find yourself more relaxed. And a relaxed you will think more clearly.
Learning to relax simply means looking for ways to refocus your attention and thinking. The simple act of counting to 10 when you feel yourself getting angry (a sign of stress you want to avoid) really does work. If the anger is pretty strong, keep on counting to 100. Getting upset by that traffic jam that’s going to make you late? Turn on the car radio and sing along with whatever’s playing. Again, it’s relaxing by simply refocusing your attention.
You can and should also prepare your body to handle stress, since there always will be some. Good nutrition, regular exercise, staying hydrated and being well rested are all good protections against the negative effects that stress can produce. Learn to recognize when stress is beginning to affect you, then look for ways to add some relaxation. The result will be a happier and healthier you.
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This article is provided by the American Counseling Association. Visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.