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Do you have a tendency to feel stressed out and worry excessively?
Maybe you heard the bad news last week. A new study by researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden followed a group of women in their 40s, whose disposition made them prone to anxiety, moodiness, and psychological distress, to see how many developed dementia over the next 38 years.
Turns out that women who were the most easily upset by stress were two times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
That means now’s the time to get stress under control, ladies! No more ignoring the problem. And although the study didn’t include statistics for men, we all know that stress management is essential for both sexes since anxiety has a profound effect on our health and well-being.
So how do you take charge of your thoughts and emotions to manage your anxiety? How can you change the way you deal with problems and your schedule to control your anger, frustration, and worries?
To help you get started, I’ve outlined five steps you can take to relieve stress:
Identify What Makes You Anxious
The purpose of this step is not to eliminate every stressful situation in your life. That’s impossible. Everyone is going to have problems. Sometimes you must accept what can’t be changed and concentrate on coping strategies.
However, knowing what triggers anxious feelings can help you concentrate on what can be changed. For example, perhaps you can limit your time or even remove negative people from your life that constantly stress you out. Or maybe you need to let go of perfectionism or stop being so hard on yourself.
Be aware of signs that you are feeling stressed such as feeling irritable, fatigued, or anxious and make changes when possible. If a situation can’t be changed, then use the following steps to stop these feelings in their tracks.
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Quit Ruminating and Cultivate a Positive Attitude
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude,” Maya Angelou famously said.
How can you quit ruminating and develop a more positive attitude? Change your thought pattern, start a journal to release angry or stressful thoughts, meditate, enjoy a relaxing hobby, or simply breathe deeply.
As I brought out in a previous blog on Cultivating a Positive Attitude, you don’t have to be a victim of your circumstances. Instead of dwelling on what’s wrong in your life, start thinking about how you can make better decisions in the future, what you can learn from the experience, and ways you can use the situation to build character and strength.
Bottling up emotions can lead to a complete meltdown. Instead of holding it all in, communicate any problems quickly and honestly. Resolve conflicts and learn to forgive.
Appreciate the good things in your life, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Be grateful for what you have instead of lamenting what you lack. Smile and laugh more. Humor can help combat fear and frustrations by relaxing your body. Do something nice for someone to lift your spirits.
Learn to Manage Your Time
Sometimes stress can be a result of poor time-management skills. If a project seems overwhelming, try dividing it into smaller tasks giving each one a deadline. Delegate responsibilities whenever possible. If your schedule is cluttered with unnecessary activities that are stressful, learn to say no. Check out my previous blog for ways to do so. Eliminate words like “should” and “must” from your vocabulary.
Even if your life is full with exciting and fulfilling activities, you can feel stressed if you’re constantly rushing around. Cultivate inner peace by scheduling down time. Write it down in your calendar. Spend time in nature, play with a pet, call a friend, enjoy a hobby, listen to soothing music, or take a long bath. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you’ll be in a better place to handle life’s stresses.
I know, duh! You already knew that exercise can help you feel less stressed, right? But sometimes when you’re feeling anxious, exercise seems unappealing and more like a chore.
Get past that attitude and don’t give up. As I wrote in my blog, How Exercise Makes You Happier, twenty minutes on a treadmill doesn’t solve all of life’s problems, but endorphins produced by exercise can help you feel happier by reducing stress and anxiety and lessening feelings of sadness or depression. I’m not talking about running a marathon here. Actually moderate exercise works best for relieving stress. Choose relaxing exercises like swimming, walking, or Pilates.
While you’re at it, adapt a healthy lifestyle with nutritious food and adequate sleep. Learn to breathe deeply and practice relaxation exercises. Click here for five basic ones I listed in a previous blog that you can try.
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Read a Book
This is one of my personal favorite ways to relax and escape from life’s problems.
Although often overlooked as a form of stress relief, research by Mindlab International at the University of Sussex shows that reading is great for your mental health and can reduce stress levels by up to 68 percent.
Yea! I have a new reason to delve into the latest best seller. Turns out the human mind processes reading in much the same way as meditation. When your head is in a book you can shut out distractions by focusing on one specific thing. Your muscles relax and your mind is given a much needed break from everyday frustrations.
If you are middle-aged or older, this new study is a wake-up call. Not only will you reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s but learning to reduce stress brings countless emotional and physical health benefits.
By knowing yourself well enough to tell when you’re under stress, you can take action as soon as possible, let go of all that anxiety, and find your bliss!