How can I reduce stress?Once you have identified the stresses in your life, there are two options available to you to reduce or eliminate them. The first option is to remove the stressful elements from your life. If working with a certain colleague is on your list of stress inducers, you could talk to your supervisor about the problem, ask to be transferred, or find a new job. If traffic continually has you on edge, you could look into participating in a car pool or taking public transportation. The other option is to change the belief that working with this particular colleague is stressful, or that traffic congestion causes stress.
What other strategies can I use to reduce stress?The opposite of stress is relaxation, and any activity that enhances relaxation is a natural stress buster. During relaxation, a number of changes may take place. Often a person’s brain waves change from the beta pattern into the alpha pattern, a pattern associated with restful, receptive states of mind. The body requires less oxygen, and the respiratory rate slows. The heart rate slows, blood pressure sometimes declines, and a lower level of stress hormones and cholesterol is present in the blood. Muscle fibers elongate, showing that muscles have relaxed. Anyone with heart disease, or at risk for heart disease, will benefit from these kinds of physiological responses. Two well known relaxation techniques are yoga and meditation.
YOGA AND DEEP MUSCLE RELAXATIONYoga is an ancient system of postures, stretches, and breathing exercises designed to bring about health and relaxation. The practice of yoga induces deep muscle relaxation and is very useful for general stress reduction, as it produces mental tranquillity and restores your energy level. Yoga results in real physiological changes: it lowers your pulse rate, decreases your metabolic rate, lowers your blood pressure, and reduces the need for stress hormones that are produced by the adrenal glands.
There are classes, books, and videotapes available to teach yoga to those who wish to learn. There are many styles of yoga, including Kundalini yoga, hatha yoga, and Iyengar yoga, which place varying emphasis on breathing, postures, and types of stretches, so find the type that appeals to you. Other physical relaxation practices emphasizing stretching and breathing, such as T’ai Chi, are valuable as well.
MEDITATIONThere are many meditation methods that teach ways to disengage from the constant stream of chatter emanating from the mind. This does not mean you must reject or ignore the mind, only that one can learn to take a step back from it in order to observe its behavior. Must you believe everything the mind says? Must you continue to defend yourself every time your mind alerts you to stress? Meditation is a tool for investigation. It may surprise you to learn that the presidents and CEOs of some successful high tech companies take time to meditate every day and also encourage their employees to learn meditation.
When you first begin to practice meditation you may experience stress and frustration when confronted with the mind’s ceaseless barrage of mental images, judgments, theories, fantasies, and other ramblings; but with practice, you will be able to block out intruding thoughts and find some peace and quiet. Meditation can help calm you and slow your pulse rate, and is a tool for relaxing even in stressful circumstances. There are many meditation techniques, so look into which one is for you. Prayer, worship, contemplation, and communing with nature also offer the benefits of meditation.