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Holly

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Ten Ways to Cope With Stress
From Cathleen Henning

Exercise Regularly
If you have an anxiety disorder, you may find that ongoing stress aggravates your disorder. While we cannot eliminate stress in our lives, we may learn to manage it. By making changes in different areas of our lives, we soon may find that we are better able, mentally and physically, to handle stressful events, with the ultimate result being less severe anxiety symptoms.

Stress is your body's reaction to change. It is an internal reaction, although external factors (such as work pressures) may trigger stress. Exercise helps your body release pent-up stress. It also will make your body stronger and better able to cope with ongoing stress. The best type of exercise for improving the way your body reacts to stress is aerobic. You have many options for aerobic exercising, from walking to racquetball.

Relax
You might be surprised by how quickly your mind may relax if you learn how to relax your body. Many of us don't know what actual relaxation feels like. Progressive muscle relaxation is one type of relaxation in which you'll notice the results. With progressive muscle relaxation, you systematically tense each muscle group in your body, holding the tension for about ten seconds, and then releasing the tension for another ten seconds. The contrast is a great way to teach yourself the difference between feeling tense and relaxed. You may learn progressive muscle relaxation with this quick exercise.

Relaxation exercises must be practiced, preferably once a day. It only takes ten to twenty minutes (even less as you become more familiar with the exercise).

If you practice relaxation exercises regularly, you will begin to feel more relaxed in general (not just after the exercise) over time. In addition, you will be able to perform "mini" relaxation exercises throughout the day, when you really need it.

Sleep Well
Not getting enough quality sleep may make your body vulnerable to stress. If you have difficulty getting to sleep each night or staying asleep, you may have a sleep disorder. If you feel exhausted all day or if you actually fall asleep at unexpected times during the day, you may have a sleep disorder. Even if you don't have a sleep disorder, you may be causing yourself problems if you don't get the correct amount of sleep for you.

If at all possible, try to sleep the same hours every night -- including weekends. You cannot catch up on sleep, so don't try to cut yourself short on weeknights and then make it up on the weekend. Also, your body likes cycles (remember -- it reacts to change). Here's one cycle you have control over: your sleep. Start by getting up at the same time each morning, and adjust your bed time as needed until you have a regular schedule. It may be rough for a week or two, but, ultimately, it will help.

Laugh It Up
I probably don't need to tell you that laughter may release stress -- but I may need to remind you to do it more often! Don't wait for humor to come to you. Sit down (right now!) and think about what makes you laugh. It's an individual thing, you know. Maybe you feel like you're wasting time by watching The Simpsons every week, but it's therapy! If you can't tear yourself away from the computer, go exploring on the Web. I guarantee you'll find something to tickle your funny bone. Allow About Humor Guide, Mike Durrett, to steer you in the right direction.

Make Time for Fun
Somewhat related to the previous tip, this suggestion is about giving yourself some leisure time. It's not easy, and I'm not saying that it is. However, you need to do it. Again, you need to sit down and decide what is leisure for you. Whatever activity you choose, you must do it regularly, and you must not feel guilty for taking the time to do it. Explore a hobby, play soccer with your kids, take a drawing class, walk in the woods . . . anything. Just devote a little time to yourself (not necessarily alone, as long as you're indulging in something you enjoy). You needn't spend a lot of money, and you needn't make excuses to anyone for being good to yourself.

Improve Your Diet
There are a number of different dietary changes you may make to help your body cope with stress. Consider eliminating caffeine. Caffeine is a drug, and it is a stimulant. It may cause your body to react as it would to stress; therefore, your body may be more sensitive to changes in your life and less able to cope with them. Caffeine may also cause panic attacks. If you decide to eliminate caffeine, do so gradually. As with any drug, you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you quit too quickly.

Another stimulant to avoid is nicotine. If you smoke consider how this drug is affecting you. Nicotine may produce effects similar to those I described with caffeine. As with caffeine, it's up to you to decide if you need to make the change. Deciding when to make the change is also important as quitting may cause an initial increase in anxiety and stress.

Alcohol also may increase anxiety and panic, particularly over time.

Even if it makes you feel relaxed at times, over-indulgence may result in the opposite effect. If you're taking any medications, they might not have a chance to work if you drink regularly.
Finally, take a look at what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat it. Eating a healthy diet will make you stronger. It's not easy to stick to such a diet, but you'll be surprised at how much better you feel and how much better you may cope with stress when you're sticking to a healthy diet.

Create a Support Network
If you have an anxiety disorder, there are three main kinds of support that may help you with stress. The first is support from other people with anxiety disorders. In dealing with everyday stresses, only people who understand anxiety may know how you feel. They are the people who may offer the best little bits of advice for coping with the small AND the big stuff. You may communicate with others online at the Anxiety Community Forum.

The second kind of support to consider is a therapist. A therapist should help you learn coping techniques for both anxiety and stress. A therapist also is someone who will listen to you when you're going through a stressful times. Therapy is a place to talk when you don't want to overwhelm your family and friends with every detail of your life.

Finally, while they shouldn't be your only means of support if you have an anxiety disorder, don't forget to turn to family and friends.

Not every person in your life will help you with every problem you have. In fact, some of them might not even know about your problems. It's a good idea to think about how each person fits into your life (and how you fit into theirs). While one friend might help you with desensitization exercises, another friend might provide simple fun -- just as necessary for stress relief and anxiety disorder recovery. The main point: Don't isolate yourself. Don't expect everyone to understand and to be there ALL the time, but don't underestimate the power of friendship and love.

Change Negative Thinking
Many people call this positive thinking, but that's not exactly what I mean. I do not mean that you always need to be happy, optimistic and cheerful in order to cope with stress. Bad stuff goes on in the world and, probably, in your life at times, and I wouldn't expect anyone to forget about it.

However, if you put yourself down a lot; feel angry much of the time; have trouble being assertive; dislike yourself; constantly criticize yourself; and/or generally never have a single positive thought in your head, you probably won't be able to handle stress very well. Cognitive therapy may help you learn how to reverse some of these thought patterns, but you may also do some or all of the work on your own. Two excellent books for making these changes are David Burns' The Feeling Good Handbook and Edmund Bourne's The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook.

Learn to Manage Your Time
"Time Management" can be an ugly phrase. The very thought produces stress all on its own. Maybe it's the word management? Well, try not to think about it as some enforced way of living. Time management should be flexible and very, very personalized.

Stress often comes when one feels rushed and overwhelmed, so making sure that you have enough time to do everything in your life may help you cope with stress. Time management might mean that you have to cut one or a few activities out of your life. It might mean creating a number of firm routines so that you have flexibility in other parts of your life. Only you may decide what is right for you. Remember: Stress results from change, so why not create a few predictable cycles in your life? You might change those routines later, but help yourself stabilize for a while.

Time management may involve learning new skills such as saying "no" to every volunteer opportunity, delegating household chores, and learning assertiveness in order to put it all into action.

Stop Being a Perfectionist
Perfectionism is tied in with those negative thought patterns I mentioned earlier. Sure, it's good to expect yourself to do well, but perfection is absolutely impossible. If you don't let go of perfectionism, you really can't fully recover because you'll always be critical of yourself. The two main goals for eliminating perfectionism are:

Learning the difference between "the best you can do" and "perfect"

Praising yourself for every last accomplishment, every day, no matter how small it seems
These changes may not come easily, but it's important to make them. Two helpful books in this area are David Burns' The Feeling Good Handbook and Edmund Bourne's The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook.

A cognitive therapist can help. Simply keeping a daily journal of everything positive you do may be helpful.
 

sister-ray

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Thanks Holly , i think the two main ones i fall down on is negative thinking and the support network and also being perfect just a bit. :) I have really wonderful support from two wonderful friends I have In the USA I love them both dearly and of course this forum :) but I dont have much here, now all my support has been taken away, no therapist, no social worker and no befriender,, I have one good friend here but he is too busy and has to many work commitments. anyway thanks for the information TTE
 

Meg

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That's a great article Holly, thank you for sharing it :)

Meg
 

Holly

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Hi everyone,
Meglet and Nancy thank you for reading the article, I personally found it very helpful in reducing stress. Take care :)
through-these-eyes, I found changing my way of negative thinking to be very important in my reducing stress, also in helping to personally recover from being assaulted. Also having a support system is very important. I really appreciate your comments, thank you for your input on the post. I notice you mentioned some of your supports have been taken away, have you thought about joining any support groups in your area. That may replace the ones you do not have available at the same time help you establish new ones.
I joined a few things when I able to, I also enjoyed doing it because I was getting out.
I have to do that in the future, I have been at home more than I would normally like the past few months.
Take care also and everyone have a nice day/evening. :)
 

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