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Think you'd win a most-stressed competition? Karen Fittall finds out how to lower your tension levels.
Ninety percent. That's how many of us say we experience regular hits of stress. Worse still, 43 percent of those surveyed aren't just slightly stressed, they are very stressed. If you believe the statistics, it means that nine out of 10 of us could benefit from a good de-stressing.
Combining long-term 'change-for-good' strategies with short-term 'quick-fix' tactics, here's a stress-less action plan to help you do just that.
For Long Term Benefits.
If you can't control it, stop worrying about it.
In the battle against stress, Dr Sarah Edelman, psychologist and author of Change Your Thinking (ABC Books, $32.95), says the first thing to do is separate things within your control from those that aren't. "And once you understand the difference, try to make it your life philosophy to not worry about things that are out of your control."
Remember it's the thought that counts.
Edelman says that while things go wrong for all of
us, whether or not and even how upset we get as a result depends largely on the way we think. "While we may not be able to change other people or our life circumstances, we can change the way we perceive them, and avoid upsetting ourselves unnecessarily."
Learn a new language.
No, not French, but a new way of talking to yourself. "Catch yourself and ask 'what am I telling myself to make me feel this way?'," says Edelman.
She explains how we all adopt unhelpful self-dialogue at times; see things in black or white, so that we think situations are either all bad or all good, rather than the 'grey' they are; or personalise things so we assume other people's bad behaviour is directed at us.
"By observing the thoughts that are contributing to your stress levels, you can stand back from them and realise that there is an alternative way of thinking."
Chill out now
According to researchers in Melbourne, chewing gum during a mildly stressful situation can relieve anxiety by 17 percent and reduce stress by 16 percent. It can also increase alertness by 19 per cent and improve overall performance by as much as 109 percent. The reason isn't yet clear, but the study's authors say it may be because chewing increases blood flow to the brain.
Do some exercise
"Physical exercise is one of the best and easiest ways to reduce tension and 'spend' the biochemical changes that are brought about by stress," says Edelman. And researchers in the UK have proved it, finding people who exercise before heading into work or during their lunch break feel less stressed compared to the days they spend being sedentary.
Do something you enjoy
It may sound like a no-brainer, but University
of Cincinnati scientists have proven how doing something pleasurable reduces stress by inhibiting anxiety responses in the brain. Even better news is that the effects are long lasting, positively affecting stress levels for at least seven days.
Edelman supports the idea and says, "Make a conscious effort to balance work and play. Engage in fun activities, including leisure, social activities, sports and interests. It's a simple, yet effective, way to lift your mood and diffuse the effects of stress."
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