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Wellness and Stress Management

Stress is the product of the interaction between you and your environment. The stresses of life are really your reaction to the sensory inputs you receive from your environment. The only way to change the level of stress in your life is to change your environment and/or change your reaction to your environment. 

Example 1: Your boss, that overbearing, ignorant tyrant, has once again demanded that you transmute lead into gold. You are seething with rage at being treated so badly after years of faithful service. There are two ways to reduce this stress. One is to explore ways to reduce the source of stress by asking for a transfer to another division, to another manager or by trying to improve relations with your boss. The other is to change your own reaction to this situation by realizing that you are doing a good job and taking a moment to stop, do a little deep breathing and resume your job with a positive attitude in spite of having a boss who tends to cause the little hairs on the back of your neck to stand up. 

Try to react to stressful situations with humor. Imagine how your favorite comedian would react. A good laugh reduces the levels of hormones and neurotransmitters which cause stress. Even the act of smiling, even faking a smile, can help relieve stress. 

Try to avoid becoming angry or hostile. If you feel yourself getting angry ask yourself these questions. Is my anger justified? Is there anything I can do to change the situation? Is the issue important? If the answer to any of these is no, then take a deep breath, smile and relax. Anger and hostility are bad for you. They substantially raise the risk of heart attack and stroke. Try to avoid them. 

Try to slow down. We live in a fast food world where we have forgotten how to live in any kind of measured way. There is a book called The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. He is a Buddhist monk and the book is basically on meditation. It is a way to slow down and try to "live in the moment". We spend so much time pursuing activities to get to the next activity that we have forgotten how to enjoy the current activity. The breathing techniques described in the book can help you focus on the here and now. Try starting by taking a 2-3 minute break several times a day. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Take a fairly full breath and then exhale slowly and easily, counting as you do. Perhaps you will exhale to a count of 5. Then inhale to a count of 5. Try to match your inhalations with your exhalations. The next time you feel yourself becoming angry, or frustrated, do your breathing techniques. Use it as a way to calm yourself down and return to the "here and now". 

Let go of guilt and grudges. These are two of the least useful emotions. There is a parable in which two monks who are from an order which has vowed to never speak to or touch women come to a swiftly flowing stream. A pregnant woman is waiting on the bank unable to cross the river. After a moment the elder monk picks her up on his back and carries her across the river. He puts her down on the other side and the two monks continue their journey. After 20 minutes the younger monk says, "Excuse me brother, but I thought we had taken vows never to touch a woman, yet you carried that one across the river." The elder monk replies, "Brother, I only carried her for a minute or so. You have been carrying her for the last 20 minutes." 

Turn off your T.V. Spend more time with people, especially your family, but also develop a larger social group. Start by asking your co-workers or neighbors out for a cup of coffee or over for dessert.
Find time to play. Finding a leisure activity you enjoy is important. All the better if it involves exercise like cycling, swimming or tennis. 

Exercise 30 minutes 3 times a week, minimum. Do more if you like. It doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise. Even brisk walking is fine. Better if combined with gentle stretching exercises.