Penny Foreman - Individual and Couples Therapist

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Self-Help for Stress
Stress has always been a part of life. There are happy kinds of stress: weddings, vacations, or a new house. In itself, stress is not harmful.  It is even necessary in some cases.  Mild forms of stress can motivate and energize us. But sometimes we deal with excessive stress, which can cause problems with our health, our emotions and our relationships.  We get irritable, anxious, moody, sleep badly. We may increase our smoking or use of alcohol. We may have headaches or stomachaches, grind our teeth at night, cry easily, lose our appetite or overeat.

Here are some tips to help you increase your stress fitness—your ability to healthfully manage stress. 

Recognize what’s really bothering you.  Identify the problem and ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do to change the situation?”  If there is, figure out what you can do.  If not, find ways to accept this lack of control.  

Get adequate, regular amounts of rest and sleep.  Chronically stressed people almost always suffer from fatigue; people who are tired do not cope well with stress.  If possible, try to sleep the same hours every night, including weekends.

Exercise regularly.  As a way of letting off steam and working out stress, nothing beats aerobic exercise.  Activities such as walking, running, bicycling, swimming, aerobic classes and dancing are the best choices to dissipate stress energy.  Of course, always check with your doctor before starting any exercise regime.

Set realistic goals.  Also, set your priorities.

Decrease or discontinue use of caffeine and nicotine.  Caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, cola) is a strong stimulant that actually generates a stress reaction in the body.  Cut your intake gradually to avoid headaches and other withdrawal symptoms.  Remember nicotine is a stimulant, too.

Practice deep breathing.  Break the grip of tension or tiredness with controlled deep breathing.     What to do: Inhale deeply, hold it for a few seconds, then exhale slowly.  If you prefer say “relax” or “calm”… or another soothing word as you exhale.   Do this for a few minutes.

Make time for fun.  Get a hobby or two.  Once a day do something pleasant for yourself.

Focus on your good qualities and accomplishments.

Learn to use your time wisely.  Plan ahead and avoid procrastination.

Recognize and accept your limits.  Remember that everyone is unique and different.

Talk it over.
  When tensions build up, discuss the problem with someone you trust.

If all of your self-help attempts to reduce your stress are not enough, and I can be of help, please call me.
Penny Foreman, LCSW
(858) 657-0007