published Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Upton: Beating stress takes effort

Stress, worry and anxiety can sometimes be like the cousins you'd rather not see at your family reunion.

Stress occurs when we feel we can't manage what life is throwing at us. We then worry about all the negative possibilities that may occur, and then live in a state of anxiety that tricks our body into believing we must stay tense and ready to fight or to flee from danger.

This is no voluntary act. Most of us would rather feel relaxed than keyed up, yet we have probably all experienced some level of anxiety. The good news is that there are some simple things we can do to keep these unwanted kinfolk from hanging out at the house for too long.

Firstly, we need to figure out exactly what is causing the distress that we're feeling. Perhaps its not just the situation but your perception of what's going on that's the problem. Journaling, or simply writing briefly about an aspect of your day, week, or month, may uncover some of the fleeting thoughts and reactions that have occurred.

For instance, perhaps you realize you've forgotten to do something that was important, and now you are wondering what will happen next. Or you may remember that you saw, heard, or even smelled something that reminded you of something in your past. Earlier trauma can cause later anxiety. Uncovering these issues and working through them with a trusted person can benefit one greatly.

Next, we need to push our thoughts in new directions, as they are directly linked to what we feel. If you feel overwhelmed, it is most likely because you think you are in over your head. If you first grab hold of that thought and counter it with a more empowering thought such as, "This looks bad, but I bet I can come up with a solution to fix it if I think long enough." You have already caused your brain to begin to work in a new way. Remind yourself of ways you've overcome things in the past to build your confidence. Prayerful gratitude and reflection on the positives alters our mindsets as well.

Find ways to unwind daily. Try deep breathing for just five minutes in the evening. When we are stressed out, we tend to breathe more shallowly. Breathing from our bellies causes us to take in more oxygen and to help our bodies release tension. Exercise daily, as even just a few minutes can be helpful. Try a stretching and breathing routine together to help the body relax. Light candles in the evening and listen to relaxing music or hum a tune.

Nurture your carefree, childlike side by doing fun things on a regular basis. Take a dance class, go horse back riding, find time to spend and play near water. Even in your home, laugh with family members or roommates. Invite friends over.

Lastly, try your best to avoid negative energy. Try not to procrastinate on even difficult tasks as it only prolongs the inevitable. If the evening news makes you anxious, you don't really have to watch it. Someone is sure to tell you about it the next day anyway. Remember that over 90 percent of the things we worry about never happen.

If you find that your lifestyle keeps you stirred up, be willing to make changes that will help you feel more relaxed and in control.

Tabi Upton, MA-lpc is a therapist at CBI-Richmont Counseling Center and founder of www.chattanoogacouselor.com. Email her at tabiupton@bellsouth.net.

about Tabi Upton...

Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.

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