Are There Techniques for Curing Stress?
Actually, it's pretty much impractical to try to "cure" stress if, by that, you mean eliminating all occurrences of it.
In fact, it's probably self-defeating as well.
After all, concentrating too strongly on the elimination of all stress can create a completely new source of stress itself. The good news is that there are several simple and practical short-term, and some pretty effective long-term strategies, for reducing stress and its effects.
Most of us are under some sort stress at almost all times, and, we tend to let it build up before doing anything about it. That's one of the major problems. We simply ignore it for waayyy too long!
Let's take for example, the need to get a project completed at work before the deadline (apt term), or take the view that our situation is unchangeable for some reason. For these situations, by the way, we even have a commonly voiced, and accepted mantra: "That's life,"
However, we should never consider ANY ill-effect from life stress as "inevitable", nor is it necessary, or wise, to passively accept "perceived" inevitability as an excuse not to do anything to relieve or manage stress.
As with so many of life's problems, the first positive step is to increase awareness and understanding of the problem. In the army, we used to say that first of all you had to know what the problem actually was before you could begin working on solving it.
With stress, we can do this two ways - outwardly and inwardly.
When you can achieve a genuinely objective awareness of your internal state, and, evaluate it as realistically as possible, you have begun to take away the ability of stress to harm you. However, you must also be as objective about external circumstances and events, and not allow the negatives of daily life to become just "about me"...or you.
When you do recognize that a particular circumstance is something that is a legitimate "worry", the ensuing concern, and some degree of stress, is normal and healthy. Realizing this, and accepting it, can help reduce the overall level of stress as well. Unreasonable fear, usually of the unknown, and obsession with the negative aspects of any situation is not usually going to be a good approach to recognizing, understanding, and managing stress.
If you find that you must concentrate on the stressful events in your life, from time to time, take a moment to review the statement:
"...grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
Re-read that last comment. It is very important when it comes to coping with, if not curing, stress.
If things are causing us stress, in order to live a longer, healthier, happier life, we should take action and, in some way, change them. However, knowing when to honestly say to yourself, "This is how it is and I cannot change it," is also important.
But, unless that attitude is coupled with, "I know I cannot change the situation, but what can I do to ease the effects this situation has on me?", stress will win every time.
You must find strength in knowing that there are things you can change and some you cannot.
If you can change it, do so. If you cannot, change yourself in some way if possible.
Even if you cannot reduce the pressure of every stressful situation, there are steps (literally and figuratively) which you can take to reduce many of them, and this, in turn, will reduce the overall negative affect that stress has on you, your loved ones, your health, and your life.
Knowing when to stand against the "...slings and arrows of outrageous fortune", and when to seek cover is an important skill.
Also, knowing when to stand and when to bend is an important skill. In one of his books, Dale Carnegie, makes the point that, though the mighty oak stands against the winds, it is more likely to be ripped from the ground, or grow twisted and bent, while the pine, which bends before the wind grows tall and true.
Whether you choose to stand or bend, whatever the source of the stress, the question is not going to be about "curing stress". The question will be: What can YOU do to reduce the power that stress, any stress, will have over you.
Here are a few suggestions:
Take a moment to breathe.
One of the most common reactions to stress is tension, usually muscle tension. Many muscles of the body will stiffen up, including those used in breathing. We find ourselves taking shallow breaths, and deep breathing will relax us. You may have to practice this, but taking a couple of minutes to take a break and actually take slow, deep breaths will do a world of good.
People who regularly practice yoga, meditation, and other such practices are well aware of this phenomenon, but you do not have to be a yogin, mystic, or swami to benefit from a couple of scientific facts.
First, if you concentrate on almost anything other than the problem(s) causing the stress, you are going to experience some temporary relief from it. If you do this regularly, you will reduce the overall level of stress you carry around with you, and stress breeds stress in an exponential manner. This is one of the benefits associated with practices which involve regular moments of relaxation, such as yoga and meditation.
If that's still a little too "other-worldly" for you, although having been proven by many studies, here's a bit of science on the subject of deep breathing.
When you take long, deep breaths through your nasal passages, your body creates nitric oxide. This substance causes your blood vessels to dilate, improving the flow of blood to all parts of the body, and creates a calming affect and a release of tension. Again, do it once and you will receive a temporary reprieve from the stress which is affecting you. Do it regularly, and you will experience, over time, a noticeable reduction in your total level of stress and the negative affects that it has on you.
Many who begin to take these steps learn that the stress itself is often preventing them from seeing solutions to the situations causing the stress. They also often begin to take a more realistic view of the stress, its causes, and their own reactions to it.
While deep breathing is good for combating stress, there's no need to overdo the exercise especially if you are just beginning to use the technique.
You're not practicing yoga, or yoga breathing (Pranayama), and you certainly don't want to hyperventilate. Slowly move the head and shoulders and relax the chest muscles. A slow deep breath or two is often enough to break the tension, but if you can take a couple of minutes to think about something other than your problems, especially if you can think about some very pleasant moment in your life or a scene which produced feelings of pleasure.
Having grown up in Pensacola, Florida, myself, for example, I can always remember the Gulf of Mexico on a Summer day as seen from Santa Rosa Island.
These suggestions can be effective for acute stress - the type that is produced by an isolated event and lasts a short time and which you want to move away from, for at least a moment.
For more chronic stress, which is generally the result of ongoing circumstances and which persists over time, additional techniques may be valuable.
Many will say that exercise is good for preventing, or relieving, stress, and many who feel that having to exercise if that is not something pleasing to them would just add one more stress to deal with.
Surprisingly, something as simple and old-fashioned as a brisk walk in the park can be helpful. It's not simply an old wives' tale that fresh air and sunshine can be relaxing. While too much sunlight on the skin can be harmful, a certain amount of sunlight, about 10 - 15 minutes a day can help with the production of Vitamin D (which can be involved with easing feelings of depression or sadness), and serotonin (a chemical in the body which can help relieve depression and improve one's outlook), It's also true that moderate exercise is a great way to relieve many of the accompanying physical symptoms of stress.
It is not just coincidence, that suicide rates are often higher in countries which receive less sunlight, or that there is a condition, a seasonal depression called SAD, which results in increased levels of depression and increased feelings of stress.
Even such simple activities as playing music can be helpful. Of course, people want to know which types will be most effective in reducing stress. The fact is that studies have shown that the music which YOU find most joyful, exciting, uplifting, will be most effective to help you manage, perhaps even cure, stress.
Watching a comedy on TV or at the movies can also be beneficial for relieving stress as demonstrated by many studies and as reported by many sources, such as Norman Cousins in his classic "Head First: The Biology of Hope and the Healing Power of the Human Spirit", It is not by accident that, for generations, Reader's Digest has run a section called, "Laughter, the Best Medicine". Laughter is a great mood lifter.
Almost any creative activity can be helpful for managing stress, especially if there is some sort of accompanying physical activity involved. It could be as simple as making a birdhouse or as advanced as painting or sculpture. If it gives you the chance to concentrate for a while on something you enjoy, it will help relieve your stress. Activities such as working puzzles, putting together hobby kits, even something as simple as stamp or coin collecting can be beneficial.
When you are stressed, a talk with a sympathetic friend will almost always be useful in relieving some of that stress, but it's also often a good idea to avoid talking about the circumstances which are causing your condition, or the stress itself. Of course, good, objective discussion about the problem can most certainly be quite beneficial, but too many times it becomes an excuse to obsess over the problem. Unfortunately, some of us are inclined to seek out only those who will reinforce negative evaluations, so, don't let others lead you back down the path to "rumination" over the problem, which can lead to "ruination".
While these are all techniques which can help relieve the symptoms of stress, they don't address the underlying causes. However, one unique factor of stress is that the symptoms, and the resultant mess they can make of our health and our lives, makes it an area in which relieving the symptoms can be almost as much value as relieving the cause itself.
It's not quite the same as curing stress, I guess, but at least it's a step towards that ultimate result.
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