Stress is an unavoidable part of life. In one form or another, we encounter it on a daily basis. How we minimize and manage our stress is a learned art.
Not all stress is bad. To a certain degree, it is necessary and can be a healthy catalyst toward helping us achieve or surpass our expectations. It triggers responses within our bodies that force us to react to and resolve difficult situations. However, too much stress can cause burnout, emotional instability, irritability and depression. Chemical imbalances caused by excessive stress may result in wear and tear on the body that weakens the immune system, making us more susceptible to diseases. Long-term stress can be even worse, leading to heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer and other fatal ailments linked to high blood pressure.
There are many stress-reduction techniques and exercises, most of which are so simple and basic they can be done at home or at work with no special equipment.
You can start by adopting a balanced and healthy diet. Eating foods that are high in protein strengthens the body's immune system and helps fight off the destructive forces of stress. Transcendental meditation is another effective stress-fighting technique. Relaxing your body and mind, closing your eyes, focusing on a single-syllable sound (mantra) and silently repeating that mantra over and over in your mind can help put you at ease.
Biofeedback is another method of combating stress. Basically this means acquiring a greater awareness of how the body feels in certain situations. For example, try breathing heavily for a few seconds without overdoing it. Then stop, close your eyes, take notice of what your body feels like and make a note of that. Then run in place for a few minutes, stop and note how your body feels. Next, think about something very upsetting, then think about something very exciting and take note of your feelings after each. Your physical state of arousal while doing these exercises will be similar to how your body responds when exposed to negative stress. After these exercises, try some slow, natural breathing techniques, allowing your body and mind to relax. Note how your body feels. You should now have a means of comparing how you feel when both stressed and relaxed. Based on this comparison, you can consciously choose how you want to feel in any given situation, and you should be able to produce that feeling at will.
There are many other things you can do to combat stress: practice positive thinking, recite calming prayers, listen to soft music or stress-reduction tapes, exercise, cultivate healthy and loving relationships, and bond with others who are in situations similar to yours. I cover stress extensively and tell you what you can do about it in my new book Maximum Energy for Life. The main thing to remember is to be cognizant of situations you find the most stressful and take appropriate steps when you feel the symptoms coming on. Relax and enjoy yourself and you'll live longer and healthier.