Managing Stress Naturally

Small changes to your daily routine and diet can help you reduce the effects of stress and keep the positive vibes flowing.

| July/August 2013

  • Numerous studies have found that having a network of supportive relationships contributes to our psychological well-being.
    Photo By StockFood
  • Exercising helps reduce stress.
    Photo By Shutterstock

It’s sometimes hard to push our stresses aside and stop to smell the roses. Our lives can become so packed that the roses—and everything else, for that matter—become a blur. “Managing stress is all about small change,” says David Johnson, a licensed marriage and family therapist in McKenzie, Tennessee. “We can talk about huge, earth-shattering change, but most of us can’t realistically pull that off.”

While a little stress can help keep us energized and alert, stress left unchecked can contribute to insomnia, heart disease, obesity, anxiety and depression. The best way to reduce stress is to make small changes every day and work toward a larger goal, Johnson says. Start scheduling time to relax, establish “wind down” periods and consistently incorporate the following tools into your daily routine.

Habit is Everything to Managing Stress

Eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise are both good starting points for improving your overall health and reducing stress. Johnson recommends starting with small, relatively easy changes. “Get some exercise, even if it’s only a 15-minute walk,” he says. “Do some journaling, but not with a computer. An actual handheld pen and paper is best. Take a relaxing bath. Lock the door. No interruptions allowed!” And if turning on the evening news and hearing all of the world’s problems perturbs you, then power off.

“Habit is everything, and it ultimately comes down to your willingness to change,” says Matt Leve, a physical therapist at Shift Physical Therapy in New York. Learning to identify and eliminate bad habits is the first step toward building routines that promote general well-being.

“Start getting ready for sleep at least an hour before you go to bed,” says Mila Mintsis, an acupuncturist at Shift Physical Therapy. “Turn off all stimulating devices such as the phone, computer and TV so your body and nervous system can start calming down.”

View stress as a positive tool instead of a negative roadblock. “If we can look at stress as a positive thing, if we can harness that energy and put it in a positive direction, then we can learn to embrace stress,” Johnson says. For example, stacks of work that greet you in the morning can induce a wave of jitters and anxiety, which generate energy. Instead of viewing this energy as negative, focus on something that makes you happy to reorient your perspective—a picture, a song, a smell, the sound of birds—and from there view the work as positive, telling yourself that you are lucky enough to earn money, provide for your family or save up for your next big vacation. It’s mind over matter.

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