By now, you've spent a few days or weeks writing in your stress journal or blog and observing the way you react to various forms of stress. Next, you'll start to replace unhealthy or unproductive coping strategies with ones that can actually make a difference and improve your situation.
Look back over your recent writings and pick out the patterns: When you felt stressed, did you go home and sulk? Did you ignore family, friends, and your own personal needs? Did you turn to junk food or caffeine, or did you blow off work?
Now, for the next few weeks, whenever you feel tempted to resort to these old habits, take a page from your Stress-Relief Road Map and try out a new coping strategy. In the following slides, you'll find simple strategies for dealing with the situations that threaten to derail you.
Sometimes it's just one tiny thing that sets you off on the wrong foot -- you wake up late, find yourself stuck in traffic, or your computer crashes before an important meeting. These incidents can set off a chain reaction, triggering more bad news as you wander through the day distracted, unproductive, and asking for trouble.
Instead of letting these rough patches get the better of you, save the day with a quick coping strategy you can lean on any time, anywhere. We can't promise it will stop time or recover a lost document, but it will help you be prepared for what comes next.
Whether you sit at a desk from 9 to 5 or you spend your workday doing rounds or waiting tables, chances are (unless you're a professional athlete) you're not giving your body a balanced workout while you're on the clock. The result? Chronic aches and low energy. Your body craves variety and attention paid to those tense, strained, and often-ignored muscles.
You can work out those kinks, though, with a little time and effort. Done three times a week, a rejuvenating stretching routine can pave the way to a calmer, less stressed, more energized you.
When you need an escape from the pressures all around you, meditation may help you block out negative energy and regain your focus. And you don't have to be cross-legged and chanting "om" to achieve a meditative state of mind; you can practice mindfulness in many forms -- through breathing exercises at your desk; during yoga, Tai Chi, or walking; or while sitting on a crowded subway, to name a few.
Healthy stress relief is something that takes your mind off your troubles -- even just temporarily -- while also benefiting your mind and body.
Evidence suggests that cardiovascular exercise can be a strong stress reliever, as can doing something you're passionate about: reading, listening to music, or finding a creative outlet like writing or painting. Experiment with these activities to find what best helps you relieve tension, relax, and blow off steam.
This may be the hardest part of your Stress-Relief journey so far: asking for help.
Now that you're aware of your stress triggers and have a strong desire to change them, you will likely need to involve other people -- whether that's your boss, your family, overbearing friends, or a hard-to-work-with coworker. Fill these people in on your stress-relief plan and your goals, and how you plan to accomplish them.
Figure out where you can ask for help or modify your current habits to better achieve those goals. It's important to hammer out the details now about how and when you'll delegate, draw boundaries, and deal with stress together.
Even if five hours feels like a full night's sleep, the lack of Zs might spell trouble for your health. In a study of about 6,500 adults, researchers discovered that women who slept five hours or less nightly were twice as likely to have high blood pressure as women who snoozed for seven hours or more.
To set yourself up for healthier sleep, designate regular sleep and wake times for yourself, exercise daily (preferably in the late afternoon), and avoid caffeine after noon, says Donna Arand, Ph.D., clinical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Kettering Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio. If insomnia is a problem, try relaxation techniques, guided imagery, and deep breathing.