The Coastal Post - July, 1996

Ten Ways To Best Manage Stress

BY LTC DONALD KEELING

Director of Public Affairs, U.S. Army Cadet Command

1. Stay healthy. Nothing adds stress to one's life more than being unhealthy. Maintaining ideal body weight, blood pressure and cholesterol level will keep you in tip-top shape and ready to deal with life's many challenges.

2. Reduce caffeine, sugar and alcohol intake. Caffeine heightens anxiety and can make you feel jittery, anxious and nervous. Sugar drains energy. Use alcohol in moderation because under stress, alcohol speeds its way into your system, hitting you harder than when you are relaxed. And while alcohol may initially help you feel relaxed, its effects are short-lived.

3. Relax. Take time to read a book, listen to music or meditate. Try to spend one full day a week outdoors. When you create opportunities to rejuvenate, you will help de-stress your life.

4. Visualize yourself in your favorite place. Find a comfortable posture and close your eyes. Imagine the most relaxed place you've ever been. Visualize lying on a beach, reading in a park, skiing on the world's largest mountain or star-gazing. Now, every time you begin feeling stressed out, try to bring this special place to mind.

5. Take deep, slow breaths. Deep breathing increases oxygen to your brain and body, helping to clear your head. Slow breathing will help calm you down. Deep, slow breathing is a quick-fix for instant relaxation.

6. Learn to manage time. Plan your schedule accordingly to fit in time for work, recreation and family. If you overplan in one area, you will feel stress in the other areas.

7. Exercise. Any kind, any length of time, ideally 3-5 times a week. Regular exercise increases alpha waves (electrical energy patterns in the brain associated with calmness), lowers blood pressure and relaxes muscles.

8. Laugh. Watch a funny movie, read a book of comic strips or invite friends over for an evening of joke telling. A good laugh is the best way to reduce stress.

9. Surround your workspace with positive images. Put pictures of ones you love or environments that inspire you on the walls surrounding your workspace. Change these objects and images as needed so that they stay current and continually inspire.

10. Roll with the punches. Recognize that unexpected things happen in life (illness, inclement weather, extraneous work deadlines). Leave some holes in your schedule to accommodate these unplanned events.