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Don't let stress sabotage your goals

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by Helen Hoart

Stress seems ever present in 21stcentury life. Since it’s a fact of life we’d all better figure out how we’re going to handle it. Otherwise, it’s going to slow us down or derail our business and personal goals.

Plus, stress is a health risk. Many well-respected studies link stress to heart disease and stroke — the No. 1 and No. 3 causes of death in the United States. Stress is also implicated in a host of other ailments such as depression and anxiety, chronic lower respiratory diseases, asthma flare-ups, rheumatoid arthritis, and gastrointestinal problems.

In our society today, we often seek the “magic” pill that will help us solve our problem. But consider it may be some of the small things you can to relieve stress that will reap large rewards.

Exercise: Exercise really does help. It sparks production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning, according to Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey.

But sometimes thinking about starting an exercise program can make people feel even more stressed. It feels like like yet another burden to add to an already overflowing schedule.

Thee solution: make time for short stints of exercise. Recent research has shown 10 minutes of exercise a day can have positive health effects. And it doesn’t matter what kind of exercise—walking, dancing, yoga. Find something you like to do. This can ensure that you’ll want to do it on a regular basis. Or find an exercise buddy. You can motivate each other to keep to the program.

Try a news blackout: The world around us is in turmoil and the reports of disaster bombard us. If you’re going through a particularly difficult time, consider placing a moratorium on watching and reading the news. Just give yourself a break from all the negative developments. The world and its problems will still be there when you tune back in.

Stop beating yourself up: Sometimes stress comes from the pressure we put on ourselves by harping on our shortcomings. Constant self-disparagement is not going to help us overcome problems. Acknowledging we’re not perfect can be the first step in moving in the right direction.

Here are some other stressors and ideas to conquer them:

Always tardy? If this is a chronic problem, always add an extra 15 minutes or more to get to your destinations. If lateness stems from dragging your heels, figure out what’s causing your reticence. Are you anxious about what will happen after you get to work or to a social event, for example? Or maybe you’re trying to jam too many tasks into too little time.

Unsure of your ability? Don’t try to go it alone. If the problem is work, talk to a co-worker or supportive boss. Ask a knowledgeable friend or call the local library or an organization that can supply the information you need. Write down other ways that you might get the answers or skills you need.

Overextended? Clear the deck of at least one task. Look at your list and figure out what can be put on the back burner (without creating more stress) or what you can outsource. Is your house a mess and you’re having company? Hire a cleaning firm to get it ready. Here are some suggestions for taming your stress-inducing to do list.

What works for you when you're feeling stressed?

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