Whether it comes in the form of a pile of unpaid bills, a contentious argument with your spouse, a worrisome health problem, or a traffic jam, stress is a part of everyday life. While some stress is inevitable, when your body repeatedly encounters a set of physiological changes dubbed the stress response, trouble can brew. Stress may contribute to or exacerbate various health problems, including these: high blood pressure, suppression of the immune system, headaches, insomnia, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome.
But it’s possible to dismantle negative stress cycles. This report can help you identify your stress warning signs and learn how to better manage stressful situations. In these pages, you’ll find a variety of tools you can use to accomplish that task. In addition, you’ll find a handy four-page portable section that walks you through a variety of quick, easy stress relief techniques.
Your job is to decide which tools fit you best and to start using them. Your efforts can reward you richly with better health, greater peace of mind, and a smoother, more joyful course through life.
Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Herbert Benson, M.D., Director Emeritus, Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, Mind/Body Medical Institute Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Aggie Casey, M.S., R.N., Director, Cardiac Wellness Programs, Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, Associate in Medicine, Harvard Medical School. 47 pages. (2011) ISBN 978-1-935555-60-5
Sometimes just thinking about embarking on a program of stress control can be stressful. Rather than freeze in your tracks, start small and bask in the glow of your successes. Give yourself a week to focus on practical solutions that could help you cope with just one stumbling block or source of stress in your life. Pick a problem, and see if these suggestions work for you.
1. Frequently late? Apply time management principles. Consider your priorities (be sure to include time for yourself) and delegate or discard unnecessary tasks. Map out your day, segment by segment, setting aside time for different tasks, such as writing or phone calls. If you are overly optimistic about travel time, consistently give yourself an extra 15 minutes or more to get to your destinations. If lateness stems from dragging your heels, consider the underlying issue. 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.
2. Often angry or irritated? Consider the weight of cognitive distortions. Are you magnifying a problem, leaping to conclusions, or applying emotional reasoning? Take the time to stop, breathe, reflect, and choose (see “Deflate cognitive distortions,” page XX).
3. Unsure of your ability to do something? 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. Turn to CDs, books, or classes, for example, if you need a little tutoring. This works equally well when you’re learning relaxation response techniques, too.
4. Overextended? Clear the deck of at least one time-consuming household task. Hire a housecleaning service, shop for groceries through the Internet, convene a family meeting to consider who can take on certain jobs, or barter with or pay teens for work around the house and yard. Consider what is truly essential and important to you and what might take a backseat right now.
5. Not enough time for stress relief? Try mini-relaxations (see page XX). Or make a commitment to yourself to pare down your schedule for just one week so you can practice evoking the relaxation response every day. Slowing down to pay attention to just one task or pleasure at hand is an excellent method of stress relief.
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The articles are always easy to read and full of pertinent information. They provide an excellent overview of what's going on in practice now and provide references to look towards for more information.
Armando Ribeiro das Neves Neto
I found the publication conventional, mostly going over the same terrain which we all are familiar with;;; Should have dwelt in more depth on exercises and yoga techniques with illustrations. Also, genetic and environmental predispositions toward stress and high-blood pressure, eg, a British study which demonstrated that the 1st generation immigrant population suffered from high level of stress, high BP and mortality would have helped. Merits 3 stars at best.
I did not know much about stress before, but I know a lot more now. There's a great deal to build on, too. So I think I am going to delve into Mindfulness now. But I've got a few more Harvard Special Health Reports to read yet. Thank you for the wisdom!
This is an excellent resource for my clients. I am a clinical/mental health social worker and clients usually find one or two behavioral techniques from this booklet that they can practice and utilize to help manage stress and even improve their overall moods. It is helpful when these booklets go on sale as I practice in a rural area and our resources are limited at this time. Thanks so much.
I found this report extremely helpful. It helped me to understand the intricacies of the effects of stress on the body. For some reason, if we don't "see" a physical sign - like hives or something, we tend to overlook the harmful effects of stress. This report will enlighten anyone who reads it!