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By Dr. Joel L. Desaulniers

Just about everyone nowadays is looking for the quick fix to relieve their stress load, but nobody has the time to take a stress management class or read a book on stress management. Ask yourself this question: How do I reduce stress in my life? Most everybody’s answer will be different. Some people relax with aerobic dancing, playing with the family pet or watching a video. And for some people these stress reducers seem to work just fine. However, when a problem arises, such as a confrontation with a disgruntled customer, you can’t very well break into your favorite aerobic dance or pull out your favorite video. You need something in a flash, something you can do immediately to help your body cope with the stress at hand. We are faced with day-to-day circumstances, such as morning traffic jams, inconsiderate people or running late for an important meeting. These trigger our emotions and stress mechanisms and we react to them the same way, day in and day out. If we can begin to identify our bodies’ initial response to these occurrences, and learn how to disengage before we allow our bodies to fully engage, then we can bring balance and harmony into our lives. How we start is by closely observing how our bodies react to certain daily stressful events. Tomorrow, keep a log of all daily event that upset you. Learn to identify your body’s initial response to these events by writing down what you experienced during the event, such as clammy hands, sweating, headache, fingernail biting, lip biting, heart palpitations, excessive anger or fist clenching. Write down what your first thought was that initiated that response. Once you can identify the onset of a potential stressful event, you become better prepared to control the event instead of letting it control you. Below are five quick fixes to help you instantly gain control of your stress levels and your life:

1) Deep breathing exercise is an instant way to regain your composure. When excited we experience rapid and shallow breathing, which is nature’s way of preparing us for action. The next time you are in a confrontation with a disagreeable person, simply concentrate on slow deep breathing. You will be amazed at how quickly you gain control of the situation. If you are not used to deep breathing exercises, the best way to practice is to cover one nostril with your finger while breathing deeply with the open nostril, allowing you to experience what true deep breathing feels like. Remember to remove your finger when practicing in front of your boss.

2) Positive self-talk is a powerful tool to practice when you find yourself in a situation you can’t win, such as a disagreement with your supervisor or important client. Let me give you an example: When I was in the military, my commanding officer gave me an order I knew was stupid. However, I couldn’t tell him, so rather then get upset or court marshaled, while he was giving me the details, I simply practiced positive self talk. I told myself he was in authority now, but that wouldn’t be the case forever. I knew I was right, and one day he might figure that out, but for now I had to follow his orders. Positive self talk can be applied in any situation; simply breathe slower and deeper and think positive thoughts.

3) It has been said that “laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” It doesn’t matter if these people are totally different and speak different languages, a magical bond is almost always established when two people laugh together. If you are currently working with someone, such as a new co-worker, manager or supervisor, find out what that person thinks is funny, such as their favorite comedian, comic strip character or funny story, and when the opportunity arises, make it a point to mention it your conversation. When all else fails simply smile. Phyllis Diller once said, “ A smile is a curve that sets the whole world straight.”

4) Relabeling is a powerful tool to use when stressed. Daily occurrences cause us to make a decision about how we will perceive an event. Most of these decisions are automatic responses and unfortunately, are negative and counterproductive to the day. For instance, you see your boss talking to your supervisor. You immediately response is to say to yourself: “What have I done now!” Instead you could relabel that situation by saying , “Great, maybe they are discussing my raise.” or “Whew, I’m glad I didn’t get caught in that conversation.”or, you receive a letter from the IRS in the mail, and your first thought is: “Oh my, how much do I owe now?” Instead you could think to yourself, “overpayment.” Obviously there will be times where Relabeling is not appropriate, however, most of the time by simply Relabeling, you can reduce some unnecessary stress in your life.

5) Music is a powerful stress buster. Think back to the last time you were feeling blue, when suddenly your favorite oldie came on the radio and like magic the dark clouds cleared and you were in a great mood. Research studies show that when we listen to certain music, our minds shift from left brain (analytic) activity to right brain (creative) activity. Various tests have also shown that our heart rate mimics the beat of the music we listen to. To prove this, put three to five CDs in your player, then while sitting in a quiet room, turn on the player. The initial music should be something soothing, like orchestra music, then switch to something a little upbeat like jazz, then to a Latino beat, then finish up with some rock n’ roll. Notice how your body responds to the various beats and how your heart rate changes. Notice how your attitude changes from tranquil to unrestrained. Keeping this in mind the next time you are in the heat of traffic ask yourself this question, "Should I be listening to quiet pleasant music or the theme from Rocky?" Good Luck.
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