The 2 Best Ways to Manage Stress
We know that stress can make us sick. So what can we do? One proven strategy for coping with stress is to exercise regularly. Exercise increases circulation, which helps to remove the toxic byproducts of stress flowing through our bloodstream and reduces anxiety and depression.
Meditation is also proven to help reduce stress and new research has added support to that perspective.
Psychologist Ethan Kross, of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, says that getting some distance from our problems helps us better manage emotional stress. We might tend to deny problems by either ignoring them or distracting ourselves, or wallow in them by reviewing mistakes over and over while reliving negative emotions. Kross’s research suggests instead that getting some mental distance from problems and analyzing them from a less emotionally attached perspective relieves distress and helps people work through negative experiences over time.
Guess what? This is what meditators have been suggesting for thousands of years. While researchers continue to probe the science of how to feel better under stress, you can adopt meditative techniques now to better cope with stress.
The key is to bring an issue into focus and then take a few steps back. This is what Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., author of Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness (Delta, 1991) would call developing a watchful awareness and not identifying with the problem. Kabat-Zinn has done extensive work with people in chronic pain. They can’t deny the pain, and they can easily be overwhelmed and depressed if they become emotionally reactive to it. His method of teaching watchful awareness has helped patients live with and reduce their pain.
In his experiments, Kross had people approach depressing problems by one of three ways: by distracting themselves, by immersing themselves in the problem or by viewing the problem after mentally and emotionally “taking a few steps back” and analyzing the problem — in effect, putting some space between themselves and the problem.
The distancing approach was more effective in alleviating feelings of depression than denial or immersion into the subject matter.
There are many books, CDs and classes available to teach meditation techniques. One prime western example is the work of Herbert Benson, MD and his relaxation response technique. It’s easy enough for anyone to try.
1. First, just sit quietly. Focus on your breath with no attempt to control it.
2. Then, mentally focus on a word or phrase of your choice that you repeat with each inhale and exhale (similar to a mantra in Eastern practices).
3. As other thoughts pop up, notice them, watch them pass and return to your breath and your chosen word or phrase.
Want one more tip to reduce your stress, gained from personal experience? Limit your access to 24-hour news channels!
The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: Stress can seriously impact your health and wellbeing and significantly decrease your chances of living a long, happy life. Make sure that you have stress management techniques at your disposal for getting through trying times.
Article updated on: May 3rd, 2012