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By Debbie Hickey


Stress is inevitable. All events in life, happy or unhappy, create it. How you react to that stress is what determines your physical and emotional state.


Stress can negatively affect our health. Hypertension, heart disease, cancer, anxiety and depression are just a few problems that may arise.


Yet, we need some stress, too. It helps us to initiate or accept change.

Coping with stress as if it's a challenge rather than a problem can help you be productive and grow as a person. Repeated negative reactions lead to an internal emotional build up, which generally results in more stress.


You can learn to view stress as something to be managed in a positive manner rather than something to be avoided. You may as well -- it’s virtually impossible to avoid anyway!


Employing these eight stress busters is a sure-fire way to take control of your emotional obstacles:


1. Positive Attitude! Stress is often neither positive nor negative. How you deal with it is a different matter. Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Responding to stress in a positive manner will not only reduce your stress level but make you a better person to hang out with!

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2. Physical Activity! Regular activity just plain makes you feel better, physically and mentally. Find activities that you enjoy and engage in them regularly. Being active will enhance your self-confidence and self-esteem. You'll gain a more positive outlook and be better able deal with life’s stresses.


3. Nutrition! Stress can drain your energy. As a result, your immune system is compromised, making you more susceptible to illness. A well-fed body will be able to positively respond to daily stresses, keeping the immune system strong.



     Eating well is a good way to reduce your stress level


4. Deep Breathing! Deep breathing can be done anywhere, any time. Take a deep breath through your nose, filling your lungs so that the abdomen expands outward. Exhale slowly through your mouth. You can place your hand on your stomach to ensure that it fully expands. Repeat several times, then rest quietly for a few moments. Aaahh! Doesn’t that feel great?


5. Meditation! Tune out the world for just a few moments, and you will feel refreshed and ready to go. Sit comfortably and take several deep breaths, slowly inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Shut your eyes and concentrate on your mantra (one particular word or phrase) while continuing to breathe slowly and deeply. It can take some practice to tune out distractions but by engaging in meditation regularly, you will find the stress and tension melt away.


6. Visualization! This is a form of relaxation that uses your imagination. Get in a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Imagine something that's peaceful to you -- perhaps the beach on a sunny day or a quiet forest with a babbling brook. Imagine yourself in this peaceful place. Experience the sights, sounds, smells and feelings. Visualization is also a great tool to help you achieve a goal. Imagine yourself completing a difficult task or reaching your fitness goals.


7. Time Management! The pressure associated with time constraints can be a major stress contributor in your life. Set goals for yourself on a monthly, weekly and daily basis... and stick to them! As you complete a task, relish the accomplishment by crossing it off your list. Avoid the following time management habits to reduce your stress:


a. Procrastination! It's a long word that simply means putting off things that could easily be done at the moment. Most people tend to put off the difficult tasks and perform simpler ones. Accumulation of difficult tasks equals stress!


b. Workaholism! Some of us spend too much time working, even when that time is not productive. We can become involved in the unimportant, which eats away at our time and doesn’t allow for the more important tasks to be completed. Set priorities on a daily basis and complete the time-sensitive tasks first.


c. Time Juggling! How many of us are guilty of overscheduling? When we overextend ourselves, important tasks are neglected. If you don’t already do so, get a planner and use it to plan your time more efficiently to reduce stress.


d. Perfectionism! Perfectionists try to reach beyond their best. Their standards can be so high that they feel dissatisfied and lack a sense of accomplishment for their tasks. Take the lead from someone you admire... someone who puts their all into a task or project, does their best and moves on to the next thing, while feeling happy with the result they achieved.


e. Yes-ism! How many times has saying YES when you really wanted to say NO caused you stress? Before answering someone regarding a commitment, take 10 seconds and a deep breath. If your gut instinct says, "Hey, I don’t have time to commit to this!" listen to it!


8. Humor! Laughing helps reinforce your positive attitude. It also reminds you that life is unpredictable and helps keep things in perspective. Laughter and smiling can actually improve your mood!


Try several of these techniques to find the ones that work best for you. With practice, you can learn to reduce stress -- which will improve your health and outlook on life!


Debbie Hickey has helped clients from all walks of life achieve a healthier lifestyle. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Rutgers College in New Jersey and is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant. Before joining eFitness, Debbie managed and directed programming for fitness centers in New Jersey.


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