Manage your stress before it manages you. Watch for telltale signs of stress, and diffuse it before it detonates you!

It is very important to find escape valves for stress before it builds up and become unmanageable. Manage your stress before it manages you. Be aware of stress traps that you set for yourself. Managing stress involves making choices, forming priorities, adopting attitudes, and taking actions that enable you to maximize your potential without overloading your abilities. Pare down or wear down!

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People who are chronically stressed often feel that their lives are out of control. Balancing your life puts you back in control and helps you avoid unnecessary stress. Here are several stress-taming tips you may find useful:

Identify your most important goals and prioritize your time accordingly.

Set a realistic schedule.

Monitor your schedule, including the amount and intensity of your activities. Limit the number of decisions you make in a day.

Avoid clutter.

Regulate the rate of change taking place in your life at one time, including jobs, moving, travel, and even holidays.

Eliminate personal debt, especially credit card debt, and don’t buy on impulse.

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Giving yourself the gift of a daily schedule that includes stimulating and inspiring reading, healthful food choices, exercise, and plenty of rest is vital to mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. It is a balance in these areas of life that opens a treasure chest of blessings and benefits, creates a hedge of protection against stress, depression, defeat, and addiction, and oppens a doorway to a new life and new you.

Take time to help others – it’s a good way to put your own life in perspective.

Get Rid of That Worrywart

Worrying creates stress. Worry is automatic for some people; it is the opposite of trust. One author wrote that ”worry is interest paid on trouble before it falls due.” One woman was such a habitual worrier that when her husband went on a business trips, she would leave a messages on his cell phone that said:”Please tell me what’s going on, so I will know what to be worried about!” British writer Arnold Bennett had a unique description of the ravages of worry:”Worry is evidence of an ill-controlled brain; it is merely a stupid waste of time in unpleasantness.”

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People who suffer from anxiety tend to be ruminators; that is, like cows that chew their cud all day, ruminators tend to rehearse real or imagined difficulties over and over again until they are almost unable to think of anything else – unless it is another worry. And worry does alter brain chemistry and function, elevating the stress hormone norepinephrine and lowering the calming hormone serotonin. Worry gives even small problems big shadows, and disables the brain for engaging in true problem solving during real challenges. Like anything else, worry can become a habit; but thankfully, like other habits, it can be broken.

It is easy to think that if we have enough external benefits such as money, looks, friends, talent, or power, we will be happy, in control and free from worry. Do you think that is true? People can have every earthly advantage and yet still worry.

It would be foolish to think that every day our path will be strewn with rose petals but no thorns; that there will never be times of grief or sadness. It is like a sign on an executive’s desk that read:”You are smiling because you don’t understand the situation.” Neuropsychiatrist John Ratey discusses how to harness the emotion of sadness to produce positive change: Sadness takes us off-line so that we can regroup and reevaluate. It may even cause us enough ‘pain’ that we are motivated to change.”

Sadness may result may result feeling of numbness, which ”may be adaptive, granting relief in the case of a terrible loss or giving a person some ‘down time’ to prepare for the next stage in life or to incorporate a major change.” But prolonged sadness can cause sustained overactivity in a fear center of the brain and in the right frontal lobe. This can result in depression, anxiety, and an inability to adapt to new information and engage in constructive problem solving. According to Ratey, ”Depression is less genetically based than any other mental illness, and is the the one most dependent on environmental factors.”

How can we put a fence around sadness so it can do its work without opening a dangerous door to depression? First, learn to detect and reject self-pity. Self-pity can be our worst enemy, if we yield to it. But when sad and overcome with grief, remember that relating to life’s challenges in a positive way can turn the worst situation into a strengthening, learning experience. Second, when confronted with trouble, or if you make a mistake, don’t give up; get up – and get going! Elbert Hubbard said, ”The cure for grief is motion.” Walking, gardening, or engaging in some physical activity or project helps mental processing and helps ”throttle down” an overactive right frontal lobe, which is associated with anxiety.

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Overactive right frontal  activity is associated with sadness, but left frontal lobe activity is associated with positive mood. ”Happiness and sadness are separate functions, and they represent opposite patterns of activity in the hemispheres of the brain. Dwelling on subjects that are true, honest, just, pure, pleasant, positive, virtuous, and worthwhile we can help to heal the broken brain and help to balance unequal activity in the two hemispheres. Research suggests that simply changing the expression on your face from a frown to a smile can significantly impact a depressed or stressed mood state alter brain chemistry. Even the practice of quieting the mind through deep, continued thought can help reverse some of the ill effects of stress. Learn to monitor your moods, and keep a conscious check on negative thinking.

As much as possible, avoid places, people, and activities that are depressing. Planting yourself in front of  the television and getting lost in a violent movie will only increase overall feelings of helplessness and stress. It is not good for the mind or morals to watch or read materials for entertainment that are traumatic, violent, depressing, immoral, or worthless. But turning your energy to the needs of others helps to ward of depression and increase feeling of self-esteem. Focus on activities that are refreshing, relaxing, healthful. moral, and mentally stimulating.

We can actively cultivate the mental traits of gratitude, optimism, diligence, and perseverance under stress; they are all linked to better mental and physical health. We are individually responsible for the choices we make, including how we relate to people, situations, and challenges. Blaming others for our own poor choices and responses never accomplishes growth or change. Taking personal responsibility is liberating it frees us to act instead of react.

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