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Managing stress

by Kerrie Meyler

LA VETA — Stress happens every day. There is stress from working, stress from living. And there’s your phone – that won’t stop binging with emails, texts, and even an occasional phone call. This is daily stress; it’s not even the stress from a job change, moving, divorce, or death. Everyone has stress; the key to handling stress is establishing a daily routine that helps you deal with it.

Stress is a physical response to an external stimulus. Historically, stress (fight or flight) was key to surviving as a species. Reacting to stress prepared our ancestors to take physical action when there was danger. Blood was diverted from the brain to the muscles. When the stressful stimuli went away, we relaxed. This differs from never-ending stress, where increased cortisol levels can cause an increase in sugar and blood-pressure. Stress can cause headache, stomachache, sleep disturbances, short temper, and difficulty concentrating. Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. It can also contribute to depression, obesity, and heart disease. How can you manage stress?

• Recognize when you are stressed and take a deep breath. While you’ve probably heard this before, try it anyway (or again). Breathe in through your nose, and slowly let it out through your mouth. Keep your shoulders relaxed while you do this. Pay attention to the cycle, and repeat. This has you focus on your breathing and not on all the things that are bothering you.

• Manage your time. Effective time management allows you to regulate the amount of work or other commitments, reduces the uncertainty of not having enough time to complete all your tasks, and allows you to plan for time-off periods in which to relax.

• Get more sleep. A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress. However, stress can make it hard to sleep well, keeping you from relaxing enough to fall asleep. Relax during the evening and avoid caffeine late in the day. Try to go to bed at roughly the same time each day so your mind and body get used to a predictable bedtime routine.

• Reduce demands on yourself. Do not overcommit yourself, and be prepared to say No.

• Hit the gym/hiking trail/bike. Do whatever exercise gets your muscles working and blood pumping. Exercise is helpful as a coping mechanism for dealing with stress.

• Give yourself a break. Talk to yourself, saying it’s OK to not be totally in control. Make these a habit! If you have a routine where you relax, exercise, meditate, interact with friends, sleep, manage your commitments, laugh, do something fun, you become grateful for the things you do have that are good in your life.

Realize that some times of the year are more stressful than others. Some people rate Christmas as being more stressful than divorce or being burgled. Give yourself extra time to prepare so you’re not at a high level of stress. If that means setting down your cellphone, turning off the TV, or otherwise disengaging from society for a day or two, do it. Realize that if you don’t take care of yourself, it will be harder to deal with stress.

Two Peaks Fitness, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, is located at 206 S Main St in La Veta, 719-742-3555. No contracts or initiation fees! Monthly and annual memberships available; individual, couples, and family, senior, and student discounts. Exercise classes included with membership; personal trainers available.

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