Strategies for Stress Reduction

It is estimated that well over 70% of all doctor visits in the United States are due to stress. We can’t eliminate stress nor would we want to because without some stress we could not survive.  However, it is when we continue to “react” to external or internal stressors (fight or flight) that we begin to “break down”. 
Remember too that ultimately, the fight or flight reaction is not all bad - it serves to warn us of imminent danger.    However, all too often, we begin to loose perspective and start seeing everything as a “wolf at the door”.  By keeping ourselves in this constant state of tension, stress reactivity and hyper-arousal, a myriad of health problems are ripe to develop such as sleep disorders, headaches, backaches, anxiety, high blood pressure, arrhythmias and other mind/body conditions. 
One quick way to short circuit our tendency to see things from a “crisis” perspective is to adopt several “stress response” strategies.  First, we can learn to respond by consciously giving ourselves time to appraise the situation as well as our thoughts about the situation. We can next choose to slow down and take a few mindful breaths. As we start to relax and become more present, we can view the situation in its fullest context and from a broader vantage point so as to decide what to do next.
Other stress response strategies include dealing with the situation immediately (taking time to pay a bill rather than procrastinating and possibly getting charged a late fee).  If it is something that is clearly out of our control (when someone cuts us off on the freeway) we can simply acknowledge it and move on rather than clinging to a strong emotional reaction such as anger.  If it’s something we can deal with at a later time (such as preparing for a project or meeting scheduled for next week) we can write it down on our “to do” list and get to it later.
The bottom line is this: more often than not we can take control of situations and events rather than letting them take control of us.  By developing strategies and a solution focused approach to life’s challenges, we can move forward with conscious choice when things come up - as they always will.  In this way, we will protect ourselves from the many harmful affects of on-going or long-term chronic stress reactivity.
2011 all rights reserved Ian Baker Johnson, MS, CEAP, IC®