Ten Ways to Manage Stress

Stress is a reality of modern life. We are increasingly overworked and overtired. From caring for aging parents to finding quality childcare, from mortgage payments to escalating gas prices, the sources of stress for adults today are innumerable. While there is no way to completely eliminate stress from our lives, there are ways of minimizing the toll of stress on our minds and bodies. Here are ten easy tricks that even the busiest person can use to help manage stress.

Make Time for Yourself
In today's hyper-busy world, it is easy to put yourself at the bottom of your own priority list. Yet this is actually the worst thing you can do, both for yourself and those around you. Even a ten minute break can help significantly when you are feeling overwhelmed. For a more permanent solution, find a way to fit in a bit of "me-time" every day. Try getting up a half hour before the rest of your household, or go to bed a half hour later.

Make Time for Friends
It is easy for friends to start feeling like just another obligation. However, your friends have a knack for keeping you sane. Try to arrange a standing get-together at least once a month.

Keep Timelines Realistic
Industrial engineers say that you should not schedule more than 80% of your day. Humans need the other 20% for coffee breaks, bathroom trips and other unplanned activities. Build in extra time for errands and commutes.

Watch Your Eating Habits
When you are busy and stressed, it is easy to wolf down fast food in the car or skip meals altogether. However, getting just one hot meal per day can lower your stress levels and keep your energy level high.

Learn to Say No
Some of the most consistently stressed out people are people-pleasers. They are uncomfortable with saying no or afraid of disappointing others. Consequently, they try to be all things to all people and wind up
tense and frustrated much of the time. If this is you, practice saying no. Your friends and family will understand.

Exercise has been proven repeatedly to lower stress levels and relieve tension. Whether you join a sports team or simply take a 30 minute walk three times a week, adding exercise to your life can help you feel much calmer. Always check with your doctor before beginning any vigorous exercise routine.

A great way to diffuse stress is to recognize the inherent irony in most stressful situations. When you feel tension rising, take a step back from the situation. How would you react if you were watching the scene in a play? Learning to laugh at situations will lower your stress levels as well as sending off a friendlier vibe to others.

Don't Self Medicate
From caffeine to nicotine to energy drinks, many of us turn to stimulants to keep us awake and moving during stressful times. Alternatively, you may
turn to depressants to help you relax and fall asleep. Self medicating simply covers up the problem rather than solving it, and can lead to further problems down the road.

Use Positive Self Talk
Many of us keep a running commentary of criticisms going constantly in our heads. Learn to replace these negative thoughts with positive ones. Even short messages such as "I can do this" can help lower your stress levels.

Plan for the Little Things
How often do you arrive at the train station just after your train departs? Or realize at midnight that you are out of breakfast cereal? Planning ahead can go a long way towards alleviating the small things that can add up to cause stress.

The Bottom Line
It's impossible to get rid of stress altogether. However, following the tips above can help you learn to manage and deal with the stress in your life. Like any new habit, managing stress takes practice. However, soon you will find that these
activities become second nature. Be patient with yourself and you will find that your stress gradually lessens.