For most people, stress is simply an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of living in a fast-paced, modern world. Difficult relationships, financial hardship, the death of a loved one, and other traumas and pressures can cause your pulse to race, your breathing to become more rapid, and your muscles to tense.

This response is useful when you are in imminent danger, and your safety requires a quick response; but when the body experiences a state of constant alertness, other important bodily functions are impeded. This can contribute to countless health conditions, including high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, depression, immune system malfunction, and other diseases. While it may be impossible to avoid all stressors, it is important to combat stress whenever possible. Here are some stress management techniques to practice when the demands of everyday life overwhelm you.

Deep Breathing

Because having a flat stomach is considered fashionable, many people actually hold their stomach muscles in and take shallow breaths from the chest, which actually contributes to tension. Breathing deeply from the diaphragm, however, stimulates the relaxation response, which helps to slow your heart rate, relax your muscles, and release tension. To begin, sit quietly in a comfortable position and inhale deeply and slowly through your nose, filling your lungs and expanding your belly. Exhale through your mouth. Repeat the process for fifteen minutes or more.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This stress management technique helps to release tension from the body. Begin by tensing the muscles in your toes for five seconds, and then release them for 30 seconds. Pay attention to the different sensations produced by the two actions and notice how your toes feel when relaxed. Next, perform the same series of actions with your calves and thighs, and slowly work your way up the body.

Regular Exercise

Frequent exercise has many health benefits, but it is useful for stress management, as well. Any physical activity, from gardening to tennis or aerobics, can have a powerful effect on stress. Exercise releases endorphins, which are neurotransmitters in the brain that produce a sense of well-being. This helps to combat feelings of depression and anxiety that often accompany stress. Additionally, when you are focused on a great game of soccer or reaching the finish line, you are not thinking about the things that worry you.

Mindfulness Meditation

Another great way to calm the nervous system is mindfulness meditation. This technique requires you to focus on the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or future. Some meditators focus their attention on their breath-the simple act of inhaling and exhaling-while others focus on a repetitive mantra or even a flickering candle. If your mind wanders to some other thought, simply refocus your attention to the present moment. A 20-minute sitting can produce excellent benefits.


Get all your anxious thoughts and feelings out on paper by keeping up a journaling practice. Take 15 minutes per day to write about overwhelming events and how they made you feel. Write about what makes you angry, sad, or frustrated. Journaling will also help you identify triggers that produce tension in your life.

You don’t have to let the troubles of daily life get the best of you. Simply try each technique and find the one that works best to ease your tension.


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