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Stress

Other Ways To Manage Stress

Last modified: 
24/04/2012 - 16:28

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

In addition to the relaxation practices described in the "TARP" method, there are many activities and methods that can help manage stress. These include:

Humor

Many stress-management experts recommend keeping a sense of humor during difficult situations. Laughing releases muscle tension and helps a person maintain perspective.

Activities as simple as watching a funny movie, listening to a tape of a comedian's routine, or sharing time with a humorous friend can provide a psychological lift and relieve stress.

Hobbies

Regular leisure activities are important in reducing stress. Many people benefit from making time for positive leisure pursuits rather than, for example, spending time watching television in the evening (although that, too, can be relaxing to some degree).

Relaxing hobbies include gardening, painting, bicycling, photography, carpentry, collecting, and many others. In order to obtain the most relaxation and enjoyment, the satisfaction should come in doing the hobby, not in the results. An individual who pursues gardening for relaxation may not grow prize-winning vegetables, but they can be eaten. An amateur photographer may not sell photographs, but they can be admired by friends and family.

Meditation

Used for many years in Eastern cultures, meditation is becoming more widely accepted in the U.S. as a relaxation technique. Meditation reduces heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline levels, and skin temperature.

There are a variety of meditation techniques that share a common goal: to achieve relaxation by clearing the mind of stressful outside interferences. Meditation involves achieving a state of consciousness in which the individual focuses on a single thing, such as a key word, sound, or image.

Meditation techniques rely on quiet surroundings, sitting still, and a repetitive mental pattern. Various techniques are taught in instruction books and through religious and nonreligious organizations.

Biofeedback

Biofeedback provides a way for people to learn to control activities over which they normally have no awareness, such as heart rate and muscle tension. It is considered by many health professionals to be a valuable therapeutic tool for reducing stress. Biofeedback involves no discomfort and no risk.

Biofeedback relies on sensitive electronic equipment. Sensors are placed on the body at various locations to measure skin temperature and muscle activity. The sensors are attached to a monitor that detects fluctuations when a person is anxious and displays signals in the form of beeps or light flashes. By watching the monitor, a person learns to control these stressful responses.

Massage Therapy

Massage is the gentle practice of manipulating the body's tissues in order to soothe and heal. It is one of the most ancient of the healing arts, and more people today are relying on it for natural, drug-free relief from the effects of busy, overstressed lives. Massage can relax the entire body and provide new energy that lingers long after the massage is over.

A number of research studies have shown that massage reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation and lymph flow, relaxes muscles, improves range of motion, and increases the production of endorphins, which are the body's own natural painkillers. There are a number of massage therapy techniques, including Swedish massage and Shiatsu.

Massages can be for the full body or particular areas of the body, such as the back and shoulders. Some people choose to wear some clothing during a massage; others prefer to undress or use a dressing gown. During a massage, the person is warmly covered, and only the part of the body on which the therapist is working is uncovered.

Need To Know:

A word about medication

Medication can be useful for dealing with short periods of acute stress, where the anxiety is severe and disabling, to help people regain control and begin coping. It can relieve symptoms temporarily, but it does not address the underlying problem.

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.