Simple tips to reduce stress

You don’t have to be a corporate executive or firefighter to get stressed. Stress accumulates from situations at work and home and can lead to destructive behaviors if not recognized and addressed.

Taking the right steps to cut stress can help you navigate life with a more-relaxed bounce in your step.

Recognize Symptoms

Many people don’t know how to identify stress, which makes it difficult to start the battle against it. Fatigue, loss of appetite and anxiety over social situations are common symptoms that should be noted. If not handled properly, they can potentially lead to compulsive behaviors, including drug and alcohol abuse.

“We’re a society that is swimming in anger, always about to snap,” says Leonard Scheff, whose new book, “The Cow in the Parking Lot: A Zen Approach to Overcoming Anger,” addresses the issues of stress and anger. “Once we identify our unmet demands, we can dissolve the anger. Once we understand our ‘buttons,’ we can change what happens when they’re pushed.”

Take Control

One of the troubling aspects of stress is how it can make people feel helpless and beat down. In many cases, mustering the energy to combat stress is the hardest part. But there are little things people can do to take greater control of their lives and leave stress behind, say experts.

Stress can be caused by being overwhelmed by daily tasks. By approaching these tasks in an organized way, you can feel more relaxed. Keep a daily calendar or use lists to jot down tasks and deadlines. Referencing these lists and avoiding procrastination will make getting through the day easier.

Once you’re motivated, you also can start exercising during your down time, another positive way to combat stress.

Prioritizing your goals can help keep you from getting lost in life’s small, nagging details. With your goals clearly in sight, you’ll be able to shake off the small stuff and use your free time to pursue more relaxing and fulfilling activities, like soaking in the tub or watching the big game with friends.

Transform Anger

One of the most common byproducts of stress is anger. When you’re angry, you often act irrationally, which is nearly always damaging in some way – it can even lead to violence. The key isn’t to control anger, but to eliminate it by transforming anger into another emotion, says Scheff.

“Laughing at ourselves is a powerful early step in changing angry behavior,” says Scheff, who is a practicing Buddhist. “Only you can make yourself angry. You can choose not to get angry in difficult situations.”

Many of the outlets that help us relieve stress also help with anger, but the most important thing is to ask yourself “Why am I angry? What do I want that I’m not getting?” Asking and answering that question will immediately set you on a path to calmness. Whether the answer is serious or silly, you’ve taken a big step to reducing your anger.

For more tips on reducing stress and anger, read “The Cow in the Parking Lot,” by Scheff and his co-author, Susan Edmiston.

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