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Finding Stress Relief

Everyone experiences stress. Although you may not be able to eliminate the cause of your stress, you can work to relieve the effects of it on your mind and body.

Regular exercise

People who exercise for 20 or 30 minutes at least three times a week can significantly reduce their stress, according to the American Council on Exercise. Any form of physical activity works, including walking, cycling, running, or playing an active sport, such as soccer or basketball.

Breathing and meditation

This relaxation technique is used in many relaxation practices, including yoga, meditation, and visualization. Deep breathing involves not only the lungs but also the abdomen, or diaphragm. To perform it, breathe in deeply and slowly to a count of eight, holding the breath with your abdomen extended. Slowly exhale to a count of eight, then repeat for 10 minutes.

Another technique that works is mindfulness. This is the practice of being fully engaged in the present moment. Instead of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, mindfulness pays attention to what's happening right now.

To practice this meditation, sit in a relaxed position and clear your mind. Focus on a sound, such as "ooommm," a word, or your breathing for 10 to 20 minutes. It's helpful to have silence and privacy, but more practiced meditators can do it anywhere. Gently return to your breathing if your attention is drawn to something else.

Guided imagery or visualization

This technique involves imagining a scene in which you feel free of tension and stress. Choose a tropical beach, favorite vacation spot, mountain lake, or wherever you like. Close your eyes and imagine your special place. Picture the scene as clearly as you can, including what you can see, hear, smell, and feel.

Prayer

Saying the rosary, repeating a prayer, or chanting a mantra can dissipate stress and help you feel calm and protected.

Hatha yoga

This yoga practice involves stretching and forming different poses, while keeping breathing slow and controlled. Yoga helps bring a relaxed state into your daily life. Injuries can occur if yoga is done incorrectly, so it's best to learn by attending classes with a qualified yoga teacher.

A healthy lifestyle is another way to combat stress. Take good care of yourself by getting enough sleep; eating a healthy diet; avoiding excess caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco; and not abusing drugs.

Online Medical Reviewer: Blink, Robert MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/6/2009
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