Five Guidelines for Reducing Stress

By: Dr. Debra Moore, Ph.D.

Treat your body with respect. This isn't a foreign object here, it's you. We're used to artificially separating our "mind" from our "body", but the two are an interlinking system. We can't expect our moods or our thinking to be in top shape if our bodies are neglected. Ask yourself some questions. Are you feeding your body quality food? That's the fuel your body relies on to carry out the countless tasks that confront it daily. You don't expect your car to run well on an empty tank or contaminated gas and oil.



Are you giving your body enough rest? We need consistent sleep patterns that don't change drastically on weekends or holidays. We also need consistent breaks during the day to recharge between tasks. Listen to your body. If you need a brief nap and can fit it in, good for you. If not, can you just close your eyes for five minutes and let your body be still? If you can't find the time for this, see the next stress buster.

Quit pretending you don't have choices. You may have many demands on you. Most of us do. But if you are overwhelmed by running from one task to another all day, ask yourself a simple question. Let's say we videotape your typical day. We show the video to Ophrah's studio audience. Let's offer them a thousand dollars if they can make workable suggestions for better managing your life. Think they could do it? You bet! From an objective perspective, choices are easier to see. Periodically stop and evaluate whether you really are utilizing all your options. Sometimes we tell ourselves we can't do it differently when we really mean we're afraid to try.

Learn to say no. Both to yourself and others. We all have limits, and exercising them is an act of accountability. Let's face it. Most people who constantly say yes to everything that comes before them are not doing it in the sincere spirit of Mother Teresa. They're doing it because they feel guilty when they say no. They're doing it because they have not learned that they don't have to buy love or acceptance with sacrifice. They're doing it because they're following the family tradition of martyrdom.

Saying no also applies to our selves. Do we just have to have one more trinket? Do we have to try to be someone we're not? To keep up with the folks next door? The advertisers and media would love us to think so. But maybe, just maybe, we can say no to them as well.

Realize that even after we make our choices and learn to say no, there will be many things in life we can't change or control. Some will be small inconveniences. We find a line of 20 people at the bank. We stew. We look at our watch. We sigh. We get angry at bank management and just know that if we ran the place it would operate better. So we wait an extra five minutes - five minutes we probably need to slow down anyway. And instead of accepting it, we compound the stress with our harsh reactions.


And some will be major events. We lose someone we love. We aren't ready. We won't accept it. We turn our natural grief into a stubborn refusal to adjust. We didn't want this and we just won't have it! It's not fair! We hang on to our fantasies and miss the real live opportunities in front of us. And our stress level in the meantime is off the charts.

Realize everything looks worse under three conditions. At night. When we're tired or run down. And when we're alone. Don't let yourself dwell on problems in the middle of the night. They will seem worse and you'll feel more depressed. We even have some scientific evidence that the chemicals that influence our sense of well- being are at a lower level in the middle of the night. It explains the old saying that everything will look better in the morning. Often it does.

And know that reflecting on your problems without the benefit of input from others is a recipe for emotional disaster. So you're a private person. What exactly does that really mean? Perhaps it means you haven't had much practice sharing yourself with others. Maybe earlier in life others hurt you if you showed your real feelings. But then isn't now, and there are people who would listen. Consider seeking them out.